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.

The glossary is also available in Spanish and in French.



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H

Heteronormativity

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

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.

Sources: UNICEF, UNFPA, UNDP, UN Women. “Gender Equality, UN Coherence and You”; HRBA portal