SDG 16 - Peace, Justice, and Institutions

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parliamentary seats worldwide are held by women


of women globally experienced physical and/or sexual violence (in 2017)


million people had been forcibly displaced by persecution, conflict and widespread violence (by end of 2017)

Why SDG 16 matters for gender equality

Progress on every SDG requires strong government institutions. SDG 16 spans institutional issues from peace to participatory decision making, and each one matters for girls and women. Government institutions that criminalize violence against women (target 16.1) codify their rights to live free of violence.

The rule of law (target 16.3) requires judicial systems that offer women legal protection. And women are crucial for participatory decision making (target 16.7).

Women in parliaments, for example, are more likely to sponsor legislation and compromise across political lines, and less likely to be corrupt. Yet as seen in SDG 5, women face barriers to political power. Amongst female parliamentarians surveyed in 2016, more than four in ten (44%) had been threatened with death, rape, beating or abductions while in office.

The general breakdown in law, order and state institutions that occurs during conflict has particularly dangerous effects for women, including increases in rates of sexual violence and GBV. Such upticks have been documented in nearly every region of the globe, from Bosnia and the Democratic Republic of Congo to El Salvador and Myanmar. The majority of 86 civil wars around the world between 1980 and 2009 saw at least one year of numerous or massive reported rapes. Girls and women experience violence during conflict not only at the hands of combatants, but also civilians: reports find that rates of intimate partner sexual violence and domestic violence increase during conflict.

Post-conflict situations are key moments to rebuild strong institutions that guarantee accountability and women’s participation. UNDP suggests that inclusive post-conflict political processes help to foster community resilience, restore the social contract between states and citizens, consolidate peace building and promote progress towards development goals.

In Rwanda, for example, post-genocide policies since 1994 have enabled more women to participate in the legislature, supporting the country’s development successes, including gender parity in literacy and primary enrolment. Today, Rwanda’s Parliament is comprised of over 60% women, the highest percentage worldwide.

Plan International / Olivier Herold
Plan International / Olivier Herold

Click on a box to learn about the goal’s related issues, indicators and its relevance to gender equality.

Key findings from the SDG Gender Index

  • Homicide rates:

    Strong institutions and access to justice are critical to women’s physical safety. Colombia and El Salvador have weak scores amongst this group of countries. El Salvador has the highest rate of female victims of intentional homicide (15.69 per 100,000 women in 2016). In comparison, relatively few women are killed (26 per 100,000 females in 2014) in Indonesia, the best-performing country.

  • Perceptions of safety:

    Sizeable percentages of women in all six focus countries feel unsafe walking alone at night in the city or area they live. Colombia has the lowest percentage of women who report feeling safe walking alone at night (36% in 2017, compared to 73% in Indonesia).

  • Civil registration:

    Civil registration systems give individuals the identity documents they need to participate in society—and lack of registration has a disproportionate impact on girls. Among the six focus countries, Colombia and El Salvador had the highest rates of children <5 registered (an impressive 96.8% and 98.5% respectively in 2014-15).

  • Displacement due to conflict:

    Issues related to violence and conflict drive Colombia and El Salvador’s weak scores. The rate of people displaced by conflict per 1,000 people stood at 132.7 in Colombia in 2017 and 48.0 in El Salvador—magnitudes higher than the .01 displaced in Indonesia.

Gender Equality Issues Without Sufficient Global Data

Here we highlight the ‘missing’ critical gender equality issues that we weren’t able to include in the Index due to insufficient globally comparable data. These ‘missing’ issues can help form part of an advocacy agenda calling for more and better gender data, contributing to existing calls for gaps in gender data to be filled.

Referred cases of sexual and gender-based violence against women and children that are investigated and sentenced.

Young women and men aged 18-29 years who experienced sexual violence by age 18.

Women’s participation in police, security forces, and the judiciary.


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