Serbia is ranked 11 out of 86 in the 2012 Social Institutions and Gender Index.

Serbia is ranked in 59th place in the 2011 Human Development Report (out of 187 countries with data), with a score of 0.766; the country is not ranked in the Gender Inequality Index. Serbia is not ranked in the 2011 Global Gender Gap Index.

Discriminatory Family Code: 

Women and men have equal legal rights under Serbia’s 2005 Family Law, but somediscriminatory practices remain. The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 years for both men and women.[1] A court may grant an exemption from the age of 16, if it deems that both parties have the physical and psychological maturity to marry, but any marriage before this age is strictly prohibited and considered a crime.[2] The law stipulates that both spouses must freely consent to marriage and should not be subjected to threats or other pressure.[3]

Early, unregistered marriage occurs before the age of 16 among the Vlach and Roma ethnic minorities in eastern Serbia; some marriages are also arranged, without the consent of the bride and groom.[4] During the tradition Serbian marriage ceremony, the bride is symbolically ‘bought’ by her new husband.  However, although it is illegal, some of communities still follow the practice of “buying” the fiancée through an actual transaction rather than merely as a symbolic gesture.[5]  Data from the 2010 Multi-Indicator Cluster Survey for Serbia indicates that overall, 5.2% of girls and 1.2% of boys age 15-19 were married or in union.[6]  However, in Roma settlements surveyed for the survey, 44.3% of girls and 19% of boys aged 15-19 were married or in union.[7]  Of all the Roma women aged 15-49 questioned for the survey, 16.2% had been married before the age of 15.

Polygamy is a crime in Serbia and is punishable under the Penal Code.[8] Polygamous marriages do occur in some regions, where they are sanctioned by customary law and religion.[9]

The law on marriage states that spouses should share parental authority and mutually support each other. They have the same rights and responsibilities in relation to children in regard to guardianship, adoption and support.[10] The State provides a financial allowance for a second child and any subsequent children, which is paid to the mother.[11] In the situation when one parent dies, the other one will be solely responsible for the child, except in situations when it is not in the best interest of the child.[12]  Serbian women have the right to pass citizenship onto their children.[13]

Women and men have the same right to seek a divorce.[14]  In case of divorce the competent guardianship authority access the needs and interests of the child and then takes the decision itself or proposes a solution to the court as to which parent should be given custody of children.[15] The needs and interests of the child are the most important factors in custody decisions, rather than sex of the parent, which can be taken into consideration only in special cases (for example, in cases involving very young children).[16] However, in some regions, tradition dictates that custody is most often awarded to the father or the father’s family, without consideration of the children’s needs.[17] In the event of divorce or separation, the non-resident parent is legally obliged to pay child maintenance.[18]

The Constitution guarantees equal inheritance rights for men and women.[19] However, in some rural regions, women are expected to waive their inheritance rights to property in favour of male members of the family.[20]

[1] CEDAW (2006), p.91 [2] CEDAW (2006), pp.91-92 [3] Article 24 of the 2005 Family Law.  CEDAW (2011), p.61 [4] CEDAW (2006), pp.83, 92; CEDAW (2011), p.17 [5] CEDAW (2006), p.92 [6] STATISTICAL OFFICE OF THE REPUBLIC OF SERBIA / UNICEF (2011), tables CP.3 and CP.3M [7] Statistical Office Of The Republic Of Serbia / UNICEF (2011), tables CP.3R and CP.3RM [8] CEDAW (2006), p.86 [9] CEDAW (2006), p.86 [10] CEDAW (2006), p.89 [11] CEDAW (2006), p.19 [12] CEDAW (2006) , p105 [13] CEDAW (2006), p.45 [14] CEDAW (2006), p.87 [15] CEDAW (2006), p.23 [16] CEDAW (2006), p.105 [17] CEDAW (2006), p.90 [18] CEDAW (2006), p.91 [19] CEDAW (2006), p.80 [20] CEDAW (2006), p.80

Restricted Physical Integrity: 

Rape is punishable by between 1 and 40 years in prison, with a minimum of five years if the victim is a minor or if she dies.[21] Spousal rape is recognised under Serbian law.[22] A 2003 UN report on violence against women noted that rape frequently goes unreported, due to stigma associated with sexual violence, and fear of bringing shame on their families.[23]  Of those cases that are reported, the US Department of State Human Rights Report for 2010 states that the courts often give rapists light sentences, and that in 2010, of 78 cases brought to court, 63 resulted in convictions.[24] Very few women bring complaints to the courts, largely for fear of reprisals or the humiliation of a public confrontation.[25] Recent amendments to the Criminal Code mean that rape against men is now also recognised.[26]

Women have legal protection from domestic violence under the Criminal Code and the Law on Gender Equality.[27]  Domestic violence is punishable by between six and ten years in prison, with a minimum sentence of ten years if the victim dies, and victims can also take out restraining orders; however, few cases are reported, according to the US Department of State.[28] While a 2003 UN report noted that few cases of domestic violence were reported, due to cultural acceptance, attitudes appear to be changing.[29]  Of people aged 15-49 interviewed for the 2010 MICS, 6.6% of men and just 2.9% of women agreed with at least one of a list of five reasons ‘justifying’ a husband beating his wife.[30]  However, acceptance of domestic violence among Roma communities appears to be higher, with 31.4% of men and 20.1% of women agreeing with at least one of the five reasons presented.[31]  UN Women notes that 23% of women reported experiencing at least one incident of physical violence in their lifetime.[32]

Women have legal protection from sexual harassment under criminal law and the Law on Gender Equality.[33]  Sexual harassment is punishable by between six months and one year in prison, but few cases are reported.[34]

During the Balkan conflicts and the conflict in Kosovo, rape, sexual violence, and forced pregnancy were routinely used as a weapon of war by all sides.  In particular, sexual violence was used by Serbian and ethnic Serb forces from other parts of the former Yugoslavia against women and men belonging to other ethnic groups.  Recent years have seen Serbia take a more cooperative stance in regard to working with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and in 2009, five Serbian political, police and military leaders were convicted of were convicted of the deportation, forcible transfer, murder and persecution (including rape) of thousands of ethnic Albanians during the 1999 Kosovo conflict, and each sentenced to 22 years in prison.[35]

Women have the right to use and access information about contraception and family planning.  Data from the 2010 MICS indicates that 21.5% of women aged 15-19 married or in heterosexual union who were questioned were using some form of modern contraception[36] Use of modern methods was much lower among Roma women included in the survey (5.9%).[37] The Law on Pregnancy Termination in Health Institutions does not put any restrictions on the right of a woman to decide on abortion herself, except in the case when pregnancy termination could be dangerous for the health of woman.[38]

There is no evidence to indicate that female genital mutilation is practised in Serbia.

[21] US Department of State (2011); CEDAW (2006), p.25 [22] UN Women (2011); CEDAW (2006), p.27 [23] ECOSOC (2003), p.381 [24] US Department of State (2011) [25] US Department of State (2011) [26] CEDAW (2011), p.62 [27] CEDAW (2011), p.62 [28] US Department of State (2011) [29] ECOSOC (2003), p.381 [30] Statistical Office Of The Republic Of Serbia / UNICEF (2011), tables CP.6 and CP.6M [31] Statistical Office Of The Republic Of Serbia / UNICEF (2011), tables CP.6R and CP.6R.M [32] UN Women (2011) [33] CEDAW (2011), p.48; US Department of State (2011) [34] CEDAW (2011), p.47; US Department of State (2011) [35] Amnesty International (2010), p.280 [36] Statistical Office Of The Republic Of Serbia / UNICEF (2011), table RH.4 [37] Statistical Office Of The Republic Of Serbia / UNICEF (2011), table RH.4R [38] CEDAW (2006), p.65

Son Bias: 

According to the 2010 MICS, Malnutrition rates are very low overall in Serbia, but were very slightly higher for girls than boys.[39]  Under-five mortality rates are slightly higher for boys than for girls, reports UNFPA.[40]  No data were available on vaccination rates.  Overall, this would not indicate bias towards sons in regard to early childhood care.

The 2005 MICS found that 4.5% of boys aged 5-14 and 4.4% of girls were involved in labour activities, and that boys were more likely than girls to be paid for their labour.[41] 

Data from the 2010 MICS indicates that at secondary level, attendance rates for girls were 90.3%, and for boys, 88.3%.[42]  Overall, this would not indicate bias in favour of boys in regard to access to education. 

The 2011 report to the CEDAW committee notes that girls from the Roma minority often have limited access to education, with parents often withdrawing girls from education before they have completed primary school.  This is due to a combination of children facing racism, discrimination and even violence within schools, and Roma parents according low priority to girls’ education in favour of early marriage, and keeping girls at home to help with domestic work.[43]  This is reflected in data from the 2010 MICS, which found that while Roma girls were more likely than boys to complete primary school, secondary school attendance rates for Roma girls were lower than for boys:  11.2% for girls, and 22.8% for boys.[44]

The male/female sex ratio for the total population in 2012 is 0.95.[45] 

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

[39] Statistical Office Of The Republic Of Serbia / UNICEF (2011), tables NU.1and NU.1(a) [40] UNFPA (2010), p.103 [41] Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia / Strategic Marketing / UNICEF (2007), table CP.2 [42] Statistical Office Of The Republic Of Serbia / UNICEF (2011), table ED.5.  Attendance rates at primary school were 99.3% for girls and 98.1% for boys - Statistical Office Of The Republic Of Serbia / UNICEF (2011), table ED.4 [43] CEDAW (2011), p.16 [44] MICS (2010), tables ED.5R, ED.7RA. [45] Central Intelligence Agency (2012)

Restricted Resources and Entitlements: 

Women and men have equal rights to land ownership, but respect for traditional customs restricts the ownership rights of some Serbian women.[46]  In some rural areas, women do not have de facto access to land, as if women buy or inherit land, tradition obliges them to register it in the name of their husband or another close male relative.[47]  The 2011 CEDAW report notes that a survey conducted in 2008 in one rural area found that women made up 10% of landowners.[48]  In 2009, the Ministry of Agriculture launched a six-year programme of rural development, which will include working with rural women to raise awareness of ownership rights, and to provide support to rural women entrepreneurs.[49]

The Constitution guarantees equal rights of access to property other than land for men and women.[50] Each spouse retains ownership of property that was acquired before the marriage, or that is inherited or received as a gift, and can manage such property as he or she chooses.[51] Property acquired by spouses during the marriage is joint property; they manage it together and each spouse must have the other’s agreement to dispose of it.[52] In the event of divorce, the division of joint property is based on each spouse’s contribution to the family’s assets.[53]    The 2011 report to the CEDAW committee notes that Roma women own less than 0.2% of privately owned property in Serbia.[54]

Serbian law guarantees equal access to bank loans for men and women.[55] In some cases, borrowers are required to provide security in the form of property or a guarantee from another property owner. As women are less likely to be property owners than men, it is often difficult for them to access loans.[56]

[46] CEDAW (2006), p.135 [47] CEDAW (2006), p.80 [48] CEDAW (2011), p.58 [49] CEDAW (2011), p.57 [50] CEDAW (2006), p.79 [51] CEDAW (2006), p.87 [52] CEDAW (2006), p.87 [53] CEDAW (2006), p.87 [54] CEDAW (2011), p.16 [55] CEDAW (2006), p.79 [56] CEDAW (2006), p. 79 [57] CEDAW (2011), p.60

Restricted Civil Liberties: 

The Constitution guarantees freedom of  access to public space, and both men and women have the right to choose where they live and work.[57] There is no information on women’s access to public space in practice.

Freedom of speech, association and assembly are respected in Serbia, and there is a vibrant media scene.[58]  Under the 2005 Law on Gender Equality, state media outlets are banned from relaying gender-discriminatory content.[59]  However, media monitoring carried out in 2009 found that the media in Serbia do not present a balanced image of the diversity of women's lives and their social, political and economic contribution, and that the media often reinforce   stereotyped images of women and their roles.[60]

A political quota is in place in Serbia, meaning party political lists must contain at least 30% of each sex, and that every fourth place candidate on an electoral list is reserved for a member of the less represented sex.[61]  Women made up 22% of delegates elected to the National Assembly at the most recent parliamentary elections, held in 2008.[62]  There is an active and vocal women’s rights sector in Serbia, within which many groups and activists ‘came of age’ participating in peace and anti-war activism during the Balkans and Kosovo conflicts, and in response to the widespread use of rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war by Serbian and Serb forces in other parts of ex-Yugoslavia.[63]  Their activities, particularly in regard to working with women’s rights groups in other parts of ex-Yugoslavia, have attracted criticism and even physical attack from some sections of Serbian society, who have accused them of being unpatriotic.[64]  Amnesty International reports that authorities have consistently failed to provide protection to women’s rights activists in such circumstances.[65]

Pregnant women in Serbia are entitled to a year’s paid maternity leave for their first and second child, and two years for any subsequent child.[66]  Under the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination, discrimination in employment on the basis of gender is illegal.[67]  UN Women reports that women are restricted from working in certain industries.[68]  The 2011 report to the CEDAW committee notes that women from the Roma minority face double discrimination in employment, as a result of their gender and ethnic identity.[69]  The report also notes that levels of women’s unemployment among the various refugee communities living in Serbia are also higher than among the wider female adult population.[70]

[57] CEDAW (2011), p.60 [58] Freedom House (2010) [59] CEDAW (2006), p.23 [60] Global Media Monitoring Project (2010), p.5 [61] Quota Project (2011) [62] IPU (n.d.) [63] Vuniqi (n.d.) , p.2 [64] Vuniqi (n.d.); Women in Black (n.d.); Amnesty International (2010), p.282 [65] Amnesty International (2010), p.282 [66] ILO (2009) [67] CEDAW (2011), p.38 [68] UN Women (2011) [69] CEDAW (2011), p.16 [70] CEDAW (2011), p.20



Serbia was recognised as an independent state in 1878, and remained so until after World War II, when it was incorporated into the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.[71]  Following the disintegration of Yugoslavia, Serbia and Montenegro formed the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, under the leadership of Slobodan Milosevic.[72]  Serbia was engaged in conflict with  Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 to 1995, and again with Kosovo in 1998-1999.[73]  Milosevic was driven from office in 2000, and since then the political situation has stabilised, although tensions remain between Serbia’s different ethnic populations, with the Roma population in particular reported to be facing discrimination.[74]  The country’s economic development was negatively affected by the conflicts in the 1990s, although the economic situation is now much improved.[75]  Serbia is classed as an upper-middle income country by the World Bank.[76]

When Serbia was part of socialist Yugoslavia, women entered education and the labour force in large numbers, and also enjoyed considerable social protection in employment.  However, years of conflict, as well as the transition, have affected women’s rights in relation to work, education, and social protection.[77]  Certain groups of women are particularly disadvantaged, namely women belonging to the Roma and Vlach minorities (who face discrimination from within their own communities, as well as from outside), and women refugees from other parts of the former Yugoslavia.[78]  All face difficulties in accessing employment and education, as well as healthcare and adequate housing.[79]

The Constitution of the Republic of Serbia accords equal rights to all citizens.[80]  A Law on Gender Equality was adopted in 2009, which outlaws discrimination on the basis of gender in public and private life.[81]  Serbia ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 2001, and the Optional Protocol in 2003.[82]  The country is a member of the Council of Europe, and ratified the European Convention on Human Rights in March 2004.[83]

[71] Freedom House (2010) [72] Freedom House (2010) [73] Freedom House (2010) [74] Amnesty International (2010), pp.281-282 [75] CEDAW (2011), p.9 [76] World Bank (n.d.) [77] CEDAW (2011), p.9 [78] CEDAW (2011), p.10 [79] CEDAW (2011), p.10.  See also Statistical Office Of The Republic Of Serbia / UNICEF (2011) [80] Article 15.  CEDAW (2011), p.7 [81] CEDAW (2011), p.6 [82] United Nations Treaty Collection (UNTC) (2010) [83] Council of Europe (n.d.)


Amnesty International (2010) Amnesty International Report 2009, State of the World’s Human Rights, London:  Amnesty International. (accessed 8 November 2010)

Central Intelligence Agency (2012) The World Factbook: Sex Ratio, available at (accessed 21 March 2012)

CEDAW (Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women) (2006), Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: Serbia, Initial Report of States Parties, Cedaw/c/scg/1, New York:  CEDAW

CEDAW (2011) ‘Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women Combined second and third periodic reports of States parties Serbia’, CEDAW /C/SRB/2-3, New York:  CEDAW

Freedom House (2010) ‘Freedom in the World Country Reports:  Serbia’, (accessed 15 March 2012)

Global Media Monitoring Project (2010) ‘Serbia Global Media Monitoring Project 2010 National Report’, Toronto / Belgrade:  World Association of Christian Communication (WACC) / Women’s information-documentation Centre.  Available at: (accessed 15 March 2012) 

International Labour Organization (ILO) (2009) Database of Conditions of Work and Employment Laws, (accessed 14 March 2012)

Interparliamentary Union (n.d.) ‘Parline database:  Serbia National Assembly’, (accessed 14 March 2012)

Quota Project:  Global Database of Quotas for Women (2011) ‘Serbia’, (accessed 15 March 2012)

Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia / Strategic Marketing / UNICEF (2007) ‘Serbia Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2005’, Belgrade:  UNICEF

Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia / UNICEF (2011) ‘Serbia Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2010’, Belgrade:  UNICEF

Unite Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (2011) Human Development Report 2010:  Serbia, online edition, (accessed 14 March 2012)

United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) (2003) ‘INTEGRATION OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF WOMEN AND THE GENDER PERSPECTIVE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, submitted in accordance with Commission on Human Rights resolution 2002/52 Addendum 1 International, regional and national developments in the area of violence against women 1994-2003’, E/CN.4/2003/75/Add.1, ECOSOC, New York

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

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) (2010) State of the World’s Population 2010.  From conflict and crisis to renewal:  generations of change, UNFPA, New York

United Nations Population Division / DESA (2008) World Marriage Data.  Available to download at (accessed 11 October 2010).

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

-          CEDAW:

-          Optional Protocol:

UN Women (2011) ‘Progress of the World’s Women:  database’, New York:  UN Women

US Department of State (2011) ‘Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2010: Serbia’, US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Washington, DC. (accessed 15 March 2012)

Vuniqi, Luljeta (n.d.) ‘Kosovar and Serbian women overcoming patriarchies and prejudices through cooperation’, Pristina:  The women’s Peace Coalition

World Bank (n.d) Data:  Serbia, (accessed 14 March 2011)

World Economic Forum (2010) ‘The Global Gender Gap Index 2010 rankings’, (accessed 22 November 2010)

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: 
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: