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.

In the 2014 edition of the SIGI, the following changes have been introduced:
• increased country coverage
• new variables included in the Gender, Institutions and Development Database
• new classification system by levels of discrimination (see SIGI classifications).

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


This sub-index captures social institutions that limit women’s decision-making power and undervalue 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 and inheritance. Women’s decision-making power and status 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 unequal intra-household investments in caring for, nurturing and allocating resources to sons and daughters reflecting the lower value given to girls. A family preference for sons over daughters can manifest itself in different ways, including higher mortality, worse health status or lower educational attainment among girls. Consequences of social norms and practices that devalue daughters are various: missing women, under-investment in the health and nutrition of girls leading to infant mortality, under-investment in girls’ education, etc.

This sub-index captures discrimination in women’s rights to access and make decisions over natural and economic resources. This includes discriminatory practices which undermine women’s rights to own, control or use land and non-land assets; discriminatory practices that restrict women’s access to financial services; and social norms imposing that women’s assets be mediated only 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.