Gender Equality Glossary
The UN Women Training Centre’s Glossary is an online tool that provides concepts and definitions with gender perspective structured according to the thematic areas of UN Women. It includes gender concepts as well as international conferences, agendas, initiatives and partnerships related to gender equality.
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Heteronormativity is an expressed used to describe or identify a social norm relating to standardized heterosexual behavior, whereby this standard is considered to be the only socially valid form of behavior and anyone who does not follow this social and cultural posture is placed at a disadvantage in relation to the rest of society. This concept is the basis of discriminatory and prejudiced arguments against LGBT, principally those relating to the formation of families and public expression.
Source: LGBT Communication Manual, Brazilian Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transvestite and Transsexual Association and UNAIDS.
Human rights are commonly understood as being those rights which are inherent to the human being. The concept of human rights acknowledges that every single human being is entitled to enjoy his or her human rights without distinction as to race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Human rights are legally guaranteed by human rights law, protecting individuals and groups against actions which interfere with fundamental freedoms and human dignity. They are expressed in treaties, customary international law, bodies of principles and other sources of law. Human rights law places an obligation on States to act in a particular way and prohibits States from engaging in specified activities.
All human rights and instruments that concern them apply equally to men and women. In addition, the CEDAW has specified and complemented some of them from the perspective of women’s rights.
Source: OHCHR (2000) Human Rights. A basic handbook for UN staff.
Human rights-based approach (HRBA)
A human rights-based approach entails consciously and systematically paying attention to human rights in all aspects of program development. A HRBA is a conceptual framework for the process of human development that is normatively based on international human rights standards and operationally directed to promoting and protecting human rights. The objective of the HRBA is to empower people (rights-holders) to realize their rights and strengthen the State (duty-bearers) to comply with their human rights obligations and duties. States’ obligations to human rights require them to respect, protect and fulfill women’s and girls’ rights, along with the rights of men and boys. When they fail to do so, the United Nations has a responsibility to work with partners to strengthen capacity to more effectively realize that duty.
A human rights-based approach (HRBA) to gender issues uncovers how human rights issues affect women and men differently and how power relations and gender-based discriminations affect the effective enjoyment of rights by all human beings. HRBA and gender mainstreaming are two of the five UN programming principles (the others are results-based management, environmental sustainability and capacity-development). As such, every UN staff member should use them in their programming work.
The term informal sector refers to employment and production that takes place in small and/or unregistered enterprises. It includes self-employment in informal enterprises (small and unregistered enterprises) and wage employment in informal jobs (unregulated and unprotected jobs) for informal enterprises, formal enterprises, households or for no fixed employer.
Source: Hussmanns, Ralf. (2003) Statistical definition of informal employment: Guidelines endorsed by the Seventeenth International Conference of Labour Statisticians. International Labour Office: Geneva.
Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality (IANWGE)
The Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality (IANWGE) is a network of Gender Focal Points in United Nations offices, specialized agencies, funds and programmes and is chaired by UN Women. UN Women also serves as the Secretariat for the Network. All UN member entities are represented in the Network. The network supports and monitors the implementation of:
The Network also monitors and oversees the mainstreaming of a gender perspective in the programmatic, normative and operational work of the UN system. IANWGE's work follows guidelines recommended by the United Nations System Chief Executives Board (CEB) for Coordination, and its two high level committees, the High Level Committee on Programmes (HLCP) and the High Level Committee on Management (HLCM).
Source: UN IANGWE
A gender perspective, or way of analyzing the impact of gender on people's opportunities, social roles and interactions, allows us to see that there is pressure on men and boys to perform and conform to specific roles. Thus, the term masculinity refers to the social meaning of manhood, which is constructed and defined socially, historically and politically, rather than being biologically driven. There are many socially constructed definitions for being a man and these can change over time and from place to place. The term relates to perceived notions and ideals about how men should or are expected to behave in a given setting. Masculinities are not just about men; women perform and produce the meaning and practices of the masculine as well.
Source: UNICEF, UNFPA, UNDP, UN Women. “Gender Equality, UN Coherence and You”.
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
Set for the year 2015, the MDGs are an agreed set of goals designed to respond to the world's main development challenges and to the calls of civil society. The MDGs represent a global partnership that grew out of the commitments and targets established at the world summits of the 1990s. The eight MDGs seek to promote poverty reduction, education, maternal health and gender equality and aim at combating child mortality, AIDS and other diseases. As 2015 approaches, consultations are underway to establish the Post-2015 Development Framework or Agenda, which will succeed the MDGs.
Concept used to describe the complexity of discrimination implicating more than one ground, also known as “additive,” “accumulative,” “compound,” “intersectional,” “complex bias” or “multi-dimensional inequalities.” Though the terminology may seem confusing, it tends to describe two situations: (1) situation where an individual is faced with more than one form of grounds-based discrimination (i.e. sex plus disability discrimination, or gender plus sexual orientation). In such circumstances, all women and all persons with disabilities (both male and female) are potentially subject to the discrimination. (2) Situation where discrimination affects only those who are members of more than one group (i.e. only women with disabilities and not men with disabilities), also known as intersectional discrimination.
Regarding discrimination against women, CEDAW General Recommendation no. 25 recognizes the following: “Certain groups of women, in addition to suffering from discrimination directed against them as women, may also suffer from multiple forms of discrimination based on additional grounds such as race, ethnic or religious identity, disability, age, class, caste or other factors. Such discrimination may affect these groups of women primarily, or to a different degree or in different ways than men. States parties may need to take specific temporary special measures to eliminate such multiple forms of discrimination against women and its compounded negative impact on them.”
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, General recommendation No. 25 on temporary special measures, article 4, paragraph 1.
This term refers to a traditional form of organizing society which often lies at the root of gender inequality. According to this kind of social system, men, or what is considered masculine, is accorded more importance than women, or what is considered feminine. Traditionally, societies have been organized in such a way that property, residence, and descent, as well as decision-making regarding most areas of life, have been the domain of men. This is often based on appeals to biological reasoning (women are more naturally suited to be caregivers, for example) and continues to underlie many kinds of gender discrimination.