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Gender concepts

Sex and Gender

Sex : The biological difference between men and women, boys and girls – the physical attributes with which we are born.

Gender : Culturally and socially constructed roles, responsibilities, privileges, relations and expectations of women, men, boys and girls. Gender is not another word for women. Gender is also not another word for sexual difference.

A working definition of Gender : People are born female or male or transgender, but are forced to learn to be girls and boys who grow into women and men. They are taught appropriate behaviour and attitudes according to defined gender roles and activities. This learned behaviour is what makes up gender identity, and determines gender roles.

Gender refers to the learnt roles, norms and expectations on the basis of one’s sex. It is a sociocultural definition of a boy and a girl, of a man and a woman. Not only their responsibilities are set by the society but also norms/values, dress codes, attitudes, opportunities, rights, mobility, freedom of expression, priorities and even dreams are determined by the society (Bhasin Kamala). It varies from society to society and can be changed.

Gender roles

Gender roles : The different tasks and responsibilities and expectations that society defines and allocates to men, women, boys and girls. These are not necessarily determined by biological differences and therefore can change with time and in different situations.

Gender stereotyping : The assignment of roles, tasks and responsibilities to a particular gender on the basis of preconceived prejudices. For instance the assumption that masons can only be men or that nurses are necessarily women.

Gender Role Perception : Gender is a dynamic concept. Gender roles for women and men vary greatly from one culture to another ; and from one social group to another within the same culture. Race, class, economic circumstances, age — all of these influence what is considered appropriate for women and men. Furthermore, as culture is dynamic and socio-economic conditions change over time, so gender patterns change with them. Different roles and characteristics are assigned to people not only on the basis of their gender, but of their race, caste, class, ethnic background and age. Our social analysis becomes finer, our social interventions more finely tuned, when we are aware of all the complex ways in which society slots people into different categories and roles, and of the ways these roles can be the basis of both cooperation and conflict. For neither women nor men form a homogeneous group in any society. Women may come into conflict with each other because of racial difference, or women of different nationalities or class groups may find solidarity in their gender identity.

Gender gap : Differences between men and women in levels of achievement or access. This could for example be access to education or health care and treatment services or differentials in wages paid to women and men. These differentials may result from customary practices, religious biases, social assumption, myths or taboos, among others.

Gender discrimination: Where one gender is favoured and the other becomes disadvantaged e.g. sex selective abortion. Gender oppression: Where one gender dominates the other unjustly or even cruelly. For instance, domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment.

As the worst fall out of disparity and mind blocks in the area of role perception, comes the vice of gender discrimination. The three most prominent facets of sexual discrimination are

  • Societal Perpetration;
  • Domestic Violence and
  • Sexual Harassment at Workplace.

There are socially accepted expressions like “boys are boys” and norms supporting dowry, still prevalent in society. They highlight the unfortunate social approval towards sexual discrimination. So far as domestic violence is concerned, even after a decade since the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act was passed in 2005, there is no significant change in the crime rate against women. As per data published by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), dowry death was 0.3% of the total number of crimes, as defined under Indian Penal Code (IPC), in 2013. The figure remains the same in 2014. In fact, crime against women as percentage of total number of crimes committed in India has increased from 11.7% in 2013 to 11.9% in 2014. However, perhaps the most unreported amongst these crimes are the ones amounting to "sexual harassment at workplace". For one, there was no clear law on the subject before 2013 and for the other, many women used to desist reporting. Even now, it is believed that a good number of them don‘t report incidents of sexual harassment for reasons ranging from love to terror.

Gender bias : An approach that treats boys and girls differently. For instance differential treatment seeking behaviour in case of illness.

Gender equity : An approach that results in just/ fair treatment of women and men, and recognition and appreciation of both women‘s and men‘s potential. For instance giving bicycles to girls to enable them to travel to a distant school and thereby reduce gender gaps in the drop-out rate.

Gender mainstreaming : The process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in any area and at all levels. It is a strategy for making the concerns and experiences of women as well as of men an integral part of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres, so that women and men benefit equally, and inequality is not perpetuated. The ultimate goal of mainstreaming is to achieve gender equality.

Gender neutral : An approach to planning and policy making that assumes that the impact on women, men, girls and boys as if they were part of one homogeneous group. For instance, although men are usually taller than women, fixing the height of the podium in conference halls on the basis of the height of men.

Gender needs

Practical gender needs : Needs which are related to satisfying basic and material needs of women and men, girls and boys for their day-to- day survival, and which do not change gender patterns. For instance public provisioning of water inside the home or providing access to creche facilities at the workplace.

Strategic gender needs : Needs that are related to changing the situation of marginalised people, especially women. Strategic needs may include training women to become Mates at MGNREGA worksites or giving registering land in the name of women and men as with joint pattas or addressing issues of domestic violence, legal rights, equal wages, and women‘s control over resources.


Transgender (TG) is generally described as an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to their biological sex. TG may also take in persons who do not identify with their sex assigned at birth, which include Hijras/Eunuchs who describe themselves as - "third gender" and they do not identify as either male or female. Hijras are not men by virtue of anatomy appearance and psychologically, they are also not women, though they are like women with no female reproduction organ and no menstruation. Since Hijras do not have reproduction capacities as either men or women, they are neither men nor women and claim to be an institutional - "third gender". Among Hijras, there are emasculated (castrated, nirvana) men, non-emasculated men (not castrated/akva/akka) and inter - sexed per sons (hermaphrodites). TG also includes persons who intend to undergo Sex Re-Assignment Surgery (SRS) or have undergone SRS to align their biological sex with their gender identity in order to become male or female. They are generally called transsexual persons. Further, there are persons who like to cross-dress in clothing of opposite gender, i.e . transvestites. Resultantly, the term - "transgender", in contemporary usage, has become an umbrella term that is used to describe a wide range of identities and experiences, including but not limited to pre-operative, post-operative and non-operative transsexual people, who strongly identify with the gender opposite to their biological sex; male and female. (Source: National Legal Service Authority vs Union of India & Ors WP(C) No.604 of 2013)

Source : Training Module for Two Day Workshop on Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition And Redressal) Act, 2013

অকোনবা শেমদোকখিবা : 6/28/2023

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