Women in Madagascar, also known as Malagasy women or Malgache women, generally live longer than men, whom they outnumber. Marrying young, they are traditionally subservient to their husbands. Roughly a third have their first child before the age of 19, and those who wish to delay having children may not have access to contraceptives. Abortion is common, with an estimated 24 percent of women having had one. Although they are constitutionally equal to men, they have unequal property rights and employment opportunities in certain areas.
Malagasy women have a higher life expectancy than men, with an average of 61.3 years compared to 57.7 for men in 2010. There are more women than men; women represent 50.3 percent of the country’s 2010 population of 19,669,953.
Malagasy law requires women to be 14 years of age before they are married, lower than the minimum age for males. Before the age of 18, only parental consent is required for a woman to be married, while women over the age of 18 must give their own consent. According to the United Nations, of women between the ages 15 and 19, 34 percent had already been married. Polygamy is forbidden, although it still happens. The culture is traditionally patriarchal.
Rich and middle-class Malagasy women spend much time cooking, and may work in cassava, rice, and maize production. Poorer women often work in rice production together with male family members, although they most commonly work with dry-field crops. Outside of the harvesting season, they may produce and sell other items to earn income for their families.
Malagasy women participate in sharecropping. Some, including divorced, land-owning women without adequate male support, contract out the labour to relatives or other members of the community, while others may work sharecropped lands with their husbands. However, female sharecroppers are rarely counted separately from their husbands
Women legally have equal ownership rights, although in locations along the east coast of Madagascar they may be unable to own land. They are allowed to own their own businesses and do not require permission from their husband to acquire land. Their civil liberties are generally well-respected. However, in cases of spousal abuse, women must report the crime themselves in order for the police to act. Although calling the police is rare, women also have a traditional right known as misintaka that allows them to leave their husbands and live with their families.
In a divorce, Malagasy women traditionally receive a third of the property acquired during their marriage, with their husband receiving the remaining two-thirds; they may also choose to keep their property separate during marriage.When the husband dies, a Malagasy widow who has borne a child receives half of the joint property. However, if the couple was childless then the husband’s family received most of the inheritance.