Ecuador is ranked 19th out of 86 in the 2012 Social Institutions and Gender Index. The country was ranked 9th out of 102 in the 2009 Social Institutions and Gender Index.
The 2011 Human Development Index (HDI) score for the country is 0.720, placing it 83rd place (out of 187 countries). The Gender Inequality Index score is 0.469. Ecuador's Global Gender Gap Index rating for 2011 is 0.7035, placing it 45th place (out of a total of 135 countries).
The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 years, but early marriage is permitted with parental permission or authorisation from a judge (no minimum age is specified). Drawing on data from 2001, a 2004 United Nations report estimated that 22 per cent of girls between 15 and 19 years of age were married, divorced or widowed, compared to 7 per cent of men.
There is no evidence to suggest that polygamy is practised in Ecuador.
The Constitution of Ecuador provides for equal family responsibilities for men and women, and parental authority is exercised jointly by both spouses. However, the Committee on the Rights of the Child highlights “the often limited extent of parental responsibility taken by the father, particularly in terms of recognising and maintaining the child.” Increasing out migration in recent years has also created problems in relation to parental responsibility. It appears that women have the same rights to divorce as men, and that women have the right to pass Ecuadorian citizenship onto their children.
It appears that women have the same inheritance rights as men in Ecuador. Their right to be an executor of a will or administrator of any inheritance is enshrined by law.
The law punishes rape by 25 years in prison. The existence of family ties or relationship is considered to be an aggravating factor in cases of rape or sexual assault, which appears to criminalise spousal rape. However, in 2004, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights criticised the overly restrictive definition of rape.
The 1995 law on violence against women and the family defines domestic violence as any act or failure to act resulting in physical, psychological or sexual abuse perpetrated by a member of the family against a woman or another member of the family. Penalties under the law include financial compensation from $320 to $4,800 for ‘damages, pain and suffering’, and courts can also grant restraining orders banning the perpetrator from any contact with the victim, and from returning to the family home. In 2004, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights criticised the failure to classify domestic violence as a crime; however, the 2008 response to issues raised by the CEDAW committee states that in 2007, 4,405 prison sentences were meted out in cases of domestic violence.
Sexual harassment is against the law; however, local women’s rights organisations report that it occurs frequently in Ecuadorian workplaces, while in its concluding observations, the CEDAW Committee noted its concern at high levels of sexual harassment in Ecuador’s schools.
According to the US Department of State, in March 2010, a report released by the Ombudsmen’s Office found that 83,000 women experienced some sort of gender-based violence or abuse in Ecuador each year, of which 200 were victims of violence on a daily basis. 4,045 cases of rape were recorded by the prosecutor general from January to November 2010, of which 329 resulted in a conviction, while in 2009, 31 government centres for women reported receiving a total of 73,000 complaints of domestic violence. The 2007 CEDAW reports that levels of complaints of physical domestic violence to the National Directorate for Gender had remained constant, but that there had been an increase in complaints of psychological violence, suggesting an increasing awareness of this problem. Overall though, under-reporting of sexual and domestic violence remains an issue in Ecuador: according to the US Department of State, although authorities refer many women to the judicial system, cultural prejudices, financial dependence, family pressure, and the victim's fear of testifying at a trial mean that a large number of charges against perpetrators are dropped.
In 2005, changes to the criminal code removed a previously existing clause which had excused the ‘spouse who kills, wounds or beats the other spouse or lover after surprising them in the act of adultery or when a woman commits the same acts in defence of her modesty and is seriously endangered’, replacing it with a clause establishing that ‘no offence is committed when a person kills or wounds another person during the act of being sexually abused or raped’.
There is no evidence to suggest that female genital mutilation is practised in Ecuador.
Abortion is only legal in cases where the woman’s physical health is in danger, although it appears that in certain cases of rape, the President can make use of a veto to allow an abortion to take place legally.
Women in Ecuador have the legal right to decide when and whether to have children, and to access contraceptives. However, the 2008 response to the CEDAW committee states that the 2000s saw a concerted campaign on the part of the Catholic Church and conservative NGOs to limit women’s reproductive and sexual rights, including limiting access to emergency contraception, i.e. the ‘morning after pill’ (secured following a Constitutional Court ruling in 2006) and pushing for a reduction in access to contraception, and promoting abstinence-only sex education for young people, and as a response to HIV. As of 2004, UNICEF reported that 72.7 percent of Ecuadorean women married or in union aged 15-49 were currently using contraception, but only 58 percent were using modern methods.
 US Department of State (2011)  CEDAW (2007), p.19; US Department of State (2011)  Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) (2004)  Law No. 103, Ley contra la Violencia a la Mujer y la Familia (Law against Violence against Women and the Family), enacted 29 November 1995, in CEDAW (2007), p.12.  US Department of State (2011)  Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) (2004); CEDAW (2008a), p.8  US Department of State (2011); CEDAW (2008b), p.5  US Department of State (2011)  US Department of State (2011)  CEDAW (2007), p. 12.  US Department of State (2011)  Article 22 of the Criminal Code, as reformed in 2005 (Official Register No. 45 of 23 June 2005), in CEDAW (2007), p.19  UN (2011); CEDAW (2007), p.54  The Health System Organization Act in the supplement to Official Register No. 423 of 22 December 2006, in CEDAW (2007), p.53  CEDAW (2008a), pp.27-28  UN (2007)
According to the Understanding Child Work project (UCW), very low numbers of children work in Ecuador (4.3% of boys and 3.3% of girls). However, of those who do, girls are overwhelmingly concentrated in the category ‘unpaid family worker’ (80.2%), indicating some bias against daughters in regard to domestic work.
According to UNICEF, net enrolment rates for boys and girls at primary and secondary level are virtually the same (at secondary level, 61% for boys and 62% for girls). This would indicate no bias towards sons in regard to access to education.
The male/female sex ratio for the total population in 2012 is 0.99.
There is no evidence to suggest that Ecuador is a country of concern in relation to missing women.
The 1994 Agrarian Development Act established a market for land and guarantees access to land ownership. In practice, fewer women than men have access to land. Women have legal access to property other than land but face some restrictions in its administration. Within marriage, joint property is administered by the head of the family. There is a presumption in favour of the husband, who is considered to be the head of the family unless there is an explicit statement to the contrary. In the civil arena, the head of the family must obtain written authorisation from his or her spouse to enter into any contract that binds the couple’s joint property.
Restrictions in access to bank loans pose serious problems for women and agricultural development. According to a national agricultural survey in 2000, the proportion of women producers who had been granted a loan was approximately half that of men producers: women represent 25 percent of all agricultural producers but only 16 percent of those receiving credit. However Ecuador has established several microenterprise initiatives in rural areas that aim to organize and empower women in acquiring and utilizing credit.
There is no statutory restriction on women’s freedom of movement. There are, however, instances of forced movements of Colombians in Ecuador and Ecuadoreans living close to the Colombian border because of the conflict in Colombia. Freedom of speech, association and assembly are generally respected in Ecuador, and there is a vibrant and outspoken NGO sector, according to Freedom House. This appears to include a large number of women’s rights organisations, working on a range of issues including to protect women’s reproductive and sexual rights, promoting women’s political participation, and gender-based violence.
The 2008 Constitution provides for gender balance in decision-making government institutions and in the lists of political parties’ candidates for elections to the National Assembly. However, women’s groups in Ecuador note that there are many legal and financial requirements still necessary before the reforms take full effect. As of 2009, women held 40 of 124 seats in Ecuador’s unicameral National Congress.
Ecuadorean women are entitled to twelve weeks of paid maternity leave. 75 percent of the benefits are paid by a national social security system, with employers contributing the final 25 percent. Ecuadorean law prohibits firing pregnant women unless for cause unrelated to her pregnancy, and guarantees that their employers won’t permanently replace them while they are on maternity leave.
 CEDAW (2007), p. 12.  Freedom House (2010)  CEDAW (2007), pp.29-32, 38,  Articles 108 and 116 of the 2008 Constitution.  US Department of State (2010)  Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) (2010)  International Labour Organization (2009)
Formerly part of the northern Inca Empire until Spanish conquest in 1533, Ecuador became an independent country in 1830. It has been governed by civilian, democratically elected governments since the 1970s, but recent years have seen political instability. The economy of the country was transformed in the 1960s by the discovery of oil, and rapid industrialization; however, only a minority of the population has benefitted from economy development, and poverty and inequality remain widespread, particularly among those of indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorian descent. Ecuador is classed as an upper-middle income country by the World Bank.
The 2008 Constitution of Ecuador establishes the equality of all citizens and expressly forbids multiple forms of discrimination, including on the basis of sex and gender. The Constitution also provides for the existence of a special mechanism to promote gender equality, the Council for Equality.
The economic independence of women depends largely on their access to means of production and to property. In reality, few women own land and households headed by women generally have a lower income than those headed by men: for every $100 dollars a male-headed household earns, a female-headed household earns $70. Overall, as of 2008 women receive 65 percent of the pay of men for equal work and face a wide array of societally sanctioned discrimination. This is particularly acute for indigenous and Afro-descendant women, many of whom experience high levels of poverty and social exclusion resulting in lower access to education, higher rates of maternal mortality, unemployment, and inadequate representation in public life, according to the Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The Committee also raised its concern regarding high levels of domestic and sexual violence affecting women at all levels of society.
Ecuador ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1981, and the Optional Protocol in 2002. The country ratified the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women (‘Convention of Belém do Pará’) in 1995.
 CIA (2011)  CIA (2011); BBC (n.d.)  BBC (n.d.)  World Bank (n.d.)  Article 11, section 2 of the Constitution of Ecuador, approved September 2008.  Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (2008b), p.3  CEDAW (2007), p. 14.  US Department of State (2010)  CEDAW (2008b), pp.4, 6  CEDAW (2008b), pp.4-5  UNTC (2011)  Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (n.d.)
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