Belgium has an excellent rating when it comes to gender equality, according to the 2014 edition of the annual Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI), assessed by the OECD Development Centre and published on Thursday. The SIGI index draws upon legal and informal criteria from each country taking part, as well as local attitudes and practices liable to restrict women’s and girls’ access to their legal rights, to the judicial system, and to opportunities for climbing the social ladder.
For the first time, all 34 OECD member countries were included in the list of 160 countries studied. Belgium is presented as a model country. It is called a "top performing country” amongst the 108 states which could be compared and rated internationally thanks to comprehensive data. It is doing better than the OECD average, and is in fact rated first, with an index value of 0.0015 for 2014, a very low level of discrimination.
At the other end of the spectrum are the DRC, Egypt, Somalia, Mali, and the Sudan, with the Yemen coming in last with a score of 0.5634.
The index is worked out from 5 criteria. In Belgium, discrimination against women is almost non-existent when it comes to their access to resources (being able to freely manage their financial and material assets and the land they may own), and for civil liberties. The report stresses that there are laws in place to promote the presence of women in politics and in parliamentary assemblies, even if in reality there are fewer women than men at every level of political power. The situation is not quite as good when it comes to women’s presence in the media (they represent 28% of people seen or cited in writing in French-speaking Belgium, according to a 2010 study).
Ratings are slightly lower when the report looks at the disparagement of girls within family units, with women only feeling they have achieved their role as mothers if they produce a son. Lastly, the issue of physical integrity: in 2012, 20,370 cases of domestic violence were denounced.