Zimbabwe 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 72 out of 102 in the 2009 Social Institutions and Gender Index.

In 2011, the Human Development Index for Zimbabwe was 0.376, placing the country at 173 out of 187 countries. For the Gender Inequality Index Zimbabwe received a score of 0.583, placing the country at 118 out of 146 countries with data. In 2011, the World Economic Forum ranked Zimbabwe 88 out of 135 countries in its 2011 Global Gender Gap Report, with a score of 0.6607 where 0 represents inequality and 1 represents equality.

Discriminatory Family Code: 

There are three types of marriage: civil marriage, registered customary marriage and unregistered customary marriage. The legal minimum age for civil marriage under the Marriage Act in Zimbabwe is 18 years for men and 16 years for women. There is no minimum age of marriage for registered customary marriages under the Customary Marriages Act.[7] The Domestic Violence Act of 2007 prohibits forced marriages.[8]

The United Nations reports, based on 2006 data that 24 per cent of girls in Zimbabwe between 15 and 19 years of age were married, divorced or widowed. In 1982, 426 percent of girls aged between 15 and 19 were married, divorced or widowed which indicates that societal acceptance of early marriage is slowly declining.[9] Data from UNICEF suggests that early marriage is more prevalent in rural areas, compared to urban areas, and that those girls who receive education are less likely to marry early.[10]

Polygamy is not permitted for marriages under civil law. Customary marriages, under the Customary Marriages Act allow for polygamy.[11] A 2006 Demographic Health Survey found that 11 percent of married women are in polygamous marriages. Such marriages are three times more frequent in rural communities than in urban areas, and the incidence is lower among women who have a secondary education.[12]

With respect to parental authority, the Guardianship of Minors Act provides that the father is the guardian of children born in wedlock and exercises this right in consultation with the mother.[13] In the event of divorce after a civil marriage, custody is determined in the best interests of the child.[14] In practice, guardianship of a child is commonly vested with the mother unless the court determines it is in the best interests of the child to reside with the father.[15]

There is no legal discrimination against women and girls with respect to inheritance rights. In 1997, the Administration of Estates Act was amended to make the surviving spouse and the children of a deceased person as his or her major beneficiaries, as opposed to their heir who was mainly the eldest son. Secondly, the Act provides that the matrimonial home, whatever the system of tenure under which it was held and wherever it may be situated, remains with the surviving spouse. This includes household goods and effects. The Act applies to all marriages, civil and customary.[16] Despite these laws, the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions reports that women are still denied their inheritance rights in practice due to discriminatory attitudes, women’s’ lack of awareness of their rights or women’s’ lack of resources to claim their rights.[17] The Chronic Poverty Research Centre reports that only 37.31 percent of widows inherited majority of assets after their spouses in 2005/2006.[18]

Women’s position in the family can also be gleaned from their participation in house-hold decision making. Data from the 1999 Demographic Health Survey provides a snapshot of gender equality in house-hold decision making in Zimbabwe. For large household purchases, 42 percent of married women reported that decisions were made jointly with their husbands, 36 percent reported that decisions were made solely by their husbands and 16 percent reported decision were made solely by themselves.[19]

[7] Thabethe, S. (2009) p.24 [8] Thabethe, S. (2009) p.24 [9] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2008) [10] UNICEF (2005) p.36 [11] Thabethe, S. (2009) p.25 [12] Demographic Health Survey (2006) p.84 [13] Thabethe, S. (2009) p.25 [14] Thabethe, S. (2009) p.25 [15] CEDAW (1996) p.60 [16] CEDAW (2010) p.12[17] Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (2004) p.168 [18] Chronic Poverty Research Centre (2011) p.20 [19] Demographic Health Survey (1999)

Restricted Physical Integrity: 

The Criminal Law Act (Codification and Reform) 2006 prohibits sexual violence, including marital rape. The Act also prohibits wilful transmission of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. The Domestic Violence Act of 2007 prohibits domestic violence.[20] The definition of domestic violence under the Act is very wide and includes abuse derived from any cultural or customary rites or practices that discriminate against or degrade women, such as forced virginity testing, female genital mutilation, pledging of women and girls for purposes of appeasing spirits, abduction, child marriages, forced marriages, forced wife inheritance and other such practices.[21] Sexual harassment is outlawed by the Labour Act.[22]

Survey data indicates that violence against women is common in Zimbabwe. The 2006 Demographic Health Survey found that 25 percent of women aged 15-49 reported that they have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives. The majority (65 percent) of women reported that their current or former husband, partner, or boyfriend committed the act of sexual violence. For women aged 15-29, 21 percent reported that their first experience of sexual intercourse was forced against their will.[23] The US Department of State also reports sexual violence against women associated with political violence. For instance, one local NGO reported that at least 50 women were raped during the 2008 election-related violence.[24]

With respect to domestic violence, the 2006 Demographic Health Survey found that 36 percent of all women had experienced physical violence since they were 15. Of those who experienced physical violence since the age of 15, 65 percent reported that their current or former husband or partner. This indicates that the vast majority of physical violence experienced by women in Zimbabwe is from their husbands and partners.[25] With respect to spousal sexual violence, 11 percent of women reported their spouse or partner forced them to have sexual intercourse and the same percentage said they were made to perform other sexual acts against their will.[26] Women’s lack of control over sexual interaction with their husbands is attributed to their greater vulnerability to HIV/AIDS.[27]

Following the adoption of the Domestic Violence Act, the government has introduced public awareness campaigns and an implementation strategy, including an Anti-Domestic Violence Council to monitor the implementation. Despite these efforts, many women do not report sexual and domestic violence due to the fear of losing support of their families, particularly in rural areas.[28] Furthermore, discriminatory attitudes and practices of authorities place further barriers in women’s access to justice. For instance, according to the US Department of State, authorities generally consider domestic violence to be a private matter.[29] With respect to prosecutions of marital rape, the government reports that the prosecution of marital rape requires the consent of the Attorney General which may discourage women from reporting. Further, entrenched institutional and societal attitudes that deny marital rape as a form of violence against women also prevent women from seeking justice.[30]

Female genital mutilation is not widespread in Zimbabwe, but is practised by the Remba ethnic group, which represents a small proportion of the population. Within this group, mutilation is combined with infibulation, which involves closing the outer lips of the vulva.[31]

Limitations on women’s reproductive rights also infringes upon women’s physical integrity in Zimbabwe. Abortion in Zimbabwe is permitted to save a woman’s life or health, in the event of rape or incest or due to foetal impairment. It is not permitted on request or on social or economic grounds.[32] The 2006 Demographic and Health Survey found that overall 60 percent of married women use contraception and 58 percent use modern methods of contraception.[33]

[20] CEDAW (2010) p.13 [21] CEDAW (2010) p.14 [22] Thabethe, S. (2009) p.46 [23] Demographic Health Survey (2006) pp.263-264 [24] US Department of State (2010) [25] Demographic Health Survey (2006) pp.260-262 [26] Demographic Health Survey (2006) p.272 [27] CEDAW (2010) p.47 [28] US Department of State (2010) [29] US Department of State (2010) [30] CEDAW (2010) pp.13-14 [31] US Department of State (2002) http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2001/af/8411.htm[32] United Nations Population Division (2007) [33] Demographic Health Survey (2006)

Son Bias: 

Gender disaggregated data on rates of infant mortality and early childhood nutrition are not available for Zimbabwe. With respect to access to education, the World Economic Forum reports that Zimbabwe has reached gender parity in primary school enrolments which indicates that there is no preferential treatment of sons with respect to primary school education. However, a gender gap persists in secondary and tertiary education enrolments, suggesting that the education of sons continues to be more highly valued than the education of daughters.[34] Further, the government reported that women and girls carry the primary burden of care in the context of HIV which suggests that daughter in Zimbabwe may experience greater time poverty compared to sons.[35]

The Central Intelligence Agency reports that Zimbabwe has a male/female sex ratio for the total population of 0.95. [36]

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

[34] World Economic Forum (2010) p.318 [35] CEDAW (2010) p.48 [36] Central Intelligence Agency (2012)

Restricted Resources and Entitlements: 

Despite a constitutional equal right to access land, women’s access to land in Zimbabwe is undermined by discriminatory practices under customary law.[37] The government reports that in communal areas, where the majority of women reside in Zimbabwe women have secondary use rights through their husbands. In small scale commercial areas very few women own land in their own right. The farms tend to be taken over by sons when the male head of the household dies. This is despite the fact that government had set aside a 20% quota for women under the Fast Track Land Reform Programme.[38] Based on 2002 data, women owned 17 percent of resettlement land, 47 percent of communal land, 19 percent of small holding land and 12 percent of commercial land. [39]

Zimbabwean law recognises women’s rights to have access to property other than land. All women, whether single or married, are entitled to own property, which they retain if they do marry or subsequently divorce.[40] In practice however, this right is limited by women’s economic inequality which means they often do not have enough collateral for loans.[41] According to civil law divorce proceedings, a woman’s contribution to the household is taken into account when dividing the couple’s joint property. This legislation does not apply in unregistered customary marriage, which does not allow women to own property jointly with their husbands.[42]

Legislation allows women in Zimbabwe to have access to bank loans. The Immovable Property Prevention and Discrimination Act prohibits financial institutions from perpetuating discrimination on the grounds of sex, among others grounds, by refusing to grant loans or other financial assistance for the acquisition, hire, construction, maintenance or repair of any immovable property, to people of a particular sex.[43] Although financial institutions are prohibited from discriminating against women in granting loans, many women are disadvantaged because they lack collateral security due to their weaker economic position.[44] It is reported that women have benefited from government programmes providing small loans, however women’s access to larger loans remain limited.[45]

[37] Thabethe, S. (2009) p.40 [38] CEDAW (2010) p.50 [39] Thabethe, S. (2009) p.41 [40] Thabethe, S. (2009) p.23 [41] Thabethe, S. (2009) p.23 [42] Thabethe, S. (2009) p.25 [43] CEDAW (2010) p.52 [44] CEDAW (2010) p.52 [45] Thabethe, S. (2009) p.38

Restricted Civil Liberties: 

The law guarantees women’s freedom of movement; however the fear of violence set out in the Physical Integrity section, particularly in the context of political violence, poses a threat to women’s freedom of movement.[46] With respect to decision making in the family over freedom of movement, the 1999 Demographic and Health Survey found that 21 percent of married women reported that their husbands had the final say over decisions to visit friends and relatives, compared to 37 percent of women who reported that they had the final say themselves over such decisions.[47]

Women’s civil society groups are targeted by police and authorities, infringing their right to freely associate and peaceful assembly. A 2007 Amnesty International report noted the targeting of women engaged in peaceful protests and the harsh treatment of women in detention by police.[48]

With respect to women’s participation in political life, the World Economic Forum reports that women make up only 15 per cent of Zimbabwe’s parliamentarians and 19 per cent of Ministerial positions.[49]

Women’s rights in employment are protection by the Labour Act.[50] The law prohibits discrimination, on the basis of gender, at all stages of employment, such as recruitment, selection, working conditions, training and promotion. Further, women are entitled to 98 days paid maternity leave at full pay.[51]

[46] US Department of State (2010) [47] Demographic Health Survey (1999) [48] Amnesty International (2007) [49] World Economic Forum (2010) p.318 [50] CEDAW (2010) p.41 [51] CEDAW (2010) p.41


Zimbabwe gained independence as a nation in 1980. The country’s recent history has been marked by political turmoil, with a rigged election in 2002 receiving international condemnation. Considerable levels of violence surrounded the 2008 election.[1] Evidence of vote tampering again led to international condemnation. The country has faced a wide range of economic problems leading to widespread poverty.[2] The World Bank classifies Zimbabwe as a low income country.[3]

Women’s status in Zimbabwe has been significantly affected by the economic problems facing the country as well as the persistence of discriminatory practices. The country has introduced policy and legal measures to promote gender equality including a National Gender Policy and specific domestic violence legislation.[4] Although Zimbabwe has achieved gender parity in primary school education, there remains a gender gap in secondary and tertiary education enrolments. Further, women trail behind men on measures of economic empowerment, such as labour force participation, wage equality and representation in senior positions.[5] A key barrier to gender equality is the discrimination stemming from the dual system of law, where customary laws continue to disadvantage women, particularly in the family.[6]

Article 23 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and marital status. Article 23 of the constitution also provides for affirmative action to achieve substantive equality. Zimbabwe ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1991.

[1] Central Intelligence Agency (2011) [2] Central Intelligence Agency (2011) [3] World Bank (n.d.) [4] CEDAW (2010) [5] World Economic Forum (2010) p.318 [6] Thabethe, S. (2009) p.8


Amnesty International (2007), Zimbabwe: Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Women Human Rights Defenders at Risk, Amnesty International, London.

Central Intelligence Agency (2011) The World Factbook: Zimbabwe, available at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/zi.html, accessed 11 January 2011.

Central Intelligence Agency (2012) The World Factbook: Sex Ratio, available at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2018.html, accessed 14 March 2012.

Centre for Housing Rights and Evictions (2004) Bringing Equality Home: Promoting and Protecting the Inheritance Rights of Women, A survey of law and practice in Sub-Sahara Africa, available at http://www.cohre.org/sites/default/files/bringing_equality_home_-_promoting_and_protecting_the_inheritance_rights_of_women_0.pdf, accessed 11 January 2011.

Chronic Poverty Research Centre (2011) Widowhood and asset inheritance in sub-Saharan Africa: empirical evidence from 15 countries, available at http://www.chronicpoverty.org/uploads/publication_files/WP183%20Peterman.pdf, accessed 7 March 2012.

Demographic Health Survey (1999) Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey 1999, available at http://www.measuredhs.com/, accessed 11 January 2011.

Demographic Health Survey (2006) Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey 2005-06, available at http://www.measuredhs.com/, accessed 11 January 2011.

Inter-Parliamentary Union ( n.d.) Parliamentary Campaign to Stop Violence Against Women, Female Genital Mutilation, Legislation and other national provisions, available at http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/fgm-prov-c.htm, accessed 11 January 2011.

Thabethe, S (2009) Southern African Development Community Gender Protocol Baseline Study: Zimbabwe, available at http://www.genderlinks.org.za/article/sadc-gender-protocol-barometer-baseline-study-zimbabwe-2009-10-16, accessed 11 January 2011.

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.

United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (2010) Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: Zimbabwe, Combined second to fifth periodic report of States parties, CEDAW/C/ZWE/2-5, Geneva.

United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women CEDAW (Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women) (1996), Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: Zimbabwe, Initial Periodic Report on States Parties, Cedaw/c/zwe/1, CEDAW, New York, NY.

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 Zimbabwe, online edition, available at  http://hdrstats.undp.org, accessed 11 January 2011.

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 (2002) 2001Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Zimbabwe, available at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2001/af/8411.htm, accessed 11 January 2011.

US State Department (2010) 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Zimbabwe, Available http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/af/135984.htm, accessed 11 January 2011.

World Bank (n.d.) Online data: Zimbabwe, available at http://data.worldbank.org/country/zimbabwe, accessed at 11 January 2011.

World Economic Forum (2010) Global Gender Gap Report 2010, available at http://www.weforum.org/pdf/gendergap/report2010.pdf, accessed 20 October 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.


Discrim. Fam. Code Rank 2012: 
Discrim. Fam. Code Value 2012: 
Legal Age of Marriage: 
Early Marriage: 
Parental Authority: 
Violence Against Women (laws): 
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: