Ghana is ranked 50 out of 86 in the 2012 Social Institutions and Gender Index.

The country was ranked 54 out of 102 in the 2009 Social Institutions and Gender Index.

Ghana is ranked in 135th place in the 2011 Human Development Index (out of a total of 187 countries), with a score of 0.541. Under the Gender Inequality Index, the country’s score is 0.598, placing it in 122nd place (out of a total of 146 countries). In the Global Gender Gap index for 2011, Ghana was ranked in 70th place (out of 135 countries), with a score of 0.6811. 

Discriminatory Family Code: 

The Children’s Act of 1998 restricts early marriage and sets the minimum age for marriage at 18 years.[12]  However, customary practices in Ghana still lead to child betrothals and child marriages: a 2008 United Nations report citing data from 2003 estimated that 13.7 per cent of girls between 15 and 19 years of age (a group protected under the 1998 Children’s Act) were married, divorced or widowed.[13]  The 2006 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey found that 25.9 percent of women aged 15-49 were married before their 18th birthday. It also found that 2.1 percent of married women 15-19 years of age were married before they were 15.[14]

The Marriage Ordinance states that marriages are to be monogamous and prohibits men from have multiple wives.[15]  However, many marriages are conducted under customary law and Islamic law, both of which allow polygamy.[16]  However, men who have married one woman under customary law cannot contract a subsequent marriage under the Marriage Ordinance.[17]  Despite this legislation, a considerable number of men married under civil law are in bigamous marriages.[18]  The 2006 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey found that 21.6 percent of women aged 15-49 lived in a polygamous union.[19]

The Children’s Act of 1998 grants parental authority to both parents, and states that both are responsible for a child’s health, wellbeing, and education.[20]  However, under patrilineal systems of customary law, children are deemed to belong to the father’s extended family, meaning that in most cases, if they want it, fathers gain custody of non-infant children in the event of separation or divorce.[21]  In addition, according to the 2005 CEDAW report, on divorce women typically lose possession of the family home, meaning they are not in a position to maintain their children, even if the father agrees that they should stay with the mother.[22]

Under the Intestate Succession Law of 1985, female and male heirs of a man who dies interstate have equal rights to inherit property, and the right of widows to remain in their family home is protected.[23]  However, this protection only lasts for 6 months after the husband’s death, and is often interpreted as permitting the eviction of a deceased man’s widow and children after the six month ban on this behavior has elapsed.[24]  The law does not address polygamy and, thus, has no mechanism to ensure equity in relation to distributing property upon the death of a man with multiple wives.[25]

[12] Act 560, Section 14(2) in CEDAW (2005) p.68 [13] CEDAW (2005) p.68; United Nations (2008) [14] Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), et al. (2006), Table CP. 5; Human Rights Council (HRC) (2008) p. 10. Similarly, the 2008 Demographic and Health Survey found 2.6 percent of married women 15-19 years of age were married before their 15th birthday. Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), Ghana Health Service (GHS), ICF Macro (2009), Table 6.3 [15] CEDAW (2005) pp.69-70 [16] CEDAW (2005) pp.69-70 [17] Section 263 of the Criminal Code Act of 1960 declares bigamy a misdemeanor and nullifies the subsequent marriage; CEDAW (2005) p. 69 [18] CEDAW (2005) p.70 [19] GSS et al (2006), Table CP.5A. [20] CEDAW (2005) p.72 [21] CEDAW (2005) pp. 68-70 [22] CEDAW (2005) p.72 [23] CEDAW (2005) p.71 [24] HRC (2008) p.20 [25] Intestate Succession Law, enacted 1985 (PNDC Law 111) in CEDAW (2005) pp. 8, 70-71; Knox, A., et al. (2007) p. 2

Restricted Physical Integrity: 

Rape is a criminal offence under Ghanaian law, and amendments to the Criminal Code in 1998 doubled the mandatory sentence; convicted rapists now face prison sentences of 5 – 25 years.[26] In May 2007, Ghana adopted the Domestic Violence Act, which provides for a broad and gender-neutral definition of domestic violence, authorizes judges to issue protection orders, and criminalizes acts of intimidation, harassment, physical, psychological, and sexual abuse. Furthermore, the act explicitly states that violence cannot be justified on the basis of consent. This ruling allows the courts to prosecute spousal rape and overturns previous law that stated that women had to submit to their husbands.[27]  There is no law dealing explicitly with sexual harassment, however some cases have successfully been prosecuted under the criminal code.[28] The US Department of State human rights report for 2010 reports that women’s rights organisations in Ghana consider sexual harassment to be a serious and widespread problem.[29]

In 2005 Ghana reorganized the Women and Juvenile Unit into the Domestic Violence Victims Support Unit (DoVVSU), however it lacks sufficient resources to effectively investigate crimes and has little reach in large parts of the rural countryside. The police also lack adequate facilities to offer to women seeking protection. Meanwhile, there are problems with the courts failing to prosecute cases within an adequate time frame, so that victims often run out of money or courage before their cases are completed.[30]  The US Department of State also reports that doctors often charged fees to complete the medical certificates needed for women to press charges, even though legally, these fees should be waived. It also reported that there are no reliable statistics available for the number of domestic violence cases brought in Ghana during 2010.[31] In cases of rape, the DoVVSU received 318 reports of rape, and reported 158 arrests, 101 prosecutions, and three convictions.[32] It is thought that rape is significantly underreported, however.[33]

Despite legal protections, domestic violence is common. According to a 2008 Demographic and Health Survey, nearly 37 percent of women had experienced physical violence, 17 percent in the previous year.[34]  In the same survey, 20.6 percent of women reported experiencing physical violence at the hands of their partner at some point in their lives, with 18 percent experiencing violence in the past year.[35]  The DHS also provides evidence that domestic violence has wide social acceptance. When presented with a list of five reasons for which a man may be justified in beating his wife, 36.6 percent of women agreed with at least one reason.[36]

Under the Criminal Code Amendment Act of 1994, Ghana was the first African country to explicitly criminalise female genital mutilation (FGM), a law strengthened in 2007 to increase the maximum penalty to ten years.[37]  Nevertheless, the practice still exists, and is most prevalent among ethnic groups in northern Ghana.[38]  According to the 2006 MICS, 3.8% of women overall aged 15-49 had undergone some form of FGM.[39]  However, rates were higher among women over 30, and overall, 92.5% of women thought that the practice should be discontinued.[40] This included 89.3% of women who had themselves undergone FGM.[41]  This would indicate that social attitudes are now overwhelmingly against the practice.

Abortion is legal in Ghana where the woman’s mental or physical health is in danger, and in cases of rape and incest, or where the foetus is impaired.[42] Women in Ghana have the right to decide freely the number, spacing and timing of pregnancies, and 98% of women questioned for the 2008 Demographic and Health Survey knew of at least one modern method of contraception.[43] According to both the 2006 MICS survey and the 2008 Demographic and Health Survey, 16.6 percent of married women between the ages of 15 and 49 were currently using contraceptives to control their fertility, although ever-use rates were higher at 50.3 percent. These rates are slightly lower than what was recorded by the DHS in 2003, reversing a twenty-year trend in increasing contraceptive prevalence.[44]  Married women who did not intend to start using contraception gave a variety of reasons for their non-use, from fear of side effects (26 percent), to opposition to family planning in general (16 percent), to infertility (10 percent). Less than three percent reported that their husbands were opposed to using contraception.[45]

[26] ECOSOC (2003) p.59; US Department of State (2011) [27] Ghana Domestic Violence Act, Act 732, enacted 3 May 2007 in HRC (2008) p.13, 21; the repealed previous law isSection 42(g), Criminal Code Act 29 of 1960; (CEDAW 2005) p.27 [28] US Department of State (2011) [29] US Department of State (2011) [30] HRC (2008) pp. 22-23 [31] US Department of State (2011) [32] US Department of State (2011) [33] US Department of State (2011) [34] GSS, GHS, and ICF Macro (2009), Table 15.1 [35] GSS, GHS and ICF Macro (2009) 2008, Table 15.10 [36] GSS, GHS and ICF MACRO (2009), Table 14.6.2 [37] Act 484 to amend the Criminal Code, enacted 4 August 1994; HRC (2008) p. 16 [38] UNICEF (2005), Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A Statistical Exploration; HRC (2008) p.16; ECOSOC (2003) pp. 60-61 [39] GSS et al (2006), Table CP.7 [40] GSS et al (2006), Table CP.7 [41] GSS et al (2006), Table CP.7 [42] United Nations (2011) [43] US Department of State (2011); GSS, GHS and ICF MACRO (2009), Table 5.1 [44] GSS et al (2006), Table RH.1; GSS, GHS and ICF MACRO (2009), Tables 5.3.1 and 5.4, and Figure 5.1 [45] GSS, GHS and ICF MACRO (2009), Table 5.14

Son Bias: 

Both the 2008 DHS and the 2006 MICS found that rates of under-five mortality are higher for boys than for girls, as are rates of malnutrition.[46] Vaccination rates in Ghana are high: 79.7% of boys under two and 78.4% of girls had received all their recommended vaccinations.[47] Overall, this would not indicate marked son preference in regard to early childhood care.

Data from the 2006 MICS indicates that slightly more girls than boys aged 5-14 were undertaking more than 28 hours of domestic labour a week, and that girls were also less likely to be paid for work outside the home.[48] This indicates slight preference for sons in the allocation of household chores, and that girls’ work may be considered to have less economic value.

According to the 2008 DHS, of those surveyed, 14.7% of women aged 20-24 had received no education, compared to 8% of men in the same age bracket; secondary school completion rates for women and men in the same age bracket were 21.2% and 29.1% respectively.[49] This would indicate some preference towards sons in regard to access to education.

The male/female sex ratio for the total population in 2012 is 1.[50] 

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

[46] GSS et al (2006), Fig. CM.1, Table NU.1; GSS, GHS and ICF MACRO (2009), Tables 8.3, 11.1 [47] GSS, GHS and ICF MACRO (2009), Table 10.3 [48] GSS et al (2006), Table CP.2 [49] GSS, GHS and ICF MACRO (2009) , Tables 3.2.1 and 3.2.2 [50] Central Intelligence Agency (2012)

Restricted Resources and Entitlements: 

The land tenure system is currently governed by customary law. As a result, women’s access to land and to agricultural inputs is relatively poor, although women in matrilineal communities can inherit land from either their female ancestors or fathers.[51].  Article 22(2) of the 1992 Constitution provides that the Parliament should “as soon as practicable” enact legislation to regulate the property rights of spouses during and at dissolution of marriage.[52]  To date, no such legislation has been put in place, which means that married women’s property rights are unclear and their access to land is often restricted.[53]  Strong regional disparities are apparent regarding access to land: the percentage of female landholders ranges from 2 per cent in the north to 50 per cent in the Ashanti region, where property is distributed according to a matrilineal system.[54]

Women and men in Ghana have equal legal rights in relation to access to and management of property other than land, and women have the same rights as men to conclude contracts.[55] However, customary law considers property as a family asset to be administered by the family head, who is usually a man.[56]

Women’s access to bank loans is more limited than that of men, although there do not appear to be any legal restrictions on women’s access to credit. Women are less likely to obtain loans from private banks and more likely to receive credit from traders, NGOs, and the government.[57]  Weak access to land limits their ability to provide collateral and makes it difficult to obtain credit. Several current initiatives aim to provide micro-finance schemes to rural farmers, particularly rural women.[58]

[51] CEDAW (2005) pp. 59, 65, 71; World Bank et al. (2009) p. 128 [52] CEDAW (2005) p.71 [53] CEDAW (2005) p.71 [54] CEDAW (2005) p. 59; Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) (2009) p. 136 [55] CEDAW (2005) p.67-68 [56] CEDAW (2005) pp. 59, 65 [57] GSS (2008), Table 10.2 [58] CEDAW (2005) p. 58, 66-67

Restricted Civil Liberties: 

There are no reports that women in Ghana face any legal restrictions in relation to freedom of movement.

The rights to freedom of speech, assembly and association are protected under the Constitution, and are generally respected.[59] Women’s rights organisations appear to face few restrictions on their activities, and were instrumental in pushing for the Domestic Violence Act.[60]

Women and men have the same right to vote and to stand for public office in Ghana.[61] Ghana has taken step to increase the number of women serving in government as elected representatives as well as in the Civil Service, including adopting an affirmative action program in an attempt to increase the representation of women in key public service and policy-making institutions to 40 percent, although the guidelines are non-binding.[62]  It may be the case that ethnic balancing takes priority over gender balancing in electioneering processes.[63]  As of 2008, six of forty Cabinet posts were filled by women, and for the first time in the country’s history, the Chief Justice, appointed in 2007, is a woman.[64]  Still, just 19 of the 230 seats in Ghana’s unicameral Parliament, or 7.9 percent, are filled by women.[65]  Despite the fact that a third of district (local) assembly members were directly appointed by the President, women’s representation at the district level stood around 10 percent.[66]  Over 78 percent of respondents to a 2007 survey reported that they believed men to make better political leaders than women[67], although a different survey from the same year found that when given the option to rate men and women equally, that percentage dropped to 42 percent (with 43 percent reporting men and women equal).[68]

Employed women in Ghana are entitled to at least twelve weeks of paid maternity leave.[69]  A woman’s benefits are equal to 100 percent of her compensation, and are financed by her employer. In addition, pregnant and nursing women having legal protections against certain forms of nighttime, dangerous, unhealthy, or overtime work, and unfair, discriminatory termination of her employment.[70] 

[59] Freedom House (2010) [60] CEDAW (2005) p.72 [61] CEDAW (2005) p.13 [62] ECOSOC (2003) pp. 59-60 [63] ECA (2009) p. 171 [64] HRC (2008) p. 12 [65] Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) (2010) [66] HRC (2008) p. 12 [67] World Values Survey (WVS) (2007) Question V61 [68] Pew Research Center (2007) Question Q.43 [69] ILO (2009) [70] ILO (2009)


Ghana was the first country in Sub-Saharan colonial Africa to become independent from British colonial rule, in 1957.[1] The country’s first president Kwame Nkrumah was deposed in a coup in 1966, and the country experienced political instability and military rule until 1981, when Jerry Rawlings seized power.[2] A new constitution allowing for multi-party elections was approved by referendum in 1992, and since then, five successful presidential elections have been held.[3]  Ghana is considered to be one of the most economically and politically stable countries in West Africa.[4] With a strong economy centred on cocoa production and gold extraction, Ghana is ranked as a lower-middle income country by the World Bank.[5]

There have been a number of positive developments towards gender equality in Ghana, including an affirmative action policy for women’s representation on government and public boards, government programmes to improve women’s access to micro-credit, the provision of paid maternity leave and the establishment of a domestic violence support unit within the police service.[6]  However, discriminatory social norms and practices continue to present obstacles to women’s empowerment. Although Ghana has achieved gender parity in primary school enrolments, gender gaps remain in secondary education, economic participation and political empowerment. [7]

Ghana’s 1992 Constitution enshrines the principle of equality between men and women, and ‘calls for prohibition of all customary practices which dehumanize or cause injuries to the physical and mental wellbeing of a person’.[8]  The Criminal Code imposes sanctions with respect to defilement, forced marriages, customary servitude, female genital mutilation (FGM), abuse of widowhood rites and the practice of banishment of “witches”.[9]

Ghana ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1986, and the Optional Protocol in 2011.[10] The country ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa in 2007.[11]

[1] CIA (2011) [2] CIA (2011); BBC (n.d.) [3] CIA (2011); BBC (n.d.) [4] CIA (2011); BBC (n.d.); CEDAW (2005) p.2 [5] BBC (n.d.); World Bank (n.d.) [6] CEDAW (2006) [7] World Economic Forum (2010) [8] Chapter 5 and Article 26 of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, in CEDAW (2005) pp.13, 16 [9] ECOSOC (2003) p. 59; CEDAW (2005) p.13 [10] United Nations Treaty Collection (UNTC) (2011) [11] African Union (2010)


African Development Fund (AfDF) (2008), Ghana Country Gender Profile

African Union (2010) ‘List of countries which have signed, ratified/acceded to the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa’ (as of 27 August 2010).

BBC (n.d.) ‘Ghana profile’, BBC News, (accessed 9 November 2011)

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) (2011) World Factbook: Ghana, Washington, DC: CIA, online edition, (accessed 9 November 2011)

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

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (2005), Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: Ghana, Combined Third, Fourth and Fifth Periodic Reports of States Parties, CEDAW/C/GHA/4-5, CEDAW, New York, NY.

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (2006),

Concluding comments of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: Ghana, CEDAW/C/GHA/CO/5, CEDAW, New York, NY.

Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) (2009) African Women’s Report 2009: Measuring Gender Inequality in Africa: Experiences and Lessons from the African Gender and Development Index, ECA: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) (2003), Integration of the Human Rights of Women and the Gender Perspective: Violence Against Women, E/CN.4/2003/75/Add.1, UN, New York, NY.

 Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), Ghana Health Service (GHS), and ICF Macro (2009). Ghana Demographic and Health Survey 2008, GSS, GHS, and ICF Macro: Accra, Ghana.

Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), Ministry of Health, USAID, and UNICEF (2006), Ghana Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2006, GSS, MOH, USAID, UNICEF: Accra, Ghana and New York, NY.

GSS (2008), Ghana Living Standards Survey: Report of the 5th Round, GSS: Accra, Ghana.

Human Rights Council (HRC) (2008), Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Yakin Ertürk. Addendum: Mission to Ghana, A/HRC/7/6/Add.3, UN, New York, NY.

International Finance Corporation (IFC) (2007), Gender and Economic Growth Assessment for Ghana, 2007, Mary Agboli, ed., International Finance Corporation and Ministry for Women, Washington, DC.

International Labour Organization (ILO) (2009), Database of Conditions of Work and Employment Laws, ILO: Geneva, Switzerland (accessed 2 March 2010)

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

Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) (1999), Country WID Profile: Ghana, JICA Planning Department, Tokyo.

Knox, A., N. Duvvury, and N. Milici (2007), Connecting Rights to Reality: A Progressive Framework of Core Legal Protections for Women’s Property Rights, International Center for Research on Women, Washington, DC.

Pew Research Center (2007), Pew Global Attitudes Project: Spring 2007 Survey, Pew Global Attitudes Project, Washington, DC.

United Nations (UN) (2006a), World Population Prospects, Population Database, UN Population Division, New York, NY.

UN (2006b), In-depth Study on all Forms of Violence Against Women, Report of the Secretary-General, UN General Assembly, 61st Session A/61/122/Add.1, UN, New York, NY.

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

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

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (2011) Human Development Report 2011, (accessed 9 November 2011)

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

UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) (2005), Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A Statistical Exploration, available at

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

-              CEDAW: (accessed 9 November 2011)

-              Optional Protocol: (accessed 9 November 2011)

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

US Department of State (2010), 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Ghana, US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Washington, DC. (accessed 9 November 2011)

World Bank (n.d.) ‘Data: Ghana’, Washington, D.C., World Bank, (accessed 9 November 2011)

World Bank, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) (2009), Gender in Agriculture Sourcebook, The World Bank, Washington, DC.

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)

World Values Survey (2007), Selected Country/Sample: Ghana, World Values Survey, available (accessed 2 March 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: 
Prevalance Of Domestic Violence: 
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: