Cuba is ranked 6th out of 86 in the 2012 Social Institutions and Gender Index. The country was ranked 22nd out of 102 in the 2009 Social Institutions and Gender Index.

The 2011 Human Development Index (HDI) score for the country is 0.776, placing it 51st place (out of 187 countries). The Gender Inequality Index score is 0.337. Cuba's World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Index rating for 2011 is 0.7394, placing it 20th place (out of a total of 135 countries).

Discriminatory Family Code: 

The legal minimum age of marriage is 18 for both men and women. In exceptional circumstances, and for “justified reasons”, women can be authorised to marry at 14 years and men at 16 years.[1] According to the UN’s World Marriage Data, 23.1% percent of Cuban women between 15 and 19 years of age in 2012 were married, divorced or widowed.[2]

Polygamy is prohibited by a statutory decree passed in 1997, and there is no evidence that it is practised in the country.[3]

Parental authority is exercised jointly by both parents, but the division of household chores based on traditional gender roles remains a reality.[4] If divorcing parents cannot reach agreement, the courts award custody based on the best interests of the child. In most cases, children stay with their mother.[5]  Women and men appear to have the same rights to divorce in Cuba, and women are able to pass Cuban citizenship onto their children.[6]

There is no discrimination in regard inheritance and widows have the same rights as other descendants. The Penal Code abolished the usufruct quota for widows, meaning that widows now have the same right to inheritance as other descendants.[7] Widows cannot be disinherited: where the deceased has expressed such a wish, it is only taken into account for half of the estate, with the remainder passing to the legal heirs. If there are no other descendants, all of the property passes to the widow.[8]

[1] CEDAW (2006a), p. 88. [2] United Nations (UN) (2008) [3] Decree-Law No. 175 of 1997 amending Article 306 of the Penal Code in CEDAW (2006a), p. 17. [4] Articles 83 and 85 of the Family Code, adopted 8 March 1975 in CEDAW (2006a), pp. 12, 89. [5] Article 89 of the Family Code in CEDAW (2006a), p. 90. [6] CEDAW (2006a), pp.43, 89 [7] Book Four of the Family Code in CEDAW (2006a), pp. 86-87. [8] Article 493 of the Family Code in CEDAW (2006a), p. 87.

Restricted Physical Integrity: 

Rape, including spousal rape, is a criminal offence, punishable by a prison sentence of 4 to 10 years, and 15 years in the case of a repeated offence. Rapists are liable to capital punishment if the victim is a child under the age of 12.[9] Generally, the courts properly apply the law, according to the US Department of State’s 2010 human rights report.[10]

Effective legislation to address violence against women is lacking and there is no specific legislation to punish the perpetrators of domestic violence, which is handled under general criminal law.[11] A statutory decree passed in 1999 stipulates that the existence of a family relationship between the offender and victim is an aggravating factor, to be taken into account by prosecutors.[12] Penalties for de facto domestic violence convictions include fines and prison sentences, which vary in length according to the nature of the abuse.[13]  According to the second report to the CEDAW Committee made in 2006 (in response to questions raised by the Committee), as of 2006, amendments to the Penal Code and the Family Code to strengthen protection against domestic violence were being drawn up.[14]

Criminal penalties are in place for sexual harassment.[15]

Given that the Cuban government does not release any statistics in regard to prevalence of different forms of violence against women, or reporting and conviction rates, it is very difficult to assess the true extent of the problem in the country.[16]  In its 2009 human rights report, the US Department of State noted that few women bring complaints of gender-based or sexual violence, for fear of inciting more violence, and the police do not always act on cases brought to their attention.[17]  The government appears to recognise domestic violence in particular as being a concern, and has run media campaigns to raise awareness of the issue.[18]  According to the US Department of State, UNICEF also reports that there are government-run shelters available across the country, for victims of domestic violence and their children.[19]

There is no evidence to suggest that female genital mutilation is not practised in Cuba.

Abortion is available on request in Cuba.[20] 

The state maintains a comprehensive nationwide family planning programme, and offers many forms of contraception for free.[21] As a result, contraceptive use is high in Cuba. 73 percent of women between 15 and 49 years of age reported using contraception, a rate that is virtually unchanged since 2000.[22] The rate of women who report an unmet need for family planning is low in Cuba, only 4 percent.[23]  In its Concluding Observations, however, the CEDAW Committee noted that lack of access to and choice of contraception may be resulting in the use of abortion as a method of birth control.[24]

[9] Article 298 of the Penal Code, adopted December 1987 via Law No. 62 in CEDAW (2006a), p. 16; CEDAW (2006b), p.4 [10] US Department of State (2010) [11] US Department of State (2010) [12] Law No. 87 of 1999 in CEDAW (2006a), p. 17. [13]US Department of State (2011) [14] CEDAW (2006b), p.4 [15] US Department of State (2011) [16] US Department of State (2011); CEDAW (2006c), p.4 [17] US Department of State (2010) [18] US Department of State (2011) [19] US Department of State (2011) [20] UN (2011) [21] CEDAW (2006a), pp. 66-67. [22] Dirección Nacional de Estadísticas Ministerio de Salud Pública (MINSAP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) (2007), Table RH.1; UN (2007) [23] MINSAP and UNICEF (2007), Table RH.2. [24] CEDAW (2006c), p.5

Son Bias: 

Data from the 2006 MICS indicates that 98.3% of boys and 96.6% of girls under the age of two had had all their basic vaccinations.[25]  Gender-disaggregated rates of malnutrition and under-five mortality were not available, meaning it was not possible to gauge whether son preference is a factor in early childhood care.

Gender-disaggregated data on child labour were not available.

Using data from 2005-2009, UNICEF calculates that 99% of boys and girls are enrolled in primary school, and 83% of girls and 82% of boys at secondary level.[26]  This would indicate no son preference in regard to access to education.

The male/female sex ratio for the total population in 2012 is 0.99.[27] 

There is no evidence to suggest that Cuba is a country of concern in relation to missing women.

[25] MINSAP and UNICEF (2007), Table CH.2 [26] UNICEF (n.d.) [27] Central Intelligence Agency (2012)

Restricted Resources and Entitlements: 

Cuban women have the same land ownership rights as men.[28] There was no overt gender discrimination when land was redistributed in 1959, but in practice few women obtained land. The number of women with access to land is increasing through inheritance.[29]

Women have the same legal capacity as men and there is no legal discrimination in regard to access to property other than land.[30] Spouses must obtain their partner’s consent if they wish to acquire, administer or transfer jointly owned property, and this applies to both men and women. Individual property acquired before or during the marriage can be freely used by one spouse without needing to seek agreement from the other.[31]

There is no legal discrimination with respect to access to bank loans.[32] In 2011, the government introduced reforms to facilitate bank loans offered to individuals by Cuban banks to increase small business and self-employment.[33] It is not clear whether loans will be specifically targeted to women.

[28] Article 24 of the Constitution in CEDAW (2006a), p. 81. [29] Agrarian Reform Act of 17 May 1959; CEDAW (2006a), pp. 80-81. [30] Law No. 59 of 16 July 1987 establishing the Civil Code, Article 1 in CEDAW (2006a), p. 86. [31] CEDAW (2006a), p. 86. [32] CEDAW (2006a), p. 79. [33] BBC (2011)

Restricted Civil Liberties: 

There are no gender-specific restrictions on women’s freedom of movement in Cuba.  However, all Cuban citizens face restrictions on their freedom of movement, as attempting to leave the island without permission is a criminal offence, and changing residency from one city to another is only possible with official permission.[34]   

Freedom of speech, association and assembly are not respected in Cuba.[35]  There is no independent NGO sector, although the state Federation of Cuban Women works to promote women’s rights and interests.[36]

Women and men have the same rights to vote and stand for election in Cuba.[37]  Although women are well-represented in Cuba’s National Assembly, holding 265 out of 614 seats, the country does not hold free and fair elections and is routinely cited by international human rights organizations for suppression of political dissent.[38]

Cuban women receive 18 weeks of paid maternity leave at 100 percent of their average weekly income, and are entitled to benefits as long as they have worked for 75 days in the year preceding birth. Women who have not worked in that time are entitled to an equivalent amount of unpaid maternity leave. Benefits are paid out of a publicly funded social security system. It is illegal to employ women in positions that pose a threat to their reproductive health and to fire them without cause as a result of pregnancy.[39]

[35] Freedom House (2010) [36] Freedom House (2010).  See CEDAW (2006a) for details of the activities of the Federation of Cuban Women. [37] CEDAW (2006a), p.11 [38] Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) (2010); US Department of State (2010) [39] International Labour Organization (ILO) (2009)


Gaining independence from Spain in 1898, and from US tutelage in 1934, Cuba became a socialist country under the leadership of Fidel Castro in 1959, following the Cuban revolution which overthrew the US-supported dictatorship of Fulegencio Batista.[40]  Socialist reforms brought nationalisation of land and industry, a planned economy, and a sophisticated health and education system into being; and Cuba remains a far more socially and economically equal society than many of its neighbours in the region, as evidenced by its relatively high ranking in the Human Development Index (see below).[41]  Cuba was a key ally of the Soviet Union, and its economy suffered considerably in the 1990s when Soviet subsidies were withdrawn; in addition, the economy has long been restricted as a result of the US-trade embargo, in place since 1961.[42]  This has led to a chronic shortage of consumer goods, as well as food shortages, that have impacted particularly on women, given their on-going domestic responsibilities.[43]  Fidel Castro stepped down in 2008 in favour of his younger brother Raul; Raul Castro has introduced some, limited economic reforms.[44]  Cuba is classed as an upper-middle income country by the World Bank.[45]

The 1976 Constitution of Cuba, along with constitutional amendments made in 1992, upholds the principle of equality between men and women and discrimination is formally prohibited.[46] The Penal Code stipulates that infringements of “the right to equality” are punishable by imprisonment (according to Article 295 of the Criminal Code). 

Cuba has long presented itself as a champion of women’s rights – particularly in regard to their rights as workers and as mothers – with gender equality being one of the cornerstones of the socialist regime.[47]   In its 2006 Concluding Observations on Cuba, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee) notes that patriarchal attitudes and deep-rooted stereotypes regarding the roles and responsibilities of women and men in the family continue to undermine women’s social status, constitute serious obstacles to women’s enjoyment of their human rights, and contribute to the persistence of violence against women.[48]  In addition, a lack of reliable data makes it difficult to assess the true situation of women in the country.[49]   As of 2003, 44.9% of women worked, although as the CEDAW Committee noted in its Concluding Observations, no information was is available as to horizontal and vertical gender segregation in the workforce.[50]  However, the Committee also notes the high number of women pursuing careers in scientific and technical fields.[51]

Cuba ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1980, and has signed but not ratified the Optional Protocol.[52]  Cuba has not signed or ratified the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women (‘Convention of Belém do Pará’).[53]

Cuba is ranked 51st in the 2011 Human Development Report (out of 187 countries), with a score of 0.776.[54]  In the Gender Inequality Index, it is ranked in 58th place (out of 146 countries), with a score of 0.337.[55]  In the 2011 Global Gender Gap Report, the country’s score is 0.7394, placing it in 20th place out of 135 countries.[56]

[40] Freedom House (2010); BBC (n.d.) [41] Freedom House (2010); BBC (n.d.); UNDP (2011) [42] Freedom House (2010); BBC (n.d.) [43] BBC (n.d.); Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (2006a), p.5 [44]Freedom House (2010) [45] World Bank (n.d.) [46] Article 44 of the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba, 1992, in CEDAW (2006a), p.9 [47] See for instance CEDAW (2006a), pp.4, 24 [48] CEDAW (2006c), p.3 [49]US Department of State (2011) [50] CEDAW (2006a), p.52; CEDAW (2006c), p.5 [51] CEDAW (2006c), p.5 [52] UNTC (2011) [53] Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (n.d.) [54] United Nations Development Programme (2011) p.127 [55] United Nations Development Programme (2011) p.140 [56] World Economic Forum (2011) p.10


BBC (n.d.) ‘Cuba country profile’, BBC News, (accessed 25 November 2011)

BBC (2011) Cuban banks begin offering loans to private businesses, available at (accessed 18 March 2012)

Central Intelligence Agency (2012) The World Factbook: Sex Ratio, available at (accessed 29 February 2012)

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (2006a), Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: Cuba, Combined Fifth and Sixth Periodic Reports of States Parties, CEDAW/C/CUB/5-6, CEDAW, New York, NY.

CEDAW (2006b) Responses to the list of issues and questions for consideration of the combined fifth and sixth periodic report Cuba, CEDAW/C/CUB/Q/6/Add.1, CEDAW, New York

CEDAW (2006c) Concluding comments of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: Cuba, CEDAW/C/CUB/CO/6, CEDAW, New York Freedom House (2010) ‘Freedom in the World country reports:  Cuba’, (accessed 25 November 2011)

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) (n.d.) Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women (‘Convention of Belém do Pará’) – status of ratification, (accessed 23 November 2011)

International Labour Organization (ILO) (2009), Database of Conditions of Work and Employment Laws, International Labour Organization, Geneva, Switzerland (accessed 25 January 2010)

Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) (2010), Women in Parliament: All Countries on National Parliaments, Inter-Parliamentary Union, Geneva,

Dirección Nacional de Estadísticas Ministerio de Salud Pública (MINSAP) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) (2007) Cuba Encuesta de Indicadores Multiples por Conglomerados 2006: MINSAP, UNICEF, Havana, Cuba and New York, NY.

United Nations (UN) (2007), World Contraceptive Use – 2007, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, New York, NY.

UN (2008), World Marriage Data 2008, UN Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Fertility and Family Planning Section: New York, NY.

UN (2011) ‘World Abortion Policies 2011’, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, New York.

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) (n.d.) ‘Cuba – statistics’, (accessed 24 November 2011)

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (2011) Human Development Report 2011, (accessed 15 November 2011)

United Nations Development Programme (2011) Human Development Report 2011, available at (accessed 29 February 2012)

United Nations Treaty Collection (UNTC) (2010):  Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women, countries ratified.  

CEDAW: (accessed 22 November 2011) 

Optional Protocol: (accessed 22 November)

US Department of State (2010), 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Cuba, US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Washington, DC.

US Department of State (2011), 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Cuba, US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Washington, DC, (accessed 25 November 2011)

World Bank (n.d.) ‘Data:  Cuba’, Washington, D.C.:  World Bank, (accessed 24 November 2011)

World Economic Forum (2010) ‘The Global Gender Gap Index 2010 rankings’,

World Economic Forum (2011) The Global Gender Gap Report 2011, available at (accessed 2 March 2012)


Discrim. Fam. Code Rank 2012: 
Discrim. Fam. Code Value 2012: 
Legal Age of Marriage: 
Early Marriage: 
Parental Authority: 
Rest. Phys. Integrity Rank 2012: 
Rest. Phys. Integrity Value 2012: 
Violence Against Women (laws): 
Female Genital Mutilation: 
Reproductive Integrity: 
Son Bias Rank 2012: 
Son Bias Value 2012: 
Missing Women: 
Fertility Preferences: 
Rest. Resources & Ent. Rank 2012: 
Rest. Resources & Ent. Value 2012: 
Access To Land: 
Access To Property Other Than Land: 
Access To Bank Loans And Credit: 
Rest. Civil Liberties Rank 2012: 
Rest. Civil Liberties Value 2012: 
Access To Public Space: 
Political Participation: 
Political Quotas: