Gabon

Gabon is ranked 77 out of 86 in the 2012 Social Institutions and Gender Index.

The country was ranked 84 out of 102 in the 2009 Social Institutions and Gender Index.

In 2011, the Human Development Index for Gabon was 0.674, placing Gabon at 106 out of 187 countries with data. For the 2011 Gender Inequality Index, Gabon received a score of 0.509, placing the country at 103 out of 146 countries with data. The World Economic Forum does not score Gabon as part of the Global Gender Gap Index.

Discriminatory Family Code: 

Under the Civil Code, the minimum legal age of marriage in Gabon is 15 years for women and 18 years for men. Forced marriage is prohibited under the Penal Code which also provides that an attempt to consummate a forced marriage with a child under 15 is punishable by imprisonment between one to ten years.[5]  

Based on 2000 data, the United Nations reports that 22% of 15-19 year old girls were married, divorced or widowed, compared to 3.9% of boys in the same age range.[6] Early pregnancy is also common amongst women in Gabon. According to UNICEF based on 2000 data, 52 percent of women aged 15-19 who are in a union had 1 or 2 children.[7]

Polygamy is legal under Gabon’s Penal Code, which allows both men and women to have several spouses.[8]  The law states that couples must stipulate at the time of marriage whether they intend to enter into a monogamous or a polygamous relationship. However, the presumption of the law is a polygamous relationship. The law is discriminatory in the sense that if the couple opts for monogamy, the husband may later refute his first choice and pursue polygamy. The wife does not have this option.[9]

Based on data from 2000, UNICEF reports that 21 percent of unions in Gabon were polygamous. The data indicates that polygamy is more common in rural areas, with 26 percent of unions in rural areas being polygamous, compared to 19 percent of unions in urban areas.[10]

Within the family, the Civil Code provides that husbands are considered the head of the household and have responsibility for parental authority. Further, wives have an obligation to obey their husband and husbands have the right to decide on domicile. The wife can only challenge this through a court authorisation.[11]

Women are also discriminated against in separation and divorce. Divorce is only permitted in the event of an act of transgression and any separation of husband and wife must be declared by the courts. If a woman leaves the marital home she is penalized for adultery. A man is only penalized in the event of leaving the marital home if he has knowledge that his wife is pregnant.[12]

Gabon’s inheritance laws are discriminatory towards widows.[13]  In most cases, widows cannot inherit property from their husbands without written authorisation of the family of the deceased. Moreover, they are deprived of their right to live and work on the land or property if they remarry into a family other than that of their deceased spouse. Therefore, widows are obliged to marry within their deceased husband’s family if they wish to receive any benefits from their deceased husbands.[14]  There is no reported discrimination with respect to legal rights to inheritance for daughters.

[7] UNICEF (2005) p.37 [8] CEDAW (2003) pp. 26-27 [9] CEDAW (2003) pp.26-27 [10] UNICEF (2005) p.38 [11] CEDAW (2003) p.27 [12] CEDAW (2003) pp.27-28 [13] CEDAW (2003) p.28 [14] CEDAW (2003) p.28

Restricted Physical Integrity: 

Rape is a criminal offence and carries a penalty of five to ten years’ imprisonment. There are no provisions in the law regarding spousal rape. The law prohibits domestic violence with penalties ranging from two months to 15 years in prison.[15]  The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women has raised concerns about the lack of specific legislation to prohibit and punish domestic violence in Gabon. There is no law prohibiting sexual harassment.[16]

Although there is some legislative protection in place, violence against women remains under reported. The government reports that although there is no law providing husbands the ‘right to punish’ their wives, women are generally reluctant to report violence that has been inflicted by their husbands.[17]  Further, the government states that sexual violence remains a highly sensitive topic in the community preventing women from coming forward.[18]  According to the US Department of State, police in Gabon rarely intervene in incidents of domestic violence and only limited medical and legal assistance is available for victims of rape.[19]  Whilst there is no national prevalence data, the US Department of State reports that rape is widespread and domestic violence is common.[20]

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is illegal, but it is believed to occur only among non-citizens from neighbouring countries where FGM is more widely practiced.[21]

Having control over the timing and spacing of children is an important aspect of women’s physical integrity. In Gabon, abortion is treated as a criminal act. It is allowed only for therapeutic reasons to save the woman’s life.[22]  The US Department of State reports that access to contraceptives is a problem in Gabon with many women had difficulty acquiring reliable contraceptives.[23]  Based on 2000 Demographic Health Survey it is estimated that 33 percent of married women in Gabon use contraception, with only 12 percent using modern methods of contraception. Access to family planning is an issue in Gabon with 28 percent of married women reporting an unmet need for family planning. The data suggests that there remains reluctance amongst couples to discuss family planning with 37 percent of married women reporting never having discussed family planning with their spouse.[24]

[15] US Department of State (2010) [16] CEDAW (2005a) para 24 [17] CEDAW (2003) p.8 [18] CEDAW (2005b) para.57 [19] US Department of State (2010) [20] US Department of State (2010) [21] US Department of State (2010) [22] United Nations Population Division (2007) [23] US Department of State (2010) [24] Demographic Health Surveys (2000)

Son Bias: 

Gender disaggregated data on rates of infant mortality and early childhood nutrition are not available for Gabon. There is no gap between the primary school enrolment rates of boys and girls which indicates that preferential treatment of sons in access to education is not a problem in Gabon.[25]

The Central Intelligence Agency reports that Gabon has a male/female sex ratio for the total population of 0.99.[26]  There is no evidence to suggest that Gabon is a country of concern in relation to missing women.

[25] UNICEF (2009) [26] Central Intelligence Agency (2012)

Restricted Resources and Entitlements: 

Land laws in Gabon do not distinguish between men and women with respect to access to land for building purposes, but in the event they are married, the land itself is always considered the property of husbands.[27]  As such, married women are unable to own land independently.[28]  There are no reported restrictions on access to land for unmarried women.

Women’s access to property other than land is subject to a number of restrictions, particularly for married women. Single women can independently hold and administer assets (including property).[29]  For married women, administration of assets is governed by the regime under which they marry. For example, under the “separation of assets” regime, each spouse remains responsible for his or her own assets. By contrast, under the “joint estate” regime, husbands are the sole administrators of property. This system, which is socially accepted and practised widely, grants women virtually no property rights.[30]

Gabon gives all persons – male or female – equal legal right to access to bank loans.[31]  Nevertheless, certain discriminatory practices persist in prevent women from equally accessing credit. Some banks require wives to obtain permission from their husbands before opening an account.[32]  Moreover, women are often excluded from the classic banking services because of their low incomes, a practice that effectively denies their legal right to access to loans.[33]

[27] CEDAW (2003) p.22 [28] CEDAW (2003) p.28 [29] CEDAW (2003) pp.28-29 [30] CEDAW (2003) pp.28-29 [31] CEDAW (2003) p.20 [32] CEDAW (2003) p.25 [33] CEDAW (2003) p.23

Restricted Civil Liberties: 

Married women in Gabon face restrictions in terms of freedom of movement as the law provides their husbands the right to choose the family residence and wives are obliged to accept their choice.[34]  In addition, the National Office for Documentation and Immigration requires that married women wishing to travel outside the country provide proof of the husband’s permission.[35]

Freedom House reports that press freedom is guaranteed in law in Gabon but restricted in practice.[36]  According to the US Department of State, human rights organisations including women’s organisations operate without interference from the government. [37]

With respect to women’s participation in public life, the 2009 election resulted in women being elected to only 15 percent of lower house positions and 18 percent of upper house positions.[38] The US Department of State reports that women participate freely in the political process and that voting and political activism by women is common.[39]

Under the constitution and Labour Code, women in Gabon have the equal right as men to engage in paid work.[40]  However night work and mining work is prohibited for women.[41]  Women also have a right to paid maternity leave of 14 weeks to be paid at the level of wages at the time of taking leave.[42]

[35] CEDAW (2003) p.25 [36] Freedom House (2010) [37] US Department of State (2010) [38] Inter-Parliamentary Union (2010) [39] US Department of State (2010) [40] CEDAW (2003) p.5 [41] CEDAW (2003) p.17 [42] International Labour Organisation (2010) 

Background: 

Gabon gained independence from France in 1960. A small population, abundant natural resources, and foreign support have helped make Gabon one of the more prosperous and stable African countries.[1]  The World Bank classifies Gabon as an upper middle income country.[2]

While Gabon has taken some steps towards gender equality, the status of women remains constrained by discriminatory laws and practices which reinforce women’s unequal position in all aspects of life, particularly in the family.[3]

 The Constitution in Gabon recognises men and women as equals before the law.[4]  Gabon ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1982.

[1] Central Intelligence Agency (2010) [2] World Bank (n.d.) [3] United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (2005a) p.4 [4] Article 2, Constitution of the Republic of Gabon (2003)

Sources: 

Central Intelligence Agency (2012) The World Factbook: Sex Ratio, available at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2018.html, accessed 5 March 2012.

Demographic Health Surveys (2000) Gabon: Standard DHS, 2000 – online data, available at http://www.statcompiler.com/index.cfm, accessed 31 October 2010.

Freedom House (2010) Freedom in the World: Gabon Country Report, available at http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=22&country=7825&year=2010, accessed 13 November 2010.

International Labour Organisation (ILO) (2010) Database of Conditions of Work and Employment Laws, available at http://www.ilo.org/dyn/travail/travmain.home, accessed 31 October 2010.

Inter-Parliamentary Union (2010) Parline Database: Gabon, available at http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif.htm, accessed 1 November 2010.

UNICEF (2005) Early Marriage: A Harmful Traditional Practice, available at http://www.unicef.org/publications/files/Early_Marriage_12.lo.pdf, accessed 29 October 2010.

UNICEF (2009) State of the World’s Children – online data, Available at http://www.unicef.org/sowc09/statistics/statistics.php, accessed 1 November 2010.

United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (2003), Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: Gabon, Combined Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Periodic Reports of States Parties, CEDAW/C/GAB/2-5, New York, NY. 

United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (2005a) Concluding Comments, CEDAW/C/GAB/CC/2-5, New York, NY. 

United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (2005b) Summary record of the 669th meeting, CEDAW/C/SR.669 

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2008) World Marriage Data 2008, available at http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/WMD2008/Main.html, accessed 10 October 2010. 

United Nations Development Programme (2010) Human Development Report 2010 Gabon, online edition, available at   http://hdrstats.undp.org/en/countries/profiles/COG.html, accessed 1 November 2010.

United Nations Development Programme (2011) Human Development Report 2011, available at http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/HDR_2011_EN_Complete.pdf, accessed 29 February 2012.

United Nations Population Division (2007) World Abortion Policies 2007, available at http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/2007_Abortion_Policies_Chart/2007_WallChart.pdf, accessed 13 October 2010. 

US Department of State (2010)Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Gabon, available at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/af/135954.htm, accessed 1 November 2010.

World Economic Forum (2011) The Global Gender Gap Report 2011, available at http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GenderGap_Report_2011.pdf, accessed 2 March 2012.

Data
Discrim. Fam. Code Rank 2012: 
112
Discrim. Fam. Code Value 2012: 
0.8129
Legal Age of Marriage: 
1
Early Marriage: 
0.224
Parental Authority: 
1
Inheritance: 
1
Data
Rest. Phys. Integrity Rank 2012: 
73
Rest. Phys. Integrity Value 2012: 
0.4856
Violence Against Women (laws): 
0.66667
Female Genital Mutilation: 
0
Reproductive Integrity: 
0.28
Data
Son Bias Rank 2012: 
9
Son Bias Value 2012: 
0.330589
Missing Women: 
0
Fertility Preferences: 
0.4507
Data
Rest. Resources & Ent. Rank 2012: 
93
Rest. Resources & Ent. Value 2012: 
0.5071
Access To Land: 
0.5
Access To Property Other Than Land: 
0.5
Access To Bank Loans And Credit: 
0.5
Data
Rest. Civil Liberties Rank 2012: 
108
Rest. Civil Liberties Value 2012: 
0.9309
Access To Public Space: 
1
Political Participation: 
0.15766
Political Quotas: 
1