About the SIGI

Discriminatory social institutions are defined as the formal and informal laws, attitudes and practices that restrict women’s and girls’ access to rights, justice and empowerment opportunities. These are captured in a multi-faceted approach by SIGI’s variables that combine qualitative and quantitative data, taking into account both the de jure and de facto discrimination of social institutions, through information on laws, attitudes and practices. The variables span all stages of a woman’s life in order to show how discriminatory social institutions can interlock and bind them into cycles of poverty and disempowerment.

The SIGI was first launched in 2009, and then updated in 2012 and 2014. The fourth edition of the SIGI was launched in December 2018.

The SIGI 2019 includes:

  • A new cross-country ranking classifying countries according to their level of discrimination in social institutions;
  • 180 individual country notes containing comprehensive qualitative information on legal frameworks and action plans to protect women’s rights and promote gender equality; and
  • A new database summarising all discriminatory laws, social norms and practices worldwide;
  • A policy simulator allowing policy makers to scope out reform options and assess their likely effects on gender equality in social institutions.

Full details of the changes can be found in the methodological background paper (forthcoming).


This sub-index captures social institutions that limit women’s decision-making power and undervalues their status in the household and the family. These formal and informal laws, social norms and practices co-exist in different types of legal systems including civil or common law, customary law, and religious laws and cover areas such as marriage, parental authority, household responsibilities, divorce and inheritance rights. Women’s decision-making power and status in the family determine both their ability to choose their own development pathways and the well-being of their families.

This sub-index captures social institutions that limit women’s and girls’ control over their bodies, that increase women’s vulnerability, and that normalise attitudes toward gender-based violence. This includes formal and informal laws, norms and practices that fail to protect women’s physical integrity and reproductive autonomy and that allow violence and female genital mutilation. Restricted physical integrity due to gender-based violence and to a lack of reproductive autonomy has serious impacts on health outcomes for women and their children and on economic and social development indicators by increasing women’s vulnerability to poverty.

This sub-index captures women’s restricted access to and control over critical productive and economic resources and assets. This includes discriminatory laws, which deny women’s rights to own, control or use land and non-land assets, to decent work and financial services; discriminatory customary practices in ownership or decision-making over land, household property and other assets; discriminatory practices or attitudes towards women’s formal work; and social norms dictating that women’s property ownership or access to credit should be mediated by men. Insecure or weak rights to land, non-land assets and financial services reduce income-generating opportunities for women, lower decision-making power for women within the household, increase food insecurity for women and their families, and make women and families more vulnerable to poverty.

This sub-index captures discriminatory laws and practices that restrict women’s access to public space, their political voice and their participation in all aspects of public life. This includes a lack of freedom of movement, the inability to vote or run for election, and negative attitudes toward women as public figures or as leaders. This sub-index highlights the importance of women’s participation in community actions and public decision making for a range of development outcomes such as governance, health and education.