Gender And Sex

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Gender And Sex


          Gender is used to describe characteristics of males and females that are socially determined, as opposed to those that are biologically determined. The term ‘gender’ was used in the 1970s by Ann Oakley and others to emphasize that everything that women and men do, and what is expected of them, is related to their sex specific functions. (with the exception of having children etc.) can, and do, change over time and according to changing and varied social, economic, political and cultural factors.



People are born female or male, but learn as girls and boys to grow into women and men. They are taught the behaviors and attitudes, the roles and activities that are appropriate for them, and how they should relate to other people.


It is learned behavior that creates gender identity, and determines gender roles and responsibilities. Gender roles vary greatly from culture to culture and from one social, political, and economic group to another within the same culture.


Since the mid-1980s, there has been a general consensus that sustainable development requires an understanding of the roles and responsibilities of women and men and their relationship to each other within the community.


This has come to be known as the Gender and Development (GAD) approach. The main objective of GAD is to incorporate the needs and perspectives of women in all activities. Mainstreaming acknowledges that all development work has a gender impact and does not automatically benefit men and women equally. Thus, it is essential for development programs to adopt a GAD approach for the benefit of both men and women, as well as for sustainable development and a positive impact on society as a whole.


Although ‘gender and development’ includes both women and men, however, in most cases only women are the focus. This is due to the imbalance and unequal position of women in most societies where women do not have the same opportunities and personal freedom as men. That’s why women need more attention than men. It is like two glasses, in which one is half full and the other is empty, thus water should come in the empty glass first and when both the glasses become equal, then fill both. If one tries to fill both the glasses regardless of the water level, it will not work.


Gender sensitization refers to the modification of behavior by raising awareness of gender equality concerns. This can be achieved by organizing various sensitization campaigns, workshops, programs etc. Sensitization is seen in the fields of humanities and social sciences as a consciously informed trend or tendency that aims to change behavior so that it is sensitive to certain issues. Gender sensitivity can be seen as “aware, informed”.



Tendency or tendency to behave in a manner that is sensitive to issues of gender justice and equality.”


It is linked to gender empowerment. Gender sensitization theories claim that modifying the behavior of teachers and parents (etc.) towards children can have a causal effect on gender equality. Gender sensitization is “about changing attitudes and creating empathy in the views we hold about ourselves and other genders.” It helps people “examine their personal attitudes and beliefs and question the ‘realities’ they thought they knew.”


Gender sensitization refers to a person’s mental process when he or she comes in contact with a person of the opposite sex. A person’s thought process is always different for each gender. Depending on where you are from ‘city’ or ‘village’, gender sensitivity evokes a mixed reaction in the mind. The city born youth think that girls are being given more than their due and from the village, they are so insensitive to the need of the girl child that it is natural for them to think that a girl child is subordinate to a boy child.


The importance of gender sensitivity, gender equality for development is widely recognized globally, taking into account the various efforts made by governments, civil society and development agencies in holistic development. Gender includes all the characteristics that a group considers appropriate for its males and females. Gender stratification means men and women have unequal access to power, prestige

and property on the basis of sex. No matter what we achieve in life, we are labeled as male or female. These labels carry images and expectations of how we should act. From birth to death, gender has a hand in shaping feelings, thoughts and actions. Children quickly learn that by the age of three, society defines males and females as different types of people. Gender affects how we think about ourselves, as well as teaches us to act in an ideal way. Gender roles are the attitudes and activities that a society associates with each gender.


It’s ‘gender’ and ‘sensitive’ according to the dictionary

has a literal meaning. But examining today’s happenings, ‘gender sensitization’ means changing attitudes and creating empathy in the thoughts we hold about ourselves and the other sex. It helps people to check their personal



Attitudes and beliefs question the realities that they thought and knew that when society tries to adopt something new, there is every possibility that it has to go through many pains and miseries.


In the changing scenario of the modern world, where men and women work together and interact on the professional, social and domestic front, gender equality is an essential norm to be followed by responsible human beings. Gender sensitization is about making people aware of the need to bring about a quantum change in our mindset, which sees men as earners and women as homemakers. The homely woman of yesteryear has transformed into a smart, dynamic, modern woman who is adept at balancing her professional and domestic life. She has successfully carved a niche for herself in the scheme of things.


Concerns about the culture are often raised in relation to initiatives for gender equality in development cooperation. In some cases, program officers or partners are concerned that promoting gender equality will “interfere with the local culture”, and therefore feel that gender equality should not be promoted for ethical reasons. In other cases, the cultural values of a particular region are described as a major constraint on gender equality efforts, and action is therefore considered difficult for practical reasons.










“Culture” is often used to refer to intellectual and creative products including literature, music, drama, and painting. In other words, “culture” describes the beliefs and practices of another society, especially where these are seen to be closely related to tradition or religion. But culture is much more than that. Culture is a part of every developmental fabric of society including ours. It is “the way things are done” and shapes our understanding of why it should be so. This more comprehensive approach is proposed in the definition of culture adopted at the World Conference on Cultural Policies (Mexico, 1982) and is used in ongoing discussions on culture and development:


“Culture… is the whole complex of distinctive spiritual, physical, intellectual and emotional characteristics that characterize a society or a social group.



It includes not only art and literature, but also the way of life, fundamental rights of human beings, value systems, traditions and beliefs.


Expectations about the qualities and behaviors appropriate for women or men, and about relationships between women and men – in other words, gender – are shaped by culture. Gender identity and gender relations are important aspects of culture because they shape the way everyday life is lived in the family, but also in the wider community and workplace.


Gender (like race or ethnicity) serves as an organizing principle for societies because of the cultural connotations of being male or female. This is evident in the division of labor according to gender. In most societies, “women’s work” and “men’s work,” both within the household and in the wider community, have clear patterns—and cultural explanations of why this should be so. Patterns and explanations differ between societies and change over time.


While the specific nature of gender relations varies between societies, the general pattern is that women have less personal autonomy, fewer resources at their disposal, and limited influence over the decision-making processes that govern their societies and their lives. shapes one’s own life. This pattern of gender-based inequality is both a human rights and a development issue.


Society and culture are not static. They are living entities that are constantly being renewed and reshaped. As is usually the case with culture, gender definitions change over time. Change is shaped by many factors. Cultural change occurs when communities and families respond to social and economic changes associated with globalization, new technologies, environmental pressures, armed conflict, development projects, etc. For example, in Bangladesh, changes in trade policies allowed for the growth of the apparel industry, which attracted large numbers of women into the urban labor force. This process involves a reinterpretation of the norms of purdah (female isolation) by the women entering this employment and their families. The high visibility of women in cities such as Dhaka is also affecting public perceptions of potential female roles in the family and workplace. Change also results from deliberate attempts to influence values through changes in legislation or government policy, often due to pressure from civil society. There



There are many examples of attempts to influence attitudes about race relations, workers’ rights, and environmental use, to name three areas in which cultural values shape behavior. Efforts to reshape values about women and gender relations have reduced the number of girls attending school.

have focused on concerns such as number of women, women’s access to paid work and public attitudes towards domestic violence. New cultural definitions are formed through a process in which certain sections of society promote change through advocacy and example, while others oppose it. In other words, societies are not homogeneous and no assumption can be made about a consensus on “cultural values”.


As suggested in the point above, cultural values are constantly being reinterpreted in response to new needs and situations. In this process some values are reaffirmed, while others are challenged as no longer appropriate. A member of the Cambodian government uses a vivid image when describing the need to question cultural norms that reinforce gender inequality. The aim, she says, is not to eliminate the country’s cultural identity, but to focus on elements within it. “There is a Cambodian saying that men are a piece of gold, and women are a piece of cloth. A piece of gold when it is dropped into the soil, is still gold. But a piece of cloth, once tarnished, after, it’s stained forever. If you’re a prostitute, if you’ve been raped, if you’re a widow, you’re no longer that virgin piece of cloth. But men, whether they’re criminals Or they may have cheated on their wives, they are still a piece of gold. When there is a saying, a perception, something is wrong with that culture and that’s when you want to change it.


We saw that gender identity and gender relations are its culture because they shape daily life. Changes in gender relations are often highly contested, as they have immediate implications for both men and women. This immediacy also means that gender roles—and especially women’s roles as wives and mothers—can be powerful symbols of cultural change or cultural continuity. The political potential of such symbols is evidenced by the fact that religious and political movements have focused on the roles of women. It has served to highlight adherence to religious or cultural values – and resistance to “Western” influences. In such contexts, internal efforts for change become even more complicated because those advocating change can easily be dismissed as traitors, irreligious, or stigmatized by the West. However, religious beliefs and



National identity is also important for women. This is evident in the efforts by various women’s groups to review the interpretation of religious texts and to reaffirm values and traditions that support freedom and dignity for women.


This example reinforces the two points made earlier: that cultural values are constantly evolving rather than fixed, and that various interests intervene in the process. Ideas about the role of women and about gender equality that are held by one person or group are not necessarily held by others (and ideas will differ among women as well as men). A balanced assessment of the potential of gender equality initiatives requires consultation with a range of actors, including those working for equality. The post-Soviet countries provide another example. There the rhetoric of gender equality is linked to Soviet-era propaganda. Those women “free to be women”—freed from the need to be in the labor force—have been referred to by politicians and officials as a benefit of the transition. Women’s organizations have noted that this serves to justify discrimination against women when there are very few jobs for all. Such organizations are struggling to gain recognition from male-dominated political and bureaucratic structures that women want (and need) to participate in the labor market and uphold their human rights.








Developmental initiatives



Development is about change. Development initiatives (by governments, non-governmental organizations or development agencies) are investments in promoting social and economic change. Some development initiatives aim to change the values and practices that shape social relations – for example, consider the investments made in family planning and what this means for family structures. Development models also incorporate cultural values – for example, consider the thief

CERN with the transition to market economies, and support for private property as a cultural value.


Other types of initiatives less clearly related to culture nevertheless have an impact on the social relationships that characterize a culture. For example, consider the potential effects of an improved road network connecting rural and urban areas. New roads allow greater mobility of people and goods. several



Villagers can benefit from better access to markets for agricultural products, health services and schools for their children. Others cannot, for example, produce a product such as pottery, which now has to compete with cheaper and more durable plastic products.

Need Roads can increase rural-urban migration. This can result in more households where men are absent and women take responsibility for farms and families or (depending on the region) women leave the village for employment in urban areas.

Isn’t cultural sensitivity important?


It’s definitely important to be culturally sensitive. Of course, being culturally sensitive is important. But respect for other cultures is not just critical acceptance when culture, tradition or religion is invoked. We will not accept culture or tradition as an argument for discriminating against an ethnic group – rather we will seek opportunities to counteract prejudice and its consequences. With respect to the status of women and issues of gender equality, cultural sensitivity and respect would be best demonstrated by:

(a) Adherence to the values of equality and women’s rights supported by the international community. These are important human rights commitments made by both Canada and partner countries that are undermined by the notion that cultural values take precedence when they do not coincide with human rights norms.

(b) Recognize that there are different views and interests involved on gender relations in any given society. The assumption that cultural values are static ignores the ongoing process of conflict and change in any culture. It also ignores the efforts of women (and men) in that society who are questioning cultural values and working towards equality.

(c) recognition that decisions about which aspects of culture and tradition to protect are not up to outsiders. Attributing cultures a role in protecting against change in gender relations is as much an external attribution as an attribution of change based on our own cultural values. A more respectful approach is to consult with women and equality advocates to find out how they are defining the issues and what they see as possible ways forward.



Strategies that support women’s empowerment can contribute to women’s ability to formulate and advocate for their own vision for their society – which includes interpreting and changing cultural and gender norms. CIDA’s policy on gender equality emphasizes the importance of women’s empowerment for the achievement of gender equality. It provides a definition of empowerment and indicates a role for development. “Empowerment is about people – both women and men – taking control of their lives: setting their own agenda, acquiring skills, building confidence, solving problems and developing self-reliance….


“Outsiders cannot empower women: Only women can empower themselves to make choices or speak up. However, institutions, including international aid agencies, can support processes that build women’s confidence, Can develop their self-reliance and help them set their own agenda.


The UNDP’s 1995 Human Development Report, in making the case for a “generative approach”, highlights the importance of women’s empowerment for social and cultural change. “Generated development models, although aiming to broaden choices for both men and women, should not predetermine how different cultures and different societies exercise these choices. Importantly, both women and men Equal opportunities exist to elect for.”


Although it is often overlooked, gender is an aspect of the social identity of men as well as women. Just as there are cultural norms and expectations about women’s roles, there are cultural norms and expectations for men as leaders, husbands, sons, and lovers that shape their behavior and opportunities. Aspects of gender expectations can have costs and disadvantages for men (the expectation that they will take up arms and defend the nation, for example). However, the overall pattern of gender relations favors men in the distribution of resources, opportunities and power. Men’s privileged position also gives them disproportionate power in setting prevailing values.


To date, the struggle for increasing equality between women and men has been led by women. Recent developments include the formation of males



The Network for Gender Equality and the “White Ribbon” campaign started by men in Canada


Against domestic violence in other countries such as Nicaragua. These are promising signs as the achievement of gender equality will require the participation of women as well as men.


Development agencies are beginning to recognize the importance of including men in gender equality initiatives. In some cases, this is driven by resistance from men when they were not informed about the wider benefits of women-specific initiatives. Other initiatives pursue the more ambitious aim of involving men in promoting equality. Involving men in exploring links between inequality and the well-being of families and communities

Some initiatives related to reproductive health have been particularly innovative.


The question is not whether we interfere with the local culture, but how. For all development initiatives, the challenge is to gain a better understanding of the context and in particular:

(a) identify opportunities for affirmative action in support of gender equality;

(b) be informed about change efforts by governments and civil society organizations in partner countries and work in collaboration with them. These challenges are particularly relevant for initiatives that do not specifically focus on women’s rights and gender equality. Most development resources are directed to areas such as education, health, infrastructure, or to issues such as economic reform, poverty reduction, or capacity development. Given that such initiatives account for most development investment, they will also account for most of the impact on people – and impacts, both intended and unintended, on culture and gender equality.

build on a gender analysis


A gender analysis is essential for all initiatives as it ensures that planning is based on facts and analysis rather than assumptions. Gender analysis has been advocated for more than 20 years because of the conclusion that projects can fail because of a lack of knowledge about basic cultural patterns such as the division of labor.



about the rewards and incentives associated with gender and the division of labor within households. Therefore, gender analysis is a means to enhance the quality and effectiveness of initiatives as well as support gender equality.


A gender analysis should provide information and analysis about the families and communities that will be targeted or affected by an initiative – about activities, needs and priorities, whether and how these differ by gender, and the implications of the proposed initiative . It should identify local and national initiatives for gender equality – efforts by governments and civil society to advance these issues, and how initiatives can complement these efforts. A gender analysis is the basis for planning an initiative that has realistic objectives and activities related to gender equality.





In general terms, “sex” refers to biological differences between males and females, such as genitalia and genetic differences. And therefore, there are physical and physical.


However, there is another category called “intersex”. More generally, the term is used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not fit the usual definitions of female or male. For example, a person may have been born female on the outside but have a mostly male-typical anatomy on the inside. 




A working definition of gender: People are born female or male, but they learn to be girls and boys who develop into women and men. They are taught what are the appropriate behavior and attitudes, roles and activities for them and how they should relate to other people. It is learned behavior that creates gender identity, and determines gender roles.


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

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