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Antigua and Barbuda

Gender Equality at Work

Women experience quite a significant level of poverty- almost 10% more women (54.7%) experience poverty than men (45.3%) (4). Women also experience unemployment at a higher rate- with 8.8% of women being unemployed compared to 8% of men (1). The gap is not very large however, and women dominate certain important fields. For example, 66.7% of presiding judges are women (4) as well as 56% of landowners (4). Men can be noticed in higher numbers in the agricultural field, at 71.4% (4). Women are also fairly well represented in other fields; 44.8% of state decision making positions are held by women as well as 40% of positions in the Court of Appeal (4). However, as previously mentioned, women are still more likely to live below the poverty line (4), experience unemployment and are 1.7% more likely to live below the poverty line (4).

Gender-Based Violence

In 2006, for every 100,000 women living in Antigua and Barbuda, 4.6 died at the hands of a current or former partner (2). The grassroots campaign ‘Life In Leggings’ was created to help raise awareness for sexual harassment and assault accross the Caribbean and sends a message of the importance of consent (7). Laws around marital rape are limited and many conditions must be met for a man to be convicted of assaulting or raping his wife (8).

Impact of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the prevalence of domestic violence in Antigua and Barbuda. An absence of cohesive state support and protection for survivors of domestic violence has left many increasingly vulnerable.

The pandemic has also impacted the national economic, exacerbating economic uncertainty and inequalities. As a result many have been left trapped in unsafe homes.

In addition, the technology required for remote schooling has left a number of children at risk of falling behind their peers. Though the government will begin distributing tablets in order to combat the technology gap shortly.

Current Law and Policy

Since the passing of both the Domestic Violence Act 2015, (9) and the implementation of the National Strategic Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence 2013 - 2018, Antigua and Barbuda have not taken further action to tackle to domestic abuse.

Domestic violence continues to be a major problem in the country and the 2015 legislation has been criticised for not going far enough. Marital rape still does not exist as a criminal offence and a husband can only be prosecuted for ‘sexual assault’, and only then in very limited circumstances (i.e. if the couple are separated). The government’s focus seems to have shifted away from domestic violence towards sexual harassment and workplace discrimination – the Sexual Offences Act 1995 is currently under revision and a new national policy is being drawn up to address harassment by the civil service.

However, it should be noted that in 2016, a Support and Referral Centre was set up as a one-stop centre for survivors of gender-based violence and was the first of its kind in the Caribbean region. In January 2019, Antigua and Barbuda launched their sexual violence model court, which was another first in the Caribbean region. This court was intended to introduce specialised procedures to remedy the deficiencies in the judiciaries’ previous handling of sexual offences.

There is significant legislative work to be done, which will inform further frontline initiatives to complement those already in operation.


Literacy rates for women are high at 99%, however men are still more likely to be literate, with 99.4% of men being able to read and write (1). Girls, however, are more likely to be in school with only 0.6% of girls being out of school compared with 1.3% of boys (1). The expected average years of schooling is 12.98 years for both boys and girls (5).


In 2017, 100% of births were attended by a medical professional which is extremely positive (2). Following birth however, only 37% of new mothers receive a maternity cash benefit (1), despite the levels of poverty that women experience. In 2018, 27.7 per 1000 births involved mothers aged 15-19 (1) and so we can see that pregnancy amongst young women is fairly common. Per 100,000 live births, there are 42 maternal deaths (1) and women are expected to live to 78.1 years of age (6).

Women in Politics

The situation surrounding women in government in Antigua and Barbuda is complicated, as whilst women hold 66.7% of elected seats in deliberative bodies of local government (1), women are largely underrepresented in other sectors. Only 11.1% of seats in national parliament are held by women (1), women represent a 14.3% participation in ministerial cabinets (2), and in 2010, there were no female city councillors (2). Furthermore, whilst women are well represented in the civil service, (62% of senior civil servants of the government are women), they are underrepresented in leadership in the public sector (60% of heads of department in the public sector are women). Antigua and Barbuda does not have a National Gender Policy.

Frontline services

  • Women Against Rape Inc. Antigua is available to support. You can contact the organisation via email or telephone (+1 268 721 5553).

  • Women of Antigua










  9. Antigua and Barbuda, Domestic Violence Act 2015, No. 27 of 2015.

Further reading:

1. Refworld, “Antigua and Barbuda: Domestic Violence, including Legislation, State Protection and Support Services (2010-January 2016)”, (, 17 February 2016), <>.



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