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Gender and stereotypes

Many of our gender stereotypes are strong because we emphasize gender so much in culture. For example, children learn at a young age that there are distinct expectations for boys and girls. Gender roles refer to the role or behaviours learned by a person as appropriate to their gender and are determined by the dominant cultural norms.

When children do not conform to the appropriate gender role for their culture, they may face negative sanctions such as being criticised, bullied, marginalised or rejected by their peers. A girl who wishes to take karate class instead of dance lessons may be called a “tomboy” and face difficulty gaining acceptance from both male and female peer groups. Boys, especially, are subject to intense ridicule for gender nonconformity.

By the time we are adults, our gender roles are a stable part of our personalities, and we usually hold many gender stereotypes.

This stereotyping means that gender-diverse and trans people around the world are subjected to levels of violence and discrimination that offend the human conscience:

They are often caught in a spiral of exclusion and marginalisation by:

  • being bullied at school
  • rejected by their family
  • pushed out onto the streets
  • denied access to employment
  • at risk of violence, including of killing, beatings, mutilation, rape and other forms of abuse and maltreatment
  • have limited rights to recognition before the law

Trans persons are particularly vulnerable to human rights violations when their name and sex details in official documents do not match their gender identity or expression.

At the root of the acts of violence and discrimination lies the intent to punish based on preconceived notions of what the victim’s gender identity should be, with a binary understanding of what constitutes a male and a female, or the masculine and the feminine. These acts are invariably the manifestation of deeply entrenched stigma and prejudice, irrational hatred and a form of gender-based violence, driven by an intention to punish those seen as defying gender norms.

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