Prelims level : Rights Issues Mains level : Welfare schemes for protection of vulnerable sections
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Why in News:

  • Scientists say that Society’s expectations about gender roles alter the human brain at the cellular level.


  • Sex is based on biological factors such as sex chromosomes and reproductive organs, whereas gender has a social component and involves expectations and behaviours based on an individual’s perceived sex. Scientists reviewed previous studies of epigenetics and sexual differentiation in rodents, along with new studies in which gendered experiences among humans have also been associated with changes in the brain.
  • Sex: 
  • The biological difference between men and women, boys and girls – the physical attributes with which we are born.


  • Culturally and socially constructed roles, responsibilities, privileges, relations and expectations of women, men, boys and girls. Gender is not another word for women. Gender is also not another word for sexual difference.


A working definition of Gender:

  • People are born female or male or transgender, but are forced to learn to be girls and boys who grow into women and men. They are taught appropriate behaviour and attitudes according to defined gender roles and activities. This learned behaviour is what makes up gender identity, and determines gender roles.

Gender gap:

  • Differences between men and women in levels of achievement or access. This could for example be access to education or health care and treatment services or differentials in wages paid to women and men. These differentials may result from customary practices, religious biases, social assumption, myths or taboos, among others.

Gender Discrimination:

  • Where one gender is favoured and the other becomes disadvantaged e.g. sex selective abortion. Gender oppression: Where one gender dominates the other unjustly or even cruelly. For instance, domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment.
  • As the worst fall out of disparity and mind blocks in the area of role perception, comes the vice of gender discrimination. The three most prominent facets of sexual discrimination are Societal Perpetration;
  • Domestic Violence and Sexual Harassment at Workplace.
  • There are socially accepted expressions like “boys are boys” and norms supporting dowry, still prevalent in society. They highlight the unfortunate social approval towards sexual discrimination. So far as domestic violence is concerned, even after a decade since the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act was passed in 2005, there is no significant change in the crime rate against women.
  • As per data published by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), dowry death was 0.3% of the total number of crimes, as defined under Indian Penal Code (IPC), in 2013. The figure remains the same in 2014.
  • In fact, crime against women as percentage of total number of crimes committed in India has increased from 11.7% in 2013 to 11.9% in 2014. However, perhaps the most unreported amongst these crimes are the ones amounting to “sexual harassment at workplace”. For one, there was no clear law on the subject before 2013 and for the other, many women used to desist reporting. Even now, it is believed that a good number of them don‘t report incidents of sexual harassment for reasons ranging from love to terror.

Gender bias:

  • An approach that treats boys and girls differently. For instance differential treatment seeking behaviour in case of illness.

Gender Equity:

  • An approach that results in just/ fair treatment of women and men, and recognition and appreciation of both women‘s and men‘s potential. For instance giving bicycles to girls to enable them to travel to a distant school and thereby reduce gender gaps in the drop-out rate.

Gender Mainstreaming:

  • The process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in any area and at all levels. It is a strategy for making the concerns and experiences of women as well as of men an integral part of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres, so that women and men benefit equally, and inequality is not perpetuated. The ultimate goal of mainstreaming is to achieve gender equality.

Gender Neutral:

  • An approach to planning and policy making that assumes that the impact on women, men, girls and boys as if they were part of one homogeneous group. For instance, although me n are usually taller than women, fixing the height of the podium in conference halls on the basis of the height of men.

Gender needs

  • Needs which are related to satisfying basic and material needs of women and men, girls and boys for their day-to- day survival, and which do not change gender patterns. For instance, public provisioning of water inside the home or providing access to creche facilities at the workplace.
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