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Syria

Population size and demographic: 18.6 million. 49.99% of the population is female and 50.01% is male

Women at Work:

In 2020, women’s labour force participation stood at 12.9%. The female unemployment rate was 25.88%. Only 9% of all legislators, senior officials and managers were women and about 39.4% of all professional and technical workers were women (1). Syrian women comprise 11% of all diplomatic posts and 13% of all judgeships (2). In some parts of Syria, women make up 90% of the agricultural workforce (3).


Women’s Participation in Parliament:

When it comes to political empowerment, Syria ranks 130 out of 153 countries in the Global Gender Gap Report of 2020. Women were given the right to vote in Syria in 1949 (1). In parliament, women hold 11.2% of all seats, which is an equivalent of 28 women out of the 250 members of parliament. Out of all 1656 candidate, 12.08% were women, meaning 200 candidates were women. The first woman speaker was elected in 2016, but no longer holds this post (4).


Violence against Women:

In 2013, 25% of all registered marriages in Syria were with underaged girls, ranging from 15 to 17 years old. This rate went up to 31.7% in 2014 (2). In 2013, the UN treated 38,000 victims of rape in Syria. Rape has been declared as a weapon of war in Syria by the UN in 2012. Honour killings were made illegal in Syria in 2009. Prior to 2009, it was estimated that 200 honour killings happened every year in Syria. Syrian refugee women are especially vulnerable to gender-based violence, as sex trafficking is a big problem in refugee camps. In one of these camps, 46% of women reported feeling unsafe (5). It is estimated that almost 22,000 women killed between 2011 and 2021 were at the hands of the Syrian Regime forces (6).


Health:

Healthy life expectancy for Syrian women is 59.5 years (1). Maternal mortality stands at 31 deaths per 100,000 births and 96.2% of births are attended by skilled personnel. The adolescent fertility rate is 37 per 1000 girls aged 15 to 19 who give birth (8). Women aged 15 to 49 face many challenges when it comes to their sexual and reproductive health and rights. In 2009, 53.3% of women had their need for family planning met with modern methods (7).


Education:

When it comes to women’s educational attainment, Syria ranks 117 out of 153 countries in the Gender Gap Report of 2020. (1) There’s a big discrepancy between men and women when it comes to literacy, as the literacy rate for women stands at 73.6%, and men’s rate is 87.8%. The rate of women’s enrolment in primary education is 67%, which drops to 48.1% for secondary school and 42.8% for tertiary education (1).

Current Law and Policy:

The available evidence suggests that Syria does not have specific legislation in place tailored to Domestic Violence. Additional risk factors exacerbating rates and intensity of DOMESTIC VIOLENCE include the proliferation of small arms during the ongoing conflict.


In 2014 the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women noted in the concluding observations in their second periodic report their concerns as to “the high incidence of violence against women, in particular domestic violence in the State party and about: (a) The absence of comprehensive legislation on domestic violence; (b) The lack of explicit provisions in the Penal Code criminalizing marital rape as well as the fact that despite its amendment by Decree No. 1/2011, article 508 of the Penal Code still exempts rapists from punishment if they marry their victims; and (c) Delays in establishing the Family Protection Unit and the low number of shelters for women victims of violence in the country.” They recommended, inter alia, that the Syrian Arab Republic adopt “comprehensive legislation to prevent and criminalise domestic violence which provides for protection, assistance and support for victims.” [4]


These concerns were echoed in a 2016 report prepared by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, submitted to the Human Rights Council as part of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism. In particular, they called on the Syrian Arab Republic to “pass a law to protect women from domestic violence, including direct and effective enforcement measures”.[5] They also noted how the proliferation of small arms in the ongoing conflict threatened to exacerbate the intensity of domestic violence suffered by victims, given that: “In light of the low social and economic living standards due to the war (displacement, living in camps lacking basic needs, and poor income), women are usually the most affected by the acquisition of this type of arms. The report of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) on small arms and their impact on women points out that the presence of a such arms in a household will increase by five times the likelihood of turning spousal violence into murder. On average, one third of women killed are murdered with a small firearm. The proliferation of individual arms increases GBV forms and manifestations already existing in a predominantly patriarchal society. This increases the vulnerability of women, especially in the absence of the rule of law.”


On 2 July 2020, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem, on the occasion of the Brussels IV Syria Conference, launched a call to put women at the centre of Syria’s response to COVID-19 in part because they faced increased risk of gender-based violence.[6]


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