Venezuela, RB

The Republic of Venezuela is ranked 16th out of 86 in the 2012 Social Institutions and Gender Index. The country was ranked 15th out of 102 in the 2009 Social Institutions and Gender Index.

The 2011 Human Development Index (HDI) score for the country is 0.735, placing it in 73th place (out of 187 countries). The Gender Inequality Index score is 0.447. The Republic of Venezuela’s Global Gender Gap Index rating for 2011 is 0.6861, placing it in 63rd place (out of a total of 135 countries).

Discriminatory Family Code: 

Article 46 of the Civil Code provides that the legal minimum age for marriage is 14 years for women and 16 years for men. Further, the constitution provides that marriage between a man and a woman based on free consent.[1]

The United Nations reports, based on 2001 data that 17 per cent of girls between 15 and 19 years of age were married, divorced or widowed, compared to 5 percent of boys in the same age range. In 1990, 18 percent of girls aged between 15 and 19 were married, divorced or widowed which indicates that societal acceptance of early marriage has remained at similar levels in the last decade.[2] It is reported that around 15 percent of adolescent females are mothers.[3]

There is no evidence to indicate that polygamy is practised in Venezuela.

Reform of the Civil Code in 1982 established equality between men and women in relation to parental authority, effectively overriding the long-held principle that husbands had authority over their wives.[4] Article 76 of the Constitution provides men and women with equal responsibility for their children’s education and development.[5] The Organic Law on the Protection of Children and Adolescents upholds the ‘best interest of the child’ principle as the overriding principle for decision-making about children.[6]

Legally, women and men in Venezuela have the same inheritance rights.

Data indicates that women’s role in the family has changed in Venezuela in recent decades. Although this could be attributed to economic necessity, this also suggests that there may be a shift in attitudes around women’s role in the family. Between 1994 and 2007, the percentage of women aged 15 or over who did not work outside the home fell from 46 percent to 31 percent. [7]

[1] CEDAW (2004) p.47 [2] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2008) [3] Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (2010) p.37 [4] CEDAW (2004) p.47 [5] CEDAW (2004) p.47 [6] CEDAW (2004) p.47 [7] Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (2010) p.34

Restricted Physical Integrity: 

In 2007, Venezuela enacted the Organic Law on the Right of Women to Be Free from Violence.[8] The law prohibits rape, marital rape, domestic violence, and sexual harassment.[9]  The law has been noted for its broad definition of violence including: violence in relation to assets, obstetric violence, forced sterilisation, institutional violence, trafficking of women and others.[10]

The law provides that rape is punishable with 8 to 14 years’ imprisonment. Penalties for domestic violence range from 6 to 27 months in prison. Sexual harassment is punishable by a prison sentence of one to three years.[11]

In addition to punishment and prosecution, the 2007 law requires the authorities to implement a far-reaching programme to raise awareness and challenge public attitudes which condone or conceal this under-reported crime. For example, it calls on the Ministry of Infrastructure and the National Commission for Telecommunications to ensure that programming includes broadcasts aimed at preventing and ending violence against women.[12] The law also requires police to report domestic violence to judicial authorities and obligates hospital personnel to notify the authorities when they admit patients who are victims of domestic abuse.[13] Further, the law has led to the establishment of Specialist Courts for Violence Against Women. In 2010, the government reported that more than 100,000 complaints of violence against women across the country had been received by those courts.[14]

Although there are no prevalence studies, statistics indicate high levels of violence against women in Venezuela. Amnesty International reports that in 2005, 36777 women reported abuse by partners or former partners to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and women’s services – an average of one woman every 15 minutes.[15] Every 10 days a woman dies through gender violence in Caracas. The Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations Team reports approximately 3000 cases of sexual violence every year.[16] In 2006, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women expressed particular concern about the level of domestic violence in Venezuela, commenting that the persistence of gender-based stereotypes and the idea that domestic violence is a ‘private’ issue is responsible for the situation.[17]

Amnesty International has commented that although the 2007 holds great promise in improving women’s safety, obstacles to its successful implementation remain. These obstacles include: lack of public awareness, information and education about the issue; inadequate data collection; insufficient shelters for victims; and a poorly resourced police and judicial infrastructure.[18] According to the US Department of State, rape cases were often not reported to police.[19] The 2008 Amnesty International report notes that shame and social stigma continue to prevent women from seeking help or reporting violence. For instance, women may hold the view that what happens in the home is private or that domestic violence is a personal failure for women.[20] Further, the US Department of State reports that despite public awareness efforts, police were generally reluctant to intervene to prevent domestic violence.[21]

The US Department of State also reports that trafficking is a problem impacting upon women’s physical integrity in Venezuela. The country is a source, destination, and transit country for women and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour. Women and children are reportedly trafficked internally and to Western Europe, particularly Spain and the Netherlands, and to destinations in the region such as Mexico, Aruba, Curacao, the Dominican Republic, and Trinidad and Tobago for commercial sexual exploitation. Women and children from poor areas are particularly at risk of being trafficked.[22]

Female genital mutilation is reportedly not a common practice in Venezuela.

Limitations on women’s reproductive rights also infringe upon women’s physical integrity in Venezuela. Despite the constitutional guarantee of sexual and reproductive rights, under the Criminal Code, abortions are generally illegal in Venezuela except to save a woman’s life.[23] The government reported in 2004 that unsafe abortion is the third most common cause of maternal death in the country.[24] The World Economic Forum reports that 70 percent of married women use contraception.[25] 

[8] Amnesty International (2008) [9] US Department of State (2010) [10] Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Permanent Mission to the United Nations (2010) [11] US Department of State (2010) [12] Amnesty International (2008) p.8 [13] US Department of State (2010) [14] Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Permanent Mission to the United Nations (2010) [15] Amnesty International (2008) p.7 [16] Amnesty International (2008) p.8 [17] CEDAW (2006b) para.25 [18] Amnesty International (2008) p.9 [19] US Department of State (2010) [20] Amnesty International (2008) pp.24-25 [21] US Department of State (2010) [22] US Department of State (2010) [23] United Nations Population Division (20011) [24] CEDAW (2004) p.40 [25] World Economic Forum (2010) p.310

Son Bias: 

Gender disaggregated data on rates of infant mortality and early childhood nutrition are not available for Venezuela. In terms of child labour, according to 2005 data, boys (7 percent) are more likely than girls (4 percent) to be engaged in economic activity. However, girls are more likely than boys to be engaged in unpaid work in the family, whereas boys are more likely than girls to be engaged in paid employment.[26]  This data suggests a son bias in the allocation of unpaid work in the family.  With respect to access to education, the World Economic Forum reports that Venezuela has reached gender parity in primary, secondary and tertiary education enrolments which suggests that there is no preferential treatment of sons with respect to education.[27]

The male/female sex ratio for the total population in 2012 is 0.98.[28]

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

[26] Understanding Children’s Work (n.d.) [27] World Economic Forum (2010) p.310 [28] Central Intelligence Agency (2012) 

Restricted Resources and Entitlements: 

The government of Venezuela has taken steps to improve women’s ownership rights. In regard to access to land, the 2001 Law on Land and Agricultural Development states that one priority is “to allocate land to women who are also heads of their household and who intend to cultivate a small area of land in order to sustain their family group”.[29]

The 1982 reform of the Civil Code improved women’s access to property other than land by making provisions for the joint administration of a married couple’s joint property. The reform also gave married women full legal capacity to enter into contracts.[30] The Commercial Code explicitly stipulates that women can establish businesses regardless of marital status.[31]  

The Women’s Development Bank was created in 2001 to improve women’s access to bank loans. It is a public, micro-credit institution that provides loans and other financial and non-financial services to women living in poverty. The government reports that between September 2001 and 2004 the Women’s Bank approved some 40,000 loans. Approximately 120,000 potential jobs have been created in two and a half years, benefiting 600,000 persons throughout the country.[32]  Further, the Microfinance Fund granted 3,235 loans to women between 2001 and 2003.[33] Despite these efforts, women remain under-represented as business owners. In 2010, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean reported that women made up 18 percent of employers and 38 percent of the self-employed.[34]

[29] CEDAW (2004) p.7 [30] CEDAW (2004) p.46 [31] CEDAW (2004) p.46 [32] CEDAW (2004) p.12 [33] CEDAW (2004) p.12 [34] Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (2010) p.52

Restricted Civil Liberties: 

There are no reported legal restrictions on women’s freedom of access to public space in Venezuela. However, as described in the Physical Integrity section, the threat of gender-based violence in Venezuela impinges upon women’s freedom of movement.

With respect to women’s participation in political life, women in Venezuela have the same rights as men to vote in all elections, to be elected and to participate in the political and public life of the country.[35] The government reports that it introduced a specific ‘Campaign for 50/50 participation in arms of government’ to increase women’s political participation.[36] The World Economic Forum reports that women make up 17 per cent of Venezuela’s parliamentarians and 26 percent of Ministerial positions.[37]  

Article 88 of the Constitution provides that the State shall guarantee the equality and equity of men and women in the exercise of the right to work. It also provides that the government should recognise housework as an economic activity which creates added value and produces wealth and social well-being.[38] Women’s right to equal pay is also guaranteed in the Constitution.[39] According to the World Economic Forum, women in Venezuela are entitled to 18 weeks paid maternity leave, paid at 67 percent of wages through the social insurance system.[40]

[35] CEDAW (2004) p.17 [36] CEDAW (2004) p.8 [37] World Economic Forum (2010) p.310 [38] CEDAW (2004) p.29 [39] CEDAW (2004) p.30 [40] World Economic Forum (2010) p.310


The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela was one of three countries to emerge from the collapse of Gran Colombia in 1830. Democratically elected governments have governed the country since 1959.[41] Data from the National Institute of Statistics showed that in 2004, 61 percent of the population still could not meet their basic nutritional needs, and that around half the population still lived in extreme poverty.[42] The World Bank classifies Venezuela as an upper middle-income country.[43]

Whilst Venezuela has introduced a number of reforms to promote gender equality, persistent discriminatory attitudes towards women and gender stereotypes undermine women’s status.[44] Whilst Venezuela has achieved gender parity in education, women fare worse than men on key economic indicators including labour force participation, wage equality and income.[45] Further, women are under-represented in political life.[46] Domestic violence has been noted as a significant issue in Venezuela.[47] Illiteracy and school dropout rates are reported to be very high among indigenous women and women of African decent, who are also more susceptible to trafficking and exploitation.[48]

Article 21 of the Constitution of the Republic of Venezuela, adopted in 1999, upholds equal rights for men and women in all areas of daily life including within the family, at work, in the community and in political and economic affairs. It also prohibits all forms of discrimination. Article 88 recognises the economic and social value of domestic work. Article 76 recognizes women’s sexual and reproductive rights. Venezuela ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1983.

[41] Central Intelligence Agency (2011) [42] CEDAW (2006c) para.26 [43] World Bank (n.d.) [44] CEDAW (2006a) p.4 [45] World Economic Forum (2010) p.310 [46] World Economic Forum (2010) p.310 [47] Amnesty International (2008) [48] CEDAW (2006b) para.24 


Amnesty International (2008) Venezuela: "The law is there, let's use it" Ending domestic violence in Venezuela, available at, accessed 21 January 2011.

Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Permanent Mission to the United Nations (2010) Statement to the Commission on the Status of Women, available at, accessed 20 January 2011.

Central Intelligence Agency (2011) The World Factbook: Venezuela, available at, accessed 20 January 2011.

Central Intelligence Agency (2012) The World Factbook: Sex Ratio, available at, accessed 29 February 2012.

Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (2010) What kind of State? What kind of equality?, available at, accessed 20 January 2011.

Understanding Children’s Work (n.d.) Online data: Venezuela, 2005, available at, accessed 20 January 2011.

United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (2006a) Concluding Observations: Venezuela, CEDAW/C/VEN/CO/6, New York.

United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (2006b) Summary record of the 713th meeting, CEDAW/C/SR.713, New York.

United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (2006c) Summary record of the 714th meeting, CEDAW/C/SR.714, New York.

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: Venezuela, Combined Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Periodic Reports of States Parties, CEDAW/C/VEN/4-6, CEDAWNew Yorkk, NY.

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 (2010) Human Development Report 2010 Venezuela, online edition, available at, accessed 11 January 2011.

United Nations Population Division Department of Economic and Social Affairs (2002) Abortion Policies, available at, accessed 13 January 2010.

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

US State Department (2010) 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Venezuela, Available, accessed 19 January 2011.

World Bank (n.d.) Online data: Venezuela, available at, accessed at 11 January 2011.

World Economic Forum (2010) Global Gender Gap Report 2010, available at, accessed 20 October 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: 
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: