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Posted: February 6th, 2024

The Gender Stereotypes and the Shift of Human Rights

The Gender Stereotypes and the Shift of Human Rights

Gender stereotypes are generalized views or preconceptions about the attributes, characteristics, or roles that are or ought to be possessed by, or performed by, women and men. Gender stereotyping is the practice of applying those stereotypical beliefs to a person based on their membership in the social group of women or men. Gender stereotypes and stereotyping can have harmful effects on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals and groups, especially women and girls. In this blog post, we will explore how gender stereotypes and stereotyping affect human rights, what international human rights law says about them, and how they can be challenged and changed.

How do gender stereotypes/stereotyping harm human rights?

Gender stereotypes and stereotyping can limit the choices, opportunities, and potential of women and men, as well as their access to resources, services, and decision-making. They can also lead to discrimination, violence, and violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. For example:

– Gender stereotypes can affect the right to health by influencing health-seeking behaviors, access to health care, and health outcomes. For instance, women may face barriers to accessing sexual and reproductive health services due to stigma, lack of information, or restrictive laws based on stereotypical views of women’s sexuality. Men may be reluctant to seek help for mental health issues due to the stereotype that men should be strong and self-reliant.
– Gender stereotypes can affect the right to education by shaping the expectations, attitudes, and behaviors of students, teachers, parents, and administrators towards different subjects, careers, and roles. For example, girls may be discouraged from pursuing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields due to the stereotype that these are male domains. Boys may be pressured to conform to masculine norms of aggression and dominance that hinder their academic performance and social skills.
– Gender stereotypes can affect the right to work by creating obstacles or biases in the recruitment, promotion, remuneration, and retention of workers. For example, women may face discrimination in the labor market due to the stereotype that they are less competent, less committed, or more likely to interrupt their careers for family reasons than men. Men may face discrimination in certain occupations or sectors due to the stereotype that they are unsuitable for caring or service-oriented jobs.
– Gender stereotypes can affect the right to political participation and representation by influencing the perceptions, preferences, and behaviors of voters, candidates, parties, media, and institutions. For example, women may face challenges in entering and succeeding in politics due to the stereotype that they are less capable, less credible, or less authoritative than men. Men may face resistance or ridicule for supporting gender equality issues or policies due to the stereotype that they are betraying their gender identity or interests.

These are just some examples of how gender stereotypes and stereotyping can undermine human rights. Gender stereotypes can also intersect with other forms of stereotyping based on race, ethnicity, religion, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, or other factors, resulting in multiple and compounded forms of discrimination and disadvantage for certain groups of women and men.

What does international human rights law say about gender stereotypes/stereotyping?

International human rights law recognizes that gender stereotypes and stereotyping are obstacles to the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all people. Two international human rights treaties contain explicit obligations concerning harmful stereotypes and wrongful stereotyping:

– The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) requires States Parties to take all appropriate measures to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and practices based on the idea of inferiority or superiority of either sex or on stereotyped roles for men and women (Article 5).
– The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) requires States Parties to adopt immediate,


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