Women in Portugal
Two women from Portugal in traditional garb, 2010
General Statistics
Maternal mortality (per 100,000)8 (2010)
Women in parliament28.7% (2013)
Women over 25 with secondary education47.7% (2012)
Women in labour force66.6%(employment rate OECD definition, 2020)[1]
Gender Inequality Index[2]
Value0.067 (2021)
Rank15th out of 191
Global Gender Gap Index[3]
Value0.766 (2022)
Rank29th out of 146

Women in Portugal received full legal equality with Portuguese men as mandated by Portugal's constitution of 1976, which in turn resulted from the Revolution of 1974. Women were allowed to vote for the first time in Portugal in 1931 under Salazar's Estado Novo, but not on equal terms with men. The right for women to vote was later broadened twice under the Estado Novo. The first time was in 1946 and the second time in 1968 under Marcelo Caetano, law 2137 proclaimed the equality of men and women for electoral purposes. By the early part of the 1990s, many women of Portugal became professionals, including being medical doctors and lawyers, a leap from many being merely office employees and factory workers.[4]

Early history

The social and religious more and norms effecting the perception of women's behavior depended on the woman's social class, not only in terms of the expectations society had of them, but because their autonomy and ability to make choices, the legal protections and dignity privilege afforded, and access to education was not available for all women. The inequality in society was not only between men and women, but also among women of differing social and economic status. These matters took their place in the social discourse beginning only in the early 1700s, and there is little evidence that the "debate on women" (French: querelle des femmes, as it is called in Europe) occupied a significant role in the public consciousness prior to the 18th century.[5]

First Portuguese Republic

The women's movement is considered to have started with the establishment of the Conselho Nacional das Mulheres Portuguesas, which was founded in 1914 during the First Portuguese Republic.

The electoral rule of the Portuguese Republic stated the right to vote for "Portuguese citizens over 21 years of age who could read and write and were heads of families" without specifying gender. Carolina Beatriz Ângelo took advantage of the ambiguity of the law and used it to exercise her vote. She was a head of her family with a child and knew how to read and write, so she became the first woman to vote in Portugal. The Republican Regime did not want women to vote and swiftly changed the law. In 1913, the laws were changed to include gender and to specifically deny women the right to vote. The Afonso Costa’s Electoral Code of 1913 sealed off the loophole that had allowed Carolina Beatriz Ângelo, to vote in 1911. Portuguese women would have to wait 1931 when under Salazar were given the right to vote in Portugal provided they had completed secondary education.[6]

Estado Novo regime (1933-1974)

Maria Teresa Cárcomo Lobo politician and jurist, became the first woman to hold office in Portugal

During the Estado Novo, an authoritarian political regime which was in place in Portugal from 1933 to 1974, women's rights were still restricted.

In the 1933 Portuguese constitutional referendum women were allowed to vote for the first time in Portugal. The women's right to vote had not been obtained during the First Republic, despite feminist claims – however secondary education was a requirement for their suffrage, while men needed only to be able to read and write.[7]

The right for women to vote was later broadened twice under the Estado Novo. The first time was in 1946 and the second time in 1968 under Marcelo Caetano, law 2137 proclaimed the equality of men and women for electoral purposes. The 1968 electoral law did not make any distinction between men and women,[8][9] though the general rule to be able to read resulted in systemic limitations for women to vote until 1976.[10]

It was also under the Estado Novo that Maria Teresa Cárcomo Lobo politician and jurist, became the first woman to hold office in Portugal.[11][12] She was also deputy of the Assembleia Nacional of the First Portuguese Republic, during the XI legislature.

Family life

As a country where the predominant religion is Roman Catholicism, Portugal has traditionally been conservative with regards to family life. Divorce was legalized in 1975. Adultery was decriminalized in 1982.[13] Divorce laws were overhauled in October 2008, when a new divorce law liberalized the process (see Divorce law in Portugal). In the 21st century, family dynamics have become more liberal, with cohabitation growing in popularity, and the link between fertility and marriage decreasing. In 2022, 60.2% of births were to unmarried women.[14] Like most Western countries, Portugal has to deal with low fertility levels: the country has experienced a sub-replacement fertility rate since the 1980s.[15]

The average age at first marriage in 2021 was 34.3 years for men and 32.9 years for women.[16] Cohabitants have rights under laws dealing with de facto unions in Portugal.


Main article: Abortion in Portugal

Abortion laws in Portugal were liberalized on April 10, 2007, after the 2007 Portuguese abortion referendum. Abortion can be performed on-demand during the first ten weeks of pregnancy, and at later stages only for specific reasons (rape, risk of birth defects, risk to woman's health). However, obtaining a legal abortion is often difficult in practice, because many doctors refuse to perform abortions (which they are allowed to do under a conscientious objection clause) as Portugal remains a country where the Catholic tradition has a significant influence.[17]


The maternal mortality rate in Portugal is 8.00 deaths/100,000 live births (as of 2010). This is low by global standards, but is still higher than many other Western countries.[18] Portugal's HIV/AIDS rate is, at 0.6% of adults (aged 15–49), one of the highest in Europe.[19] Since 2001, immigrants in Portugal are entitled to free health care, including free care during pregnancy and postnatal period, as well as use of family planning facilities.[citation needed]


The literacy rate is now higher for women compared to men: the literacy rate is 96% for females (aged 15 or older), while for males it is 95%. [20] In the 19th century it was much worse. The first women in Portugal concerned with women's subordinate status and in improving their educational opportunities included Carolina Michaëlis de Vasconcelos, Maria Carvalho, Alice Pestana, Alice Moderno, Antónia Pusich and Guiomar Torrezão.[21] Francisca Wood is credited with creating the first feminist newspaper in Portugal and she realised that many women were not interested in equality but she blamed their lack of ambition on the unavailability of education to women.[22]

Domestic violence

Domestic violence is illegal in Portugal. It is specifically addressed by Article 152 of the Criminal Code of Portugal.[23] The article, which has been amended several times throughout the years, reads: "Whoever, whether in a repetitive manner or not, inflicts physical or mental maltreatment, including bodily punishments, deprivation of liberty and sexual abuses: a) On the spouse or ex-spouse; b) On a person of the same or another gender with whom the offender maintains or has maintained a union, even if without cohabitation; c) On a progenitor of a common descendant in first degree; or d) On a particularly helpless person by reason of age, disability, disease, pregnancy or economic dependency, who cohabitates with the offender; shall be punished (...)".[24] Portugal has also ratified the Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.[25] Accurate data on violence against women is difficult to obtain, but according to a study published in 2008, 38% of women have experienced physical, psychological and/or sexual violence since the age of 18.[26]

Women in politics

Traditionally, in Portugal, as in other countries, politics was considered the domain of men. However, in recent years more women have been involved. As of 2014, 40% of people in parliament were women. [27]

Female records in politics


  1. ^ OECD. "LFS by sex and age - indicators". stats.oecd.org. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  2. ^ "Human Development Report 2021/2022" (PDF). HUMAN DEVELOPMENT REPORTS. Retrieved 14 November 2022.
  3. ^ "Global Gender Gap Report 2022" (PDF). World Economic Forum. Retrieved 13 February 2023.
  4. ^ "Portugal-Women (data as of 1993)". Mongabay.com. Retrieved 3 November 2013.
  5. ^ Johnson, R. (2018). A New History of Iberian Feminisms. United Kingdom: University of Toronto Press.
  6. ^ Herr, R.; Pinto, A. C. (Eds.). (2012). The Portuguese Republic at One Hundred. Berkeley: University of California. ISBN 9780981933627. Retrieved from: http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/1vp517x1
  7. ^ Adão, Áurea; Remédios, Maria José (23 May 2006). "The educational narrativity in the first period of Oliveira Salazar's government. Women's voices in the National Assembly (1935–1945)". History of Education: Journal of the History of Education Society. 34 (5): 547–559. doi:10.1080/00467600500221315. S2CID 144480521.
  8. ^ Miranda, Professor Jorge - "Escritos vários sobre direitos fundamentais", pag 12, ISBN 9789728818623
  9. ^ In the original “São eleitores da Assembleia Nacional todos os cidadãos portugueses, maiores ou emancipados, que saibam ler e escrever português e não estejam abrangidos por qualquer das incapacidades previstas na lei; e os que, embora não saibam ler nem escrever português tenham já sido alguma vez recenseados ao abrigo da Lei n.º 2015, de 28 de Maio de 1946, desde que satisfaçam os requisitos nela fixados”.
  10. ^ Antó, Maria; Almeida, nia de Figueiredo Pires de (2017-06-19). "Women Mayors in Portugal: A Case Study in Political Representation and Citizenship". Revista de Sociologia e Política. 26 (68): 27–42. Retrieved 2022-03-16.
  11. ^ "Maria Teresa Cárcomo Lobo". PÚBLICO. 22 December 2018.
  12. ^ "Morreu a primeira mulher a assumir funções governativas em Portugal". 14 December 2018.
  13. ^ "Aborto não deve ser uma prioridade da investigação criminal". publico.pt. 18 December 2003. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  14. ^ "PORDATA - Live births outside of marriage, with parents co-habiting or not (%) in Portugal". pordata.pt. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
  15. ^ "Fertility in Portugal: a Macro/Micro Economic Perspective / Projects funded by national science agencies / Projects / Research output / Welcome - CEFAGE". Uevora.pt. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  16. ^ "Mean age on first marriage by sex". www.pordata.pt. Retrieved 2022-12-29.
  17. ^ "In Portugal, abortion legal but many doctors refuse to perform them". wbez.org. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  18. ^ "The World Factbook". cia.gov. Archived from the original on 18 April 2015. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  19. ^ "The World Factbook". cia.gov. Archived from the original on 21 December 2014. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  20. ^ "Country Fact Sheet | UN Women Data Hub". data.unwomen.org. Retrieved 2022-12-06.
  21. ^ Bermudez, Silvia; Johnson, Roberta (2018-02-05). A New History of Iberian Feminisms. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 978-1-4875-1029-9.
  22. ^ Bermudez, Silvia; Johnson, Roberta (2018-02-05). A New History of Iberian Feminisms. University of Toronto Press. p. 102. ISBN 978-1-4875-1029-9.
  23. ^ Ministry of Justice. "Breaking the silence – united against domestic violence": 29th Council of Europe Conference of Ministers of Justice - Report from Portugal. Direção-Geral da Política de Justiça. p. 2. Archived from the original on 23 February 2017.
  24. ^ Article 152 reads in Portuguese: Artigo 152.º Violência doméstica 1 — Quem, de modo reiterado ou não, infligir maus tratos físicos ou psíquicos, incluindo castigos corporais, privações da liberdade e ofensas sexuais: a) Ao cônjuge ou ex -cônjuge; b) A pessoa de outro ou do mesmo sexo com quem o agente mantenha ou tenha mantido uma relação análoga à dos cônjuges, ainda que sem coabitação; c) A progenitor de descendente comum em 1.º grau; ou d) A pessoa particularmente indefesa, em razão de idade, deficiência, doença, gravidez ou dependência económica, que com ele coabite; é punido (...) [1]
  25. ^ "Liste complète". coe.int. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  26. ^ "WAVE Network" (PDF). wave-network.org. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 August 2016. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  27. ^ "Portugal Statistics Regarding Women". UN Women Count Data Hub.
  28. ^ Lemos, Isabel da Conceição (July 2009). As Mulheres na Carreira Diplomática – 1974 a 2004 (PDF) (in Portuguese). Lisboa: ISCTE-IUL. pp. 2, 39 e 41–44.
  29. ^ Baldaia, Barbara (8 March 2018). "Eles que se atrevam!". TSF (in Portuguese). Retrieved 10 February 2020.
  30. ^ Lopes, Margarida Santos (30 September 2017). "Mulheres ao poder local, já!". Máxima (in Portuguese). Retrieved 10 February 2020.
  31. ^ "Mulheres a mandar nas autarquias, procuram-se. Em 1976 eram cinco, hoje são 31". Expresso (in Portuguese). 17 October 2017. Retrieved 10 February 2020.
  32. ^ Agência Lusa (10 June 2006). "Morreu Ruth Garcês, primeira juíza portuguesa". RTP Notícias (in Portuguese). Retrieved 10 February 2020.
  33. ^ Agência Lusa (19 December 2018). "Deputada socialista Rosa Albernaz renuncia ao mandato e é substituída por António Cardoso". Diário de Notícias (in Portuguese). Retrieved 10 February 2020.

Further reading