Costa Rica: Closing the credit gap for women entrepreneurs
Model laws and social programs mean a strong foundation is in place
The Law on the Promotion of Social Equality of Women compels all state agencies to prevent discrimination.
As with many of the countries studied, Costa Rica's Constitution prohibits all "discriminatory practices against human dignity" in its Article 33, and this principle can be seen to operate across the four legal areas being examined. Moreover, additional laws, such as the Law on the Promotion of Social Equality of Women, (Ley de Promoción de la Igualdad Social de la Mujer) advance equality of opportunity and women's financial inclusion. Article I of the Law on Promotion states that it is the obligation of the Costa Rican State to promote and guarantee equality of rights between men and women in economic and social matters. Thus, when it comes to existing law, there are few observable barriers to presumptive women entrepreneurs. Beyond the fact that the Law on Promotion puts forward an explicit anti-discrimination law, it is worth noting that Costa Rica's Civil Code (Código Civil) and Family Code (Código de Familia) make no distinction with respect to gender.
The Law on Promotion is noteworthy for imposing an obligation on all state agencies to ensure that individuals do not suffer any form of discrimination as a result of gender or marital status, and that women enjoy the same rights as men in the political, economic, social and cultural spheres. Additional provisions, such as the Law on the Banking System for Development (Ley Sistema de Banca para el Desarrollo), extend this commitment to the cause of women's economic empowerment; it calls on the board of directors of the Banking System for Development (Sistema de Banca para el Desarrollo) to develop policies that (i) give priority treatment to projects initiated by women and (ii) neutralize gender inequalities with respect to access to credit, collateral and other nonfinancial and business development services.20 Such programming shows Costa Rica's commitment to financial inclusion to be more than a Constitutional abstraction. For other jurisdictions that lack such programming, it models a way of combining broad Constitutional principles with a) more pointed regulations and b) related, concrete initiatives.
This commitment to women's enfranchisement is also clear in particular areas, such as property rights. Women, like men, can independently apply for, maintain, lease and own property without impediment since, as stated above, neither the Civil Code nor the Family Code differentiates between men and women for such purposes. The rights of married women are also well protected. If, as part of a social development program, real property is granted to a married couple, the registration of the property must include the names of both spouses. If real property is granted through a social program to a woman beneficiary, her name must be registered. Moreover, a family dwelling may not be encumbered without the consent of both spouses.
20—Law on the Promotion of Social Equality of Women, Art. 2; Ley Sistema de Banca para el Desarrollo [Law on the Banking System for Development], Arts. 7 – 8 (Costa Rica).
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