Themes » Sexual & Reproductive Health & Rights » Gender & Gender Roles

“Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance” – Kofi Annan (former Secretary-General of the United Nations)

Gender is not the same as sexuality. Sexuality refers to the biological characteristics of men and women. In contrast, gender refers to socially defined roles and behaviours for men and women. When we expect men and women to act in a certain way, just because they are male and female, then we follow gender norms. Different cultures can have different gender norms or different ways they expect men and women to behave. For example, some cultures expect women to stay at home and do household chores, while men should go out to work. These norms are also called gender roles, which are specific roles men and women are expected to perform within society or even within the family.

Gender stereotypes refer to clichés which a man or woman is supposed to do or be like:

Women are nurses, not doctors
Men are doctors, not nurses
Women are supposed to cook and do house work
Men are supposed to have a job
Women are caring and friendly
Men are though and messy
Women are followers
Men are leaders
Women should look pretty
Men should be good in sports

Gender roles are not natural to men or women, rather, they are learned and imposed by social values! But everything that a man can do, a woman can do too, and vice versa!


Gender identity

People can also identify with different genders. Some people might be biologically born a man (=sex, biological), but feel more like a woman (=gender). People from all religions, countries, communities, families can identify themselves in a lot of different ways:

  • Cisgender: People who identify themselves as the sex they were born with

  • Transgender: People who identify themselves with a gender other than the sex they were born with

  • Transsexual: People identify themselves with a gender other than the sex they were born with and have undergone a sex change (transsexual should not be mistaken with transvestite, a person who sometimes wears clothes traditionally worn by and associated with the other sex).


Gender equality

Gender equality is a basic human right and described as; “all human beings are born equal”. It means that everyone, whether born as male, female or intersex, should be able to develop their full potential and live in freedom and dignity. Examples of gender equality are;

  • Equal access to mobility

  • Equal job opportunities and salaries

  • Freedom of marrying who you want

  • Equal divorce rights



Interview a few people around you to know what they think about gender and gender equality. Ask them:

  • What do they think gender equality means? When are men and women equal?

  • Can they give examples of gender stereotypes?

After the interview, share your own opinion and ideas, as well as the things you learned in this course.