Friday, October 7, 2016


Gender refers to socially constructed identities, attributes and roles for women and men. The term gender is not interchangeable with women. Society’s social and cultural meaning for these biological differences results in hierarchical relationships between women and men, and inthe distribution of power and rights favouring men and disadvantaging women. This social positioning of women and men is affected by political, economic, cultural, social, religious, ideological and environmental factors, and can be changed by culture, society and community. Gender constructions are dynamic and fluid; they change over time and can be different in different cultures. As an example of socially learned differences, women’s role in most societies has traditionally been to take care of the household and the children, whereas the role of men has been to provide for the family by working outside the home. In most societies, these traditional perceptions of women’s and men’s roles have changed and are constantly evolving. Analysing international law and international human rights law from a gender perspective is important, because gender analysis helps us understand how women and men experience human rights violations differently as well as the influence of differences such as age, class, religion, culture and location. It highlights and explores hierarchical and unequal relations and roles between and among males and females, the unequal value given to women’s work, and women’s unequal access to power and decision-making as well as property and resources. Gender mainstreaming or integration helps assess the impact of different laws, policies and programmes on groups of men and women, as explained in the box below.

Gender is also an important term to understand in the context of gender identity.20 Gender identity reflects a deeply felt and experienced sense of one’s own gender, which may or may not conform with the biological sex one is assigned at birth. Gender identity is separate from sexual orientation, which refers to which sex one is attracted to; for instance, many transgender persons are heterosexual.

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