Eritrea is not ranked in the 2012 SIGI due to missing data for one or more SIGI variables. However, the country note below sets out information and data relating to variables where this is available information.

The country was ranked 56 out of 102 in the 2009 Social Institutions and Gender Index.

The 2011 Human Development Index score for Eritrea is 0.349, which gives the country a rank of 177 out of 187 countries with data.  The 2011 Gender Development Index is not provided for Eritrea.

Discriminatory Family Code: 

The Transitional Civil Code recognises three types of marriage: civil, religious and customary. The code explicitly states that the minimum age of marriage for women and men is 18 years. These conditions do not apply to marriages governed by Islamic Sharia law. While the minimum age of marriage according to the Civil Code is 18 years of age, the Civil Code also recognizes marriages between the age of 15 and 18 in recognition of Eritrean customary marriage practices.[6]

From 1995 to 2002, the percentage of girls between 15 and 19 years of age were married, divorced or widowed has decreased from 38 percent to 31 percent.[7]  For the most part, customary marriage disregards the TCE’s minimum age condition and sets its own minimums: the age for girls is 8 to 15 and that for boys is 12 to 15. All customary laws give authority for arranging betrothals to fathers or male relatives. While on the decline, marriages under customary law are still widely practiced in Eritrea, particularly in rural areas.[8]  According to the National Union of Eritrean Women, forced early marriage is common in rural areas, although declining, with some girls being married off by their families as young as 13.[9]

Despite the formal illegality of polygamy, some parts of Eritrea apply Islamic Sharia law which allows men to take up to four wives.[10]  A Demographic and Health Survey of 2002 found that 9 percent of currently married women in Eritrea were in a polygamous union, compared with 7 percent in 1995.[11]  This suggests that the acceptability of polygamy is slowly declining.

The Constitution accords parental authority to both parents, along with equal rights. Customary laws of Eritrea also determine the custody of children after divorce. This is often dependent on the age and sex of the child. For example, the Tigrinya customary law provides that a child below three years is placed in the custody of the mother. If the child is over three, the father becomes the guardian of a female and the mother of the older male.[12]

In 2002, Eritrea had a female headed household ratio of 52 percent. The number of female headed households has been attributed to the conflict associated with independence at the conflict with Ethiopia between 1998 and 2000.[13]

Eritrean law does not discriminate in relation to inheritance rights.[14]  However, Sharia law provides for detailed and complex calculations of inheritance shares. Under Sharia, women may inherit from their father, mother, husband or children and, under certain conditions, from other family members, but their share is generally only half of that to which men are entitled.

[6] CEDAW (2004) p.54 [7] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2008) [8] African Development Bank (2009) p.8 [9] African Development Bank (2009) p.38 [10] OMCT  (2003) p.207 [11] Demographic and Health Surveys (2002) p.98 [12] United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (2007) [13] African Development Bank (2009) p.4 [14] CEDAW (2004) p.58 

Restricted Physical Integrity: 

In Eritrea, rape is a crime under law, punishable by up to 10 years' imprisonment. Gang rape or rape of a minor or an invalid is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Sexual assault is punishable by six months to eight years in prison. It was unclear whether spousal rape is illegal. Sexual harassment is also illegal. Spousal or marital rape is not illegal.[15]

The US Department of State describes violence against women and girls as ‘pervasive’ in Eritrea.[16]  Studies on the prevalence of violence against women vary, with one regional study finding 40% of women had been victims of domestic violence and another finding a prevalence of 90% if the category included by sexual and domestic violence.[17]  Violence against women is also underreported in Eritrea. One study of women who experienced domestic violence found that nearly half (46 percent) kept their experience of domestic violence a secret and less than a quarter (21 percent) reported their husbands to the police.[18]

Although rape is illegal in Eritrea, the Penal Code provides that if the perpetrator marries the victim with consent the prosecution of the rape does not continue.[19]  According to the African Development Bank, the practice of perpetrators of rape marrying their victims is favoured by some parents as it protects the ‘honour’ of the woman and her family. Some perpetrators may seek to marry their victims to escape prosecution.[20]

Dowry payments and honour crimes have also been identified as forms of violence against women that in Eritrea that are experience by women in some parts of the country.[21]

A law prohibiting FGM in Eritrea was introduced in 2007.[22]  It provides that those performing female circumcision will be punished with imprisonment of up to three years and a heavy fine. Where a woman does through from the practice of FGM carries imprisonment up to ten years. Those who request, incite or promote FGM can also be imprisoned for six months and be fined.[23]  According to the World Health Organization, about 89 percent of women in Eritrea undergo FGM.[24]

Women’s physical integrity in Eritrea is also infringed by limited reproductive choices. Abortion is illegal in Eritrea in most instances, even in cases of rape or incest.[25]  The most recent Demographic and Health Survey in Eritrea found that only 8 percent of married women were using contraception and that 27 percent of women had an unmet need for family planning.[26]

[15] US Department of State (2010) [16] US Department of State (2010) [17] OMCT (2003) p.207 [18] African Development Bank (2009) p.38 [19] African Development Bank (2009) p.37 [20] African Development Bank (2009) p. 37 [21] OMCT (2003) p.207 [22] The law is Proclamation No.158/2007. African Development Bank (2009) p.10 [23] African Development Bank (2009) p.10 [24] Based on 2002 data. World Health Organization (n.d.) [25] United Nations Population Division (2007) [26] Demographic and Health Surveys (2002) p.100

Son Bias: 

Gender disaggregated data on rates of infant mortality and early childhood nutrition are not available for Eritrea.

There is a large gap between the primary school enrolment rates of boys and girls, indicating the preferential treatment of sons in access to education. According to UNICEF, based on 2008 data, 69 percent of boys are enrolled in primary school, compared to 56 percent of girls.[27]

The Central Intelligence Agency reports that Eritrea has a male/female sex ratio for the total population of 0.98.[28]  There is no evidence to suggest that Eritrea is a country of concern for missing women.

[27] UNICEF (2009) [28] Central Intelligence Agency (2012) 

Restricted Resources and Entitlements: 

The Eritrean Constitution provides for full ownership rights for women.[29]  The Eritrean People’s Liberation Front established a policy on land redistribution to improve women’s access to land by granting extensive land rights to divorced, widowed and childless women. However, the distribution of land is in most cases handled by land distribution committees at village level. The National Union of Eritrean Women reports that negative attitudes of local authorities towards women’s land rights prevents the principle of gender equality being implemented in practice.[30]  The land rights of married women are often subsumed under male household heads when land is allocated and registered. The position of women in polygamous marriages is also unclear as husbands can claim land for one wife only. Many women also lack the means of working the land and face specific difficulties, especially in regions in which cultural norms prevent women from clearing land.[31]

With regard to access to property other than land, Eritrean women have equal rights to conclude contracts, administer property and run businesses.[32]  In 2003, 41 percent of all business licenses issued in the Central Region of Eritrea over the previous five years were to women.[33]

There are no laws that discriminate against women with respect to access to credit.[34]  However, in practice, a lack of property and collateral make it difficult for Eritrean women to access capital in commercial banks, where they access only 9 percent of available credit. The Government’s Savings and Micro Credit Programme is the largest micro-credit provider in the country and 40% of its customers are women.[35]

[29] African Development Bank (2009) p.10 [30] African Development Bank (2009) p.10 [31] African Development Bank (2009) p.16 [32] CEDAW (2004) p.52 [33]United Nations (2004) p.17 [34] CEDAW (2004) p.41 [35] African Development Bank (2009) p.13 

Restricted Civil Liberties: 

The law in Eritrea guarantees freedom of movement to both men and women. There are no reported legal limitations to women’s freedom of movement.

Eritrean women have a history of participation in political processes through the National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW) which was formed in 1979 during the struggle for independence in order to mobilize women. The NUEW became an NGO in 1992 and has around 200,000 members in Eritrea and has around 58 offices inside the country. The NUEW is the now national machinery for the advancement of women, however it is not formal department part of the Government.[36]

With respect to political participation, Eritrea has a legislated quota for women in decision-making,reserving 30% of seats for women in provincial and district administration and in national parliament. Women currently make up 22% of National Assembly members and 17.6% of ministerial positions in the cabinet.[37]

In terms of participation in the paid workforce, Eritrean women enjoy constitutional and legislative rights to work as equal human beings.[38]  Eritrea offers 60 days maternity leave to be paid by the employer.[39]

[36] African Development Bank (2009)  p.7 [37] African Development Bank (2009)  p.36 [38] CEDAW (2004) p.29 [39] International Labour Organisation (2009) 


Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1991, after 30 years of war. Women in Eritrea played an important role in the struggle for independence with women representing around one in three fighters, many in combatant roles.[1] This contribution of women in the struggle for independence and social reform is recognised in the preamble of Eritrea’s Constitution.[2]  The World Bank classifies Eritrea as low income country.[3]

Although women in Eritrea have a right to equal education, equal pay, and equal property rights, men have greater access to education, employment and economic resources, particularly in rural areas. While Eritrea has a relatively larger gender gap in literacy compared to other countries in the region, Eritrea has a higher representation of women in parliament.[4]

Discrimination on the basis of sex is prohibited in Eritrea’s Constitution and Eritrea ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1995.[5]

[1] Green, C. (1994) [2] Preamble of the Constitution of Eritrea. [3] World Bank (n.d.) [4] World Bank (n.d.) [5] Article 14 of the Constitutionof Eritrea; United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (2004)


African Development Bank, Eritrea Gender Profile November 2008, available at, accessed 11 October 2010.

Central Intelligence Agency (2012) The World Factbook: Sex Ratio, available at, accessed 5 March 2012.

Demographic and Health Surveys (2002), Eritrea: DHS, 2002 - Final Report, available at, accessed 10 October 2010.

Green, C. (1994), Gender Profile of the State of Eritrea, BRIDGE, Institute of Development Studies, Brighton.

International Labour Organisation (ILO) (2010) Database of Conditions of Work and Employment Laws, available at, accessed 31 October 2010.

OMCT (Organisation Mondiale Contre la Torture) (2003), Violence Against Girls in Eritrea: A Report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, available at, accessed 11 October 2010.

United Nations (2004) Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action And The Outcome of the Twenty-Third Special Session of the General Assembly: Eritrea Response to Questionnaire, available at, accessed 13 October 2010.

United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (2004), Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: Eritrea, Combined Initial and Second Periodic Reports of States Parties, CEDAW/C/ERI/1-2, CEDAW, New York, NY.

United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (2007) Second and third periodic reports of States parties due in 2006: Eritrea, CRC/C/ERI/3, 23 October 2007.

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2008) World Marriage Data 2008, available at, accessed 10 October 2010.

United Nations Development Programme (2009) Human Development Report 2009 Eritrea, online edition, available at, accessed 20 October 2010.

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

United Nations Population Division (2007) World Abortion Policies 2007, available at, accessed 13 October 2010.

US Department of State (2010), 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Eritrea, available at, accessed 13 October 2010.

World Bank (n.d.) Eritrea: Summary Gender Profile, Available at, accessed 11 October 2010.

World Bank (n.d.) Online data: Eritrea, available at, accessed 20 November 2010.

World Health Organization (n.d.) Female genital mutilation and other harmful practices: Prevalence of FGM, Available at, accessed 13 October 2010. 

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: 
Attitudes Towards Domestic Violence: 
Missing Women: 
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: