Gender Equality Glossary and Thesaurus



Abortion is a termination of pregnancy. It can refer to a spontaneous process (spontaneous abortion) or to a deliberate termination of an unintended pregnancy, or a pregnancy that threatens the life or health of the pregnant woman, including her social and mental well-being (induced abortion).

The conditions under which abortion is legally permitted differ from country to country. In some countries, access is highly restricted; in others, pregnancy termination is available on broad medical and social grounds, such as pregnancy being a result of rape or incest, where serious malformation of the foetus is medically diagnosed, or on request, the latter recognising the women’s free choice in matters related to reproduction.

assisting spouses

Assisting spouses are the spouses of people who are engaged in work usually of a self-employed or independent nature, where the spouse is an important contributor to the work but does not necessarily receive direct remuneration for it, and is often not entitled to social protection benefits.


asylum-seeking women and girls

An asylum-seeking woman or girl is one who has left her country of origin in order to seek international protection. She may have formally applied for status as a refugee without yet having been recognised as such by the applicable national asylum body, or, alternatively, she may not yet have applied for status by submitting her claim.

The term ‘asylum-seeker’ is not defined under any international legal instrument and is subject to definition by national law. Although the granting of refugee status is the prerogative of the state, subject to some exceptions, refugee status is declaratory rather than determinative: that is, persons do not become refugees because of recognition, but they are recognised because they are refugees. Not every woman seeking asylum will ultimately be recognised as a refugee, but every refugee woman is initially an asylum-seeker.

atypical work employment

Atypical work employment (also called 'non-standard' employment) is considered to cover those work arrangements that fall outside the realm of the standard employment relationship, understood as work that is full-time and of indefinite duration, as well as part of a subordinate, but bilateral, employment relationship. Atypical work employment (also known as non-standard work) covers a large and growing variety of forms of work and employment characterised by flexibility and reduced security. These forms include part-time work, casual and seasonal work, job sharing, fixed-term contracts, temporary agency work, home-based work, remote working, self-employment, and the work of unpaid spouses or family members in small family-run enterprises. Certain forms of atypical work lack adequate regulation and thus undermine job security and social protection.

Labour statistics are generally weak in identifying and describing ‘atypical’ forms of employment. Women are more likely than men to be found in such ‘atypical’ work situations, and, as a result, their situation is often underestimated and less well-described than that of men. Furthermore, labour statistics are not always presented in a way that is necessarily useful in terms of identifying differences or similarities between women and men workers.

It is worth bearing in mind that the International Labour Organisation (ILO) is leading work to improve the categorisation of atypical forms of work in labour statistics.




Benchmarking is the establishment of a criterion, standard or reference point against which targets can be established and progress measured.


Benefits are the economic, social, political and psychological returns from the utilisation of resources, including the satisfaction of both practical needs (food, housing, etc.) and strategic interests (education and training, political power, etc.).

best practices for gender equality

The phrase ‘best practices’ refers to the accumulation and application of knowledge about what works and what does not work in terms of promoting gender equality and non-discrimination against women in different situations and contexts. It is both the lessons learned and the continuing process of learning, feedback, reflection and analysis.


Biphobia is the irrational fear of, and aversion to, bisexuality or bisexual persons.



The term ‘bisexual’ refers to women or men who are attracted to both sexes, female and male.

burden of proof

If a person files a legal complaint, it is in principle up to her or him to prove that she/he has been a victim of discrimination (‘burden of proof’). In the area of equal treatment between women and men, Council Directive 97/80/EC of 15 December 1997, based on the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union, shifts the burden of proof between the parties (defendant and complainant). Where persons consider themselves wronged by failure to apply the principle of equal treatment, and where there is a prima facie case of discrimination, it is for the defendant to prove that there has been no contravention of the principle (Judgement of 17 October 1989 in Case C 109/88, Danfoss (ECR, p. I-3199, paragraph 16); Council Directive 97/80/EC of 15 December 1997 on the burden of proof in cases of discrimination based on sex).


capacity building

Capacity building for gender equality refers to building and/or enhancing the knowledge, skills and ability of individuals, institutions, groups and organisations to perform functions, solve problems, and set and achieve gender equality objectives in a sustainable and transformative manner.

See also: gender equality competence development

care economy

The care economy is the part of human activity, both material and social, that is concerned with the process of caring for the present and future labour force, and the human population as a whole, including the domestic provisioning of food, clothing and shelter. Social reproduction is the provisioning of all such needs throughout the economy, regardless of whether it is of a paid or unpaid nature.

care ethics

Care ethics (or ethics of care) expresses moral perspectives that tend to be gendered and are characteristic of class and ethnic social divisions. Structurally, it does not tackle these divisions. In other words, women are called upon to be the responsible actors in domestic and public care work. Care ethics should be reconceptualised via social and global institutions so that they enable and reinforce caring relations among people.

care work

Care work may be very broadly defined as the work of looking after the physical, psychological, emotional and developmental needs of one or more other person(s). Care recipients are generally identified as infants, school-age children, people who are ill, persons with a disability, and elderly people.                                                                            

Care providers typically include public and private health services, state-regulated or public-sector social workers, public or private care-provider agencies, enterprises of employment, voluntary and community organisations, faith-based organisations or networks, and relatives and friends. Different settings and modalities of care work apply to each of these categories.

career breaks

Career breaks are an important mechanism in terms of enabling reconciliation of work, private and family life. Maternity-related career breaks are connected to the following: employment security laws prohibiting dismissal during pregnancy; maternity, parental and paternity leave; a period of more flexible working time after the return to work; and ensuring the right to reinstatement in the same job or an equivalent one with the same pay.

caring masculinity

The concept of caring masculinity is the opposite of hegemonic masculinity. It is based on men taking care-giving roles (as involved fathers) instead of provider roles (as breadwinners).

See also: hegemonic masculinity

child marriage

A child marriage is any legal or customary union between two people where at least one of the parties is below the age of 18. A child marriage is interpreted by the CEDAW and CRC Committees as a form of forced marriage, since children – given their age – inherently lack the ability to give their full, free and informed consent to their marriage or its timing.

According to the human rights standards enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), child marriage is a form of harmful practice. Prohibiting marriage among those under the age of 18 is a guarantee that the responsibilities which marriage entails are not assigned to or imposed on children prematurely and without their consent. As a matter of respecting the child’s evolving capacity and autonomy in making decisions that affect her or his life, the CEDAW and CRC Committees agreed that in exceptional circumstances the marriage of a mature, capable child who is at least 16 years old may be allowed, provided that such a decision is made by a judge, based on legitimate exceptional grounds defined by law and on the evidence of that child’s maturity, without deference to culture and/or tradition.

Child marriage, early marriage and forced marriage are all interrelated but distinct terms. However, they have been combined in every way possible and are used interchangeably without any explicit definitions or at least clarification as to the breadth of the ambiguity surrounding each label. The CEDAW and CRC Committees agreed to use the term ‘child and/or forced marriage’.

See also: forced marriage; early marriage


Childcare is a broad concept covering the provision of public, private, individual or collective services to meet the needs of parents and children. Flexibility in the provision of these services and facilities is a requirement in terms of meeting the particular needs of children of different ages as well as those of their working parents. All workers, irrespective of their sex, should have the possibility of combining paid employment with their responsibilities for children, and the active role of men should be promoted with adequate measures to ensure the equal division of caring responsibilities among women and men.

See also: reconciliation of work, family and private life

civil society

Civil society refers to all forms of social action carried out by individuals or groups who are neither connected to, nor managed by, the state. Civil society includes all organisational structures (civil society organisations) whose members serve the general interest through a democratic process, and who take on the role of mediator between public authorities and citizens. Organisations and groups which champion the promotion of gender equality and the defence and respect of women’s human rights are a vital component of governance, in that they are supposed to hold those in power accountable.

claims to resources

In development economics, the distinction as to whether entitlements (also known as claims) are direct or indirect is particularly important. It highlights the possible dependence of some actors on resource transfers from others or from the state, and the role of policy in changing entitlements. The related distinction between primary and secondary claims is of special importance in contexts where economic reform may be modifying entitlements and transfers, and in so doing producing a differential impact on women and men.


Across European countries, cohabitation can generally be used to describe a living arrangement in which an unmarried couple lives together in a long-term relationship that resembles a marriage.

commercial sexual exploitation

Commercial sexual exploitation refers to the use of boys and girls under the age of 18 in prostitution, pornography or other forms of sexual activity in which a child might engage in order to obtain food, shelter or other basic needs. It can also refer to the use of adults (mostly women) in such situations, into which they are directly or indirectly forced. 

See also: sexual exploitation

compounded stereotypes

A generalised view or preconception about groups that results from the ascription of attributes, characteristics or roles based on one or more grounds.

See also: gender stereotypes

consultative and participatory techniques and tools

All methods that require interpersonal consultations, such as working or steering groups, think tanks, directories, databases and organisational charts, conferences and seminars, or hearings.

See also: stakeholder consultations

crimes committed in the name of so-called honour

Crimes committed in the name of so-called honour are acts of violence that are disproportionately, though not exclusively, committed against girls and women, because family members consider that certain suspected, perceived or actual behaviour will bring dishonour to the family or community.

Such behaviours include entering into sexual relations before marriage, refusing to agree to an arranged marriage, entering into a marriage without parental consent, committing adultery, seeking divorce, dressing in a way that is viewed as unacceptable to the community, working outside the home or generally failing to conform to stereotyped gender roles. Crimes in the name of so-called honour may also be committed against girls and women because they have been victims of sexual violence, such as rape.

These crimes include murder (killing in the name of so-called honour) and are frequently committed by a spouse, a female or male relative or a member of the victim’s community. Rather than being viewed as criminal acts against women, crimes committed in the name of so-called honour are often sanctioned by the community as a means to preserve and/or restore the integrity of its cultural, traditional, customary or religious norms following alleged transgressions.

See also: victim; survivor

cultural violence

Cultural violence refers to aspects of culture and social life − exemplified by religion, ideology, language, art, law and science − that can be used to justify or legitimise direct or structural violence, making direct and structural violence look, or even feel, right − or at least not wrong.


custodial violence against women

Violence against women and girls when they are confined to a location where their rights are controlled. Acts of violence in such locations, including in police cells, retention centres, prisons, social welfare institutions and immigration detention centres, constitute violence perpetrated by the state. Women in detention may be at particular risk of being subjected to violence perpetrated by staff and may have very limited possibilities to report such acts of violence.


date rape

Date rape refers to the non-consensual vaginal, anal or oral penetration of the body of another person where the penetration is of a sexual nature, with any bodily part or with an object, by an acquaintance or dating partner of the rape victim. Date rape also refers to any other non-consensual acts of a sexual nature. Causing another person to engage in non-consensual acts of a sexual nature with a third person is also considered as date rape.

This type of rape is also called acquaintance rape.

Consent refers to voluntary agreement as the result of a person’s free will.

See also: dating violence against women; sexual violence

dating violence

Dating violence is a type of intimate partner violence. It occurs between two people in a close relationship. The nature of dating violence can be physical, emotional, or sexual (including stalking). Dating violence can take place in person or electronically, such as repeated texting or posting sexual pictures of a partner online. 

Dating violence, and more specifically teen dating violence, is an emerging area of study that is similar in many respects to adult intimate partner violence. Its emergence partly reflects an evolution in how young adults and teens describe their dating partners.

See also: date rape, intimate partner violence

democratic deficit

In general, the democratic deficit refers to the limited legitimacy of democracy. Considered from a gender perspective, it can be defined as the impact of an inadequate gender balance, i.e. of overrepresentation of men and underrepresentation of women, on the legitimacy of democracy.

dependant care

Provision of care for those who are young, ill, elderly or less able, or deprived of abilities to care for themselves, and who are dependent on the care provided by another person.

See also: childcare; family care

derived rights

Derived rights, notably social security benefits or residence, are the rights that accrue to an individual but which originate from and depend on her or his relationship with another person, usually a relationship of parenthood, marriage or cohabitation.

Derived rights can be a crucial issue in the case of separation or divorce: to this end, some countries have introduced provisions on the splitting of pension rights. Survivors’ pensions are also an important resource for women, who have a higher life expectancy than men, and who may have given up their job to provide care and are therefore unable to qualify for pensions in their own right.

See also: individual rights

desegregation of the labour market

Policies aiming to reduce or eliminate gender segregation (vertical and/or horizontal) in the labour market.

See also: vertical segregation; horizontal segregation

dignity at work

The right of all employees to be treated with dignity and respect and in particular to enjoy a safe working environment that is free from sexual harassment, harassment and any other act of gender-based violence.

See also: sexual harassment

direct discrimination

Direct discrimination occurs where one person is treated less favourably on grounds such as sex and gender, age, nationality, race, ethnicity, religion or belief, health, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity, than another person is, has been or would be treated in a comparable situation. Less favourable treatment of a woman on grounds of pregnancy or maternity leave is direct discrimination against women.

Note: Though this definition suggests that a person who is treated less favourably should be compared to another person who is in a comparable situation, European case law (made up of judgments by the Court of Justice of the European Union) indicates that when a person has been put at a disadvantage for being a woman or man, this constitutes discrimination and the notion of a comparable situation is not required.

See also: indirect discrimination

direct violence

Direct violence against women focuses on all acts of gender-based violence that result in, or are likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm to, or suffering of, women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.

See also: violence against women; indirect violence

disadvantaged groups

Disadvantaged groups are groups of persons that experience a higher risk of poverty, social exclusion, discrimination and violence than the general population. Disadvantaged groups include, but are not limited to, ethnic minorities, migrants, people with disabilities, isolated elderly people and children. Their vulnerability to discrimination and marginalisation is a consequence of social, cultural, economic and political conditions and not a quality inherent to certain groups of persons. Women and girls belonging to these groups are often subjected to multiple discrimination and gender-based violence. However, they have limited access to protection, support and redress when their rights are violated.

Recent scholarship on stereotypical gender roles and attitudes, and their discriminatory impact on women, emphasises that women are not vulnerable by nature, but suffer from imposed disadvantage.

See also: vulnerable groups; intersectional discrimination; multiple discrimination

discrimination against women

Discrimination against women refers to any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex and gender that has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, and on a basis of equality between women and men, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field. It can occur both through acts that result in, or have the effect of, women being denied the exercise of a right because of a lack of recognition of pre-existing gender-based disadvantage and inequality that women face (non-intended or indirect discrimination), and through the omissions of acts, i.e. the failure to take necessary legislative measures to ensure the full realisation of women’s rights, the failure to adopt and implement national policies aimed at achieving gender equality, and the failure to enforce relevant laws.

Discrimination can stem from both law (de jure discrimination) or from practice (de facto discrimination). The CEDAW Convention recognises and addresses both forms of discrimination, whether contained in laws, policies, procedures or practice.

See also: sex- and gender-based discrimination


The differences in the values, attitudes, cultural perspective, beliefs, ethnic background, sexual orientation, gender identity, skills, knowledge and life experiences of each individual in any group of people.

domestic division of labour

The division of care work and household responsibilities between women and men.

See also: domestic responsibilities

domestic responsibilities

Tasks performed inside a household in order to ensure that the basic needs of its members are met, such as cooking, cleaning, and taking care of children or older adults and other dependent family members. Traditionally, a person is not paid for performing these tasks, and power or status is not necessarily accorded because of these responsibilities. In many societies, the person responsible for the household is in a subordinate position within it, and, most often, women and girls are responsible for all household tasks, even if they work outside the home.

See also: domestic division of labour

domestic violence

All acts of physical, sexual, psychological or economic violence that occur within the family or domestic unit, irrespective of biological or legal family ties, or between former or current spouses or partners, whether or not the perpetrator shares or has shared the same residence as the victim.

See also: intimate partner violence; victim; survivor

double standards

In relation to gender equality, the term ‘double standards’ refers to men’s power to define the content of formal and informal behavioural cultures, which means that the criteria or standards used to evaluate and regulate women often differ from those for men, benefiting the latter.

dual approach to gender equality

The dual approach refers to complementarity between gender mainstreaming and specific gender equality policies and measures, including positive measures. It is also referred to as the twin-track strategy.

due diligence

Due diligence is the principle of international law that mandates states to exercise due diligence in preventing and investigating violations of human rights, providing protection to victims, punishing perpetrators and compensating the victim for human rights violations. The obligation extends to not only preventing human rights abuses by the state and its agents, but also to preventing those by the private sector or, most significantly for women, by private citizens.

In the past, states have tended to adopt a passive attitude when confronted with cases of violations of women’s rights by private actors. The legal foundation requiring ‘due diligence’ is thus solidly anchored in four decades of treaties, conventions and international case law.


early marriage

Early marriage has been interpreted, on separate occasions, as synonymous with child marriage or as more inclusive than child marriage, e.g. including the marriage of individuals whose level of physical, emotional, sexual and psychosocial development makes them unable to freely and fully consent to marriage. Many United Nations resolutions and reports use ‘early marriage’ and ‘child marriage’ interchangeably, without any noticeable distinction. Others use the phrase ‘early marriage, including child marriage’, implying that early marriage encompasses child marriage but also includes situations that do not qualify as child marriage, such as marriages in which one or both spouses are below the age of 18 but have attained majority under state laws.

See: child marriage; forced marriage

economic abuse

Economic abuse refers to causing or attempting to cause an individual to become financially dependent on another person, by obstructing her or his access to, or control over, resources and/or independent economic activity.

See also: economic violence

economic violence

Economic violence refers to acts of control and monitoring of the behaviour of an individual in terms of the use and distribution of money, and the constant threat of denying economic resources. The control mechanisms may also include controlling the victim’s access to healthcare services, employment, etc.

elder abuse

A single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust and which causes harm or distress to an older person. Elder abuse can take various forms, such as physical, psychological, emotional, sexual or financial abuse. It can also be the result of intentional or unintentional neglect.

emancipation of women

The process, strategy and myriad efforts by which women have been striving to liberate themselves from the authority and control of men and traditional power structures, as well as to secure equal rights for women, remove gender discrimination from laws, institutions and behavioural patterns, and set legal standards that shall promote their full equality with men.

emergency contraception

Emergency contraception, or post-coital contraception, sometimes called the ‘morning-after pill’, refers to methods of contraception that can be used to prevent pregnancy in the first few days after intercourse. It is intended for emergency use following unprotected intercourse, contraceptive failure or misuse (such as forgotten pills or torn condoms), rape or coerced sex. Emergency contraception is effective only in the first few days following intercourse, before the ovum is released from the ovary and before the sperm fertilises the ovum. Emergency contraceptive pills cannot interrupt an established pregnancy or harm a developing embryo.

emotional abuse

Emotional abuse refers to belittling, humiliating or undermining an individual’s sense of self-worth/self-esteem (e.g. constant criticism, verbal insults, name-calling, etc.).

See also: psychological violence

empowerment of women

Empowerment of women is the process by which women gain power and control over their own lives and acquire the ability to make strategic choices. Women’s empowerment has five components: women’s sense of self-worth; their right to have and to determine choices; their right to have access to opportunities and resources; their right to have power to control their own lives, both within and outside the home; and their ability to influence the direction of social change to create a more just social and economic order, nationally and internationally.

In this context, education, training, awareness raising, building self-confidence, expansion of choices, increased access to and control over resources, and actions to transform the structures and institutions that reinforce and perpetuate gender discrimination and inequality are important tools for empowering women and girls to claim their rights.


equal access to justice for women and men

Equal access to justice means the right of individuals and groups to obtain a quick, effective and fair response to protect their rights, prevent or solve disputes and control the abuse of power through a transparent and efficient process, in which mechanisms are available, affordable and accountable, and conducted on the basis of equality. States have obligations under international law to ensure access to justice. Women’s access to justice is a legal and constitutional framework that guarantees women’s rights, but without education, awareness of rights and decision-making power, women are often unable to claim their rights, obtain legal aid or go to court.

In a procedural sense, access to justice means providing those seeking to secure their vested rights with the following: appropriate and understandable information about the scope of these rights and how to access them; a readily accessible infrastructure − in both the formal and practical sense − for acquiring this information and then acting upon it; the quality of the functioning of this infrastructure in practice; and the confidence in the utility and integrity of the infrastructure. To avoid secondary victimisation and stigmatisation of women during legal proceedings, a gender-sensitive approach is required.

A substantive aspect of justice focuses on ensuring that legal and judicial outcomes are themselves ‘just and equitable’.

See also: gender-sensitive mediation; legal aid

equal access to resources for women and men

Equal access to resources implies that women are able to have equal access to, use of and benefit from all specific resources (material, financial, human, social, political, etc.).

equal opportunities for women and men

This concept indicates the absence of barriers to economic, political and social participation on grounds of sex and gender. Such barriers are often indirect, difficult to discern and caused and maintained by structural phenomena and social representations that have proved particularly resistant to change. Equal opportunities as one of a set of gender equality objectives is founded on the rationale that a whole range of strategies, actions and measures are necessary to redress deep-rooted and persistent inequalities.

See also: gender equality

equal pay for work of equal value

Equal pay for work to which equal value is attributed, without discrimination on grounds of sex or marital status, with regard to all aspects of pay and conditions of remuneration. Because pay structures and job classification systems can be biased, the jobs done by most women tend to be classified at lower levels.

See also: gender pay gap

equal sharing of domestic responsibilities

Equal sharing of domestic responsibilities is both a requirement in terms of achieving substantive gender equality and a goal in itself. It refers to women and men equally sharing care tasks in the family as well as tasks relating to all aspects of household work.

See also: substantive gender equality

equal treatment of women and men

The principle of equal treatment means that there shall be no direct or indirect discrimination based on sex and gender, including less favourable treatment of women for reasons of pregnancy and maternity. More favourable provisions concerning the protection of women as regards pregnancy and maternity, and positive measures that aim to achieve substantive gender equality, are not contrary to the principle of equal treatment.

See also: direct discrimination; indirect discrimination

equality bodies

Bodies mandated to promote, analyse, monitor and support equal treatment in the national context. These bodies may form part of agencies with responsibilities at the national level for defending human rights or safeguarding individual rights. Equality bodies have the competence to (a) provide independent assistance to victims of discrimination in pursuing their complaints of discrimination, (b) conduct independent surveys concerning discrimination and publish independent reports, and (c) make recommendations on any issue relating to such discrimination. They may have a relatively specific mandate related to discrimination on the grounds of sex and gender, or a broader mandate to counteract discrimination across a range of grounds, including age, disability, sex and gender, race or ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation or gender identity.

equality dimension

The aspect of any issue which relates to equality, such as sex, gender, age, race, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity. The integration and assessment of these dimensions is of particular importance in analysing and assessing policies, programmes and measures for achieving equality.

See also: gender dimension

equality of outcome

The equality of outcome approach is sometimes also referred to as ‘equality of results’ and ‘substantive equality’. It refers to the achievement of equality in the broader, more results-oriented, redistributive sense. Equality of outcome is based on the insight that equality of opportunity and equal treatment may not be enough to redress the historical oppression and disadvantage of women. In some cases, equal opportunities can actually have a negative impact on women’s well-being, if women expend time and energy to take advantage of them with no result.

In order to ensure that development interventions result in equality of outcome for women and men, it is necessary to design them on the basis of gender analysis. ‘Equal’ treatment therefore does not mean ‘the same’ treatment, but implies that persons who are in situations which are alike should be treated alike, and that persons who are in different circumstances should be treated differently.

Equality of outcome or results requires the creation of an enabling social environment by addressing the ideology and cultural constructs that create hierarchies within gender relations. Positive measures have been proved as a necessary measure to guarantee equality of outcome.

See also: substantive gender equality


family care

Family care is a broad concept covering the provision of public, private, individual or collective services to meet the needs of parents and children or members of the immediate family. The flexibility of these services and facilities is required in order to meet the particular needs of children of different ages and of other family members requiring care, as well as of their working parents or other family members. All workers, irrespective of their sex, should have the possibility of combining paid employment with their responsibilities for children and other family members, and the active role of men should be promoted with adequate measures to ensure the equal division of caring responsibilities among women and men.

See also: reconciliation of work, family and private life

family leave

A right to leave for family reasons, which may or may not be shared between the parents.

family planning

Services or programmes aiming to ensure that couples and individuals are able to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children, that they have the information and means to do so, that informed choices are made, and that a full range of safe and effective methods are made available.

Family planning programmes often offer contraceptives to prevent fertility and advocate child-spacing methods to help protect both mothers’ and infants’ health. Family planning programmes must be based on the principle of informed free choice.

family responsibilities

Family responsibilities cover the care of, and support for, dependent children and other members of the immediate family who need help.

Women continue to shoulder a disproportionate share of the burden when it comes to raising children and taking care of other dependants. This fact impacts their employment, from taking on leadership roles through to retirement. It also restricts their entering, participating in or advancing in a broad range of public, political or cultural areas.

family violence

Family violence and domestic violence are often used interchangeably without any specific differences in their definitions. However, in many European countries domestic violence is translated in their national languages and defined in their laws as family violence. This fact may make protection and support to women victims of domestic violence dependent on the definition of family, which may not recognise all the diverse forms of families.

See: domestic violence; victim; survivor

family worker

A family member working in a family business such as a farm, shop, small business or professional practice, frequently a wife, daughter or son.



The term ‘female’ refers to biologically based references to the sex of a woman.

The word ‘female’ derives from the Latin femella, which is a diminutive of femina or woman. It is often mistakenly assumed to have been derived from ‘male’, a word that comes through Old French from the Latin masculus, which is a diminutive of mas (male, masculine).

female circumcision

Broadly speaking, this covers harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes. During the first years in which this form of practice harmful to women and girls was discussed outside practising groups, it was generally referred to as ‘female circumcision’. This term, however, draws a parallel with male circumcision and, as a result, creates confusion between these two distinct practices. It is thus not recommended.

See: female genital mutilation

female genital cutting

From the late 1990s the term ‘female genital cutting’ was increasingly used, both in research and by some agencies. The preference for this term was partly due to dissatisfaction with the negative association attached to the term ‘mutilation’, and some evidence that the use of that word was estranging practising communities and perhaps hindering the process of social change for the elimination of female genital mutilation. However, to capture the significance of the term ‘mutilation’ and to give weight to the severity of this phenomenon at the policy level, while, at the same time, using less judgemental terminology for practising communities, the expression ‘female genital mutilation/cutting’ is used by Unicef and UNFPA.

See: female genital mutilation

female genital mutilation

Female genital mutilation, also referred to as female circumcision or female genital cutting, is the practice of partially or wholly removing the external female genitalia or otherwise injuring the female genital organs for non-medical or non-health reasons. The practice is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who often play other central roles in communities, such as attending childbirths. Increasingly, however, female genital mutilation is being performed by healthcare providers.

Female genital mutilation is a harmful practice that constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women and is internationally recognised as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. Female genital mutilation is performed in every region of the world and, within some cultures, is a requirement for marriage and believed to be an effective method to control women’s and girls’ sexuality. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.

female infanticide

Female infanticide is the intentional killing of a girl child due to the strong partiality for boys over girls by parents and communities. This type of preference for sons often results in the neglect of the basic rights of girls, including their health, nutrition and education and, on a more extreme level, may lead to female infanticide, which may occur deliberately or through forms of neglect, such as starvation.

female-headed households

A household in which an adult female is the sole or main income producer and decision-maker. In most countries, women are not usually considered as heads of households unless no adult male is living permanently in the household. The assumption that the head of a household is always an adult man, even if a woman’s economic contribution to the household’s maintenance is the same or greater than that of a man, is a form of gender bias. In developing countries, there is a general trend of more and more women being the primary source of economic support for their families.


The term femicide means the killing of women and girls on account of their gender, perpetrated or tolerated by both private and public actors. It covers, inter alia, the murder of a woman as a result of intimate partner violence, the torture and misogynistic slaying of women, the killing of women and girls in the name of so-called honour and other harmful-practice-related killings, the targeted killing of women and girls in the context of armed conflict, and cases of femicide connected with gangs, organised crime, drug dealers and trafficking in women and girls.

The term ‘femicide’ (femicidio) was particularly embraced in Latin America as a useful tool in response to an alarming escalation of very violent murders of women and girls. In parallel, the word feminicidio was introduced in order to capture the element of impunity and institutional violence, owing to a lack of accountability and adequate response on the part of the state when such killings occur. This term is used when state accountability is at stake.


The different notions of what it means to be a woman, including patterns of conduct linked to a women’s assumed place in a given set of gender roles and relations. It involves questioning the values and norms that traditionally apply to women’s behaviour in a given society, identifying and addressing issues connected to women’s and girls’ subordination as well as related discriminatory gender stereotypes that sustain gender inequality.

See also: masculinities

feminisation of migration

The trend towards an increasing proportion of women amongst international migrant workers. The feminisation of labour migration has occurred over the last few decades for three main reasons. First, the demand for labour, especially in more developed countries, is becoming increasingly gender-selective in favour of jobs typically filled by women, for example in services, healthcare, and entertainment, and especially as a result of the global care crisis. Second, changing gender relations in some countries of origin mean that women have more independence to work and migrate in greater numbers than was previously the case. Third, there has been a growth in the migration of women for domestic work, as well as in organised migration for marriage and the trafficking of women into the sex industry.

feminisation of poverty

The increasing incidence and prevalence of poverty among women compared to men, as a result of structural discrimination that affects women’s lives and is reflected in lower salaries, lower pensions, fewer benefits, etc.


A political stance and commitment to change the political position of women and promote gender equality, based on the thesis that women are subjugated because of their gendered body, i.e. sex. All feminisms agree that women are in the subordinated position in relation to men. Besides three waves of feminism and post-feminism, there are several feminist currents and orientations, e.g. Marxist feminists, liberal feminists, cyber feminists, lesbian feminists, radical feminism, feminism & psychoanalysis, etc.

Contemporary feminisms’ main focus is either a re-evaluation and reconceptualisation of women, their positions and roles, or a deconstruction of covert forms of gender discrimination and exclusion.

See also: emancipation of women

feminist studies

Studies that aim mainly to provide a scholarly understanding of women’s and girl’s situations, roles and options in societies and cultures. The starting point of feminist studies was the argumentation about the oppression of women, which was perceived in all areas and at all levels of public and private life, as well as the awareness of their invisibility in history and culture. Feminist studies require a multi-sectoral approach in that they cover all areas of knowledge and combine theoretical and methodological aspects in their research on gendered phenomena, and therefore very often have not only an academic but also a political character.

See also: women’s studies

flexibility of working time arrangements

The organisation of working time, part-time work, overtime and night work in a flexible way. Formulas of working time offer a range of possibilities in relation to the number of hours worked and the arrangements of rosters, shifts or work schedules by day, week, month or year.

Shift work, unusual hours and overtime can be seen as examples of employer-centred flexible working time arrangements; conversely, leave schemes for family matters e.g. the possibility of varying the start and/or end of the working day and the possibility of organising working time in order to take whole days off for family reasons, without using holidays, are examples of employee-centred working time arrangements, or arrangements to support work–family balance.

Working time flexibility can be rated as contributing to gender equality because it helps individuals to maintain work–life balance. However, it also brings disadvantages, such as the concentration of women in low-paid, part-time work, with little or no training or career opportunities available.

forced abortion

Forced abortion is the intentional termination of pregnancy without the prior and informed consent of the woman. The termination of pregnancy covers any of the various procedures that result in the expulsion of all the products of conception. This covers any abortion that is performed without a fully informed decision taken by the victim. It is a form of harmful practice usually performed on adolescent girls and women who are in a situation of pronounced vulnerability or marginalisation. These girls and women may encounter significant barriers to realising their rights to decide freely on matters affecting their lives, including the right to establish relationships and to decide whether, when, and with whom to have a family.

See also: victim; survivor

forced marriage

Forced marriage refers to the intentional conduct of forcing an adult or child to enter into a marriage. It is a marriage lacking the personal expression of the full, informed and free consent of one or both of the parties. Such marriage includes, inter alia, child marriage; arranged marriage officiated without the consent of the interested parties; marriages contracted in order to circumvent immigration rules, i.e. without any genuine marital intent; forced marriages used by armed groups during conflict or used as a means for a girl to escape post-conflict poverty; and marriage in which one of the parties is not permitted to leave or end it. Forced marriage, in its most extreme form, can involve threatening behaviour, abduction, imprisonment, physical violence, rape and, in some cases, murder.

Forced marriage is a form of violence against women and girls and a harmful practice that often results in women and girls lacking personal and economic autonomy, in attempts to flee, or in self-immolation or suicide to avoid or escape the marriage. The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence also criminalises the act of luring a person abroad with the intention of forcing that person against her or his will into a marriage abroad.

See also: child marriage; early marriage

forced pregnancy

Forced pregnancy means the unlawful confinement of a woman who has been forcibly impregnated, with the intent of affecting the ethnic composition of any population or carrying out other grave violations of international law. Forced pregnancy is defined as a crime against humanity and a war crime by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and is equated with torture.

forced prostitution

Forced prostitution is a form of slavery incompatible with human dignity and fundamental human rights. It is intrinsically linked to gender inequality in society and has an impact on the status of women and men and the perception of their mutual relations and sexuality.

forced sterilisation

Forced sterilisation of women refers to the use of a procedure to control the reproductive behaviour of a woman or a particular group of women. It involves surgery which has the purpose or effect of terminating a woman’s capacity to naturally reproduce without her prior and informed consent or understanding of the procedure and its consequences. Forced sterilisation constitutes violence against women and is a form of harmful practice that negatively affects women’s physical and mental health and violates their right to reproductive autonomy.

formal gender equality

Formal gender equality, also referred to as de jure gender equality, means that the constitution and/or domestic law ensures the principles of equality of women and men, equal recognition and the enjoyment and exercise of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as measures providing for equal treatment of, and equal opportunities for, women and men in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil, domestic or any other field.

See also: substantive gender equality



Gender refers to the social attributes and opportunities associated with being female and male and to the relationships between women and men and girls and boys, as well as to the relations between women and those between men. These attributes, opportunities and relationships are socially constructed and are learned through socialisation processes. They are context- and time-specific, and changeable. Gender determines what is expected, allowed and valued in a women or a man in a given context. In most societies, there are differences and inequalities between women and men in responsibilities assigned, activities undertaken, access to and control over resources, as well as decision-making opportunities. Gender is part of the broader sociocultural context. Other important criteria for sociocultural analysis include class, race, poverty level, ethnic group and age.

Gender-based assumptions and expectations generally place women at a disadvantage with respect to the substantive enjoyment of rights, such as freedom to act and to be recognised as autonomous, fully capable adults, to participate fully in economic, social and political development, and to make decisions concerning their circumstances and conditions.

Gender is also an important term to understand in the context of gender identity.

See also: gender(s)

gender analysis

Gender analysis is a critical examination of how differences in gender roles, activities, needs, opportunities and rights/entitlements affect women, men, girls and boys in a given policy area, situation or context. Gender analysis examines the relationships between women and men and the constraints they face relative to each other in achieving gender equality in a given policy area, situation or context. Gender analysis may be conducted on the basis of qualitative information and methods and/or based on quantitative information provided by gender statistics.United Nations Statistics Division – UNSD. Global Gender Statistics Programme. Available at:

See also: gender dimension

gender and development

The gender and development (GAD) approach focuses on the socially constructed basis of differences and unequal relations between women and men. It emphasises the need to challenge existing gender roles and relations and recognises women’s and men’s contribution to development.

See also: women in development (WID)

gender audit

A gender audit is the assessment of the extent to which gender equality is effectively institutionalised in policies, programmes, organisational structures and proceedings (including decision-making processes), and in the corresponding budgets.

A gender audit considers, normally in a participatory manner, whether internal practices and related support systems for gender mainstreaming are effective and reinforce each other, and whether they are being followed. It establishes a baseline, identifies critical gaps and challenges, and recommends ways of addressing them, suggesting possible improvements and innovations. It also documents good practices towards the achievement of gender equality.

A gender audit enhances the collective capacity of the organisation to examine its activities from a gender perspective and identify strengths and weaknesses in promoting gender equality issues.

See also: participatory gender audit

gender awareness

Gender awareness is the ability to view society from the perspective of gender roles and understand how this has affected women’s needs in comparison to the needs of men.

See also: gender sensitivity

gender awareness raising

The process that aims at showing how existing values and norms influence our picture of reality, perpetuate stereotypes and support mechanisms (re)producing inequality. It challenges values and gender norms by explaining how they influence and limit opinions taken into consideration and decision-making. In addition, awareness raising aims at stimulating a general sensitivity to gender issues.

gender balance

Gender balance is commonly used in reference to human resources and equal participation of women and men in all areas of work, projects or programmes.

In a scenario of gender equality, women and men are expected to participate proportionally to their share of the population. In many areas, however, women participate less than what would be expected based on the sex distribution in the population (underrepresentation of women), while men participate more than expected (overrepresentation of men).

See also: gender-balanced participation

gender bias

Prejudiced actions or thoughts based on the gender-based perception that women are not equal to men in rights and dignity.

gender bias

Prejudiced actions or thoughts based on the gender-based perception that women are not equal to men in rights and dignity.

gender blindness

Gender blindness is the failure to recognise that the roles and responsibilities of women/girls and men/boys are ascribed to, or imposed upon, them in specific social, cultural, economic and political contexts.

Gender-blind projects, programmes, policies and attitudes do not take into account these different roles and diverse needs. They therefore maintain status quo and will not help transform the unequal structure of gender relations.

See also: gender-neutral; gender-sensitive

gender budgeting

Gender budgeting is the application of gender mainstreaming in the budgetary process. It entails a gender-based assessment of budgets, incorporating a gender perspective at all levels of the budgetary process, and restructuring revenues and expenditures in order to promote gender equality.

See also: gender mainstreaming

gender contract

A set of implicit and explicit rules governing gender relations, and which allocate different work, value, responsibilities and obligations to women and men, and are maintained on three levels: cultural superstructure (the norms and values of society); institutions (family welfare, education and employment systems, etc.); and socialisation processes, notably in the family.

gender dimension

Considering the gender dimension implies considering the ways in which the situation and needs of, and challenges facing, women and men (and girls and boys) differ, with a view to eliminating inequalities and avoiding their perpetuation, as well as to promoting gender equality within a particular policy, programme or procedure. The gender dimension is sometimes referred to as the ‘gender perspective’.

See also: gender perspective

gender discrimination

Gender discrimination is defined as ‘Any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on the basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field’ (United Nations (1979). Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women – Article 1).

Discrimination can stem from law (de jure) or from practice (de facto). The CEDAW Convention recognises and addresses both forms of discrimination, whether contained in laws, policies, procedures or practice.

See also: discrimination against women; sex and gender-based discrimination

gender disparities

The differences in women’s and men’s access to resources, status and well-being, which usually favour men and are often institutionalised through law, justice and social norms.

gender division of labour

The gender division of labour refers to the allocation of different jobs or types of work to women and men. In feminist economics, the institutional rules, norms and practices that govern the allocation of tasks between women and men and girls and boys also constitute the gender division of labour, which is seen as variable over time and space and constantly under negotiation. The most prevalent form is the division of paid and unpaid work between women and men in private and public life.

gender dynamics

Gender dynamics refers to the relationships and interactions between and among girls, boys, women and men. Gender dynamics are informed by sociocultural ideas about gender and the power relationships that define them. Depending upon how they are manifested, gender dynamics can reinforce or challenge existing norms.

gender education

A necessary part of curricula at all levels of the education system, which would enable both girls and boys, women and men to understand how constructions of masculinities and femininities and models for assigning social roles – which shape our societies – influence their lives, relationships, life choices, career trajectories, etc.

The Council of Europe recommends reviewing all aspects of educational systems, in order for them to promote gender equality.

gender empowerment measures (GEM)

GEM refers to a ‘bottom-up’ process of awareness and capacity building leading to greater participation in transforming gender power relations through individuals or groups developing awareness of women’s subordination and building their capacity to challenge it.

gender equality

Gender equality refers to the equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities of women and men and girls and boys. Equality does not mean that women and men will become the same but that women’s and men’s rights, responsibilities and opportunities will not depend on whether they are born female or male. Gender equality implies that the interests, needs and priorities of both women and men are taken into consideration, thereby recognising the diversity of different groups of women and men. Gender equality is not a women’s issue but should concern and fully engage men as well as women. Equality between women and men is seen both as a human rights issue and as a precondition for, and indicator of, sustainable people-centred development.

See also: gender equity

gender equality bodies

Gender equality bodies are national independent bodies for the promotion of equal treatment of women and men, and are responsible for providing independent assistance to victims of alleged sex- and gender-based discrimination, conducting independent surveys concerning discrimination, publishing independent reports and making recommendations on any issue relating to such discrimination. Their mandate may also include other functions, such as awareness raising, training and capacity-building activities.

The term ‘gender equality bodies’ is sometimes used as a generic term for overarching institutional gender equality mechanisms that may include such gender equality bodies as part of their structure.

See also: institutional mechanisms for gender equality

gender equality competence

Gender equality competence refers to the skills, attributes and behaviours that people need in order to mainstream gender concerns effectively into policies and plans and help build gender equality. It implies theoretical and practical knowledge of the various tools that can be used for this process. It requires recognition of the fact that no political or organisational action is gender-neutral and that women and men are affected by policies in different ways.

gender equality competence development

Gender equality training is a broad concept that encompasses any educational tool or process that aims to make policymakers and other actors in the EU and Member States more aware of gender equality issues, build their gender competence and enable them to promote gender equality goals in their work at all levels. Gender equality training has been understood to cover a wide range of different educational tools and processes: face-to-face training events and courses of study; staff induction; online modules; guidance materials and related resources; consultancy arrangements; and networks for sharing expertise.

See also: gender equality competence development

gender equality competence development

Gender equality competence development combines a series of activities that aim at strengthening people’s skills and knowledge on a certain matter, in this case gender equality. A variety of activities can be organised to develop gender competences, such as awareness-raising initiatives, training and coaching. Competence development may occur in several stages of the policy cycle. Besides enhancing people’s skills, awareness and knowledge, it may also have a positive impact on their interest and commitment to gender equality.

Competence development can include a wide range of different educational tools and processes such as: face-to-face training events and courses of study; staff induction; online modules; guidance materials and compendia of resources; consultancy arrangements; and networks for sharing expertise.


Gender Equality Index for the European Union

A unique measurement tool that synthesises the complexity of gender equality as a multidimensional concept into a user-friendly and easily interpretable measure. It is formed by combining gender indicators into a single summary measure using a conceptual framework. It is the only index that gives a comprehensive map of gender gaps in the EU and across Member States, based on the EU policy framework. It was developed by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE).

gender equality training

Gender equality training is a broad concept that encompasses any educational tool or process that aims to make policymakers and other actors in the EU and Member States more aware of gender equality issues, build their gender competence and enable them to promote gender equality goals in their work at all levels. Gender equality training has been understood to cover a wide range of different educational tools and processes: face-to-face training events and courses of study; staff induction; online modules; guidance materials and related resources; consultancy arrangements; and networks for sharing expertise.


gender equity

Though often used interchangeably, equality and equity are two very distinct concepts. Gender equity entails the provision of fairness and justice in the distribution of benefits and responsibilities between women and men. The concept recognises that women and men have different needs and power and that these differences should be identified and addressed in a manner that rectifies the imbalances between the sexes. This may include equal treatment, or treatment that is different but considered equivalent in terms of rights, benefits, obligations and opportunities.

While international human rights treaties refer to ‘equality’, in other sectors the term ‘equity’ is often used. The term ‘gender equity’ has sometimes been used in a way that perpetuates stereotypes about women’s role in society, suggesting that women should be treated ‘fairly’ in accordance with the roles that they carry out. This understanding risks perpetuating unequal gender relations and solidifying gender stereotypes that are detrimental to women.

Therefore the term should be used with caution to ensure it is not masking a reluctance to speak more openly about discrimination and inequality.

See also: gender equality

gender evaluation

When evaluation is applied as a method of gender mainstreaming, it integrates gender equality concerns into the evaluation objectives but also into the evaluation methodology, approaches and use. As part of the programme-cycle approach it contributes to evidence-based policymaking, and when it comes to gender mainstreaming, evaluation is one of the policy processes through which the gender perspective is integrated and mainstreamed across sectors.

See also: gender mainstreaming, gender-sensitive monitoring and evaluation

gender expression

Gender expression refers to people’s manifestation of their gender identity, and the one that is perceived by others. Typically, people seek to make their gender expression or presentation match their gender identity/identities, irrespective of the sex that they were assigned at birth.

gender gap

The gap in any area between women and men in terms of their levels of participation, access, rights, remuneration or benefits.

See also: gender pay gap

gender identity

Gender identity refers to each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body (which may involve, if freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance or function by medical, surgical or other means) and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech and mannerisms.

gender impact assessment

A policy tool for the screening of a given policy proposal, in order to detect and assess its differential impact or effects on women and men, so that these imbalances can be redressed before the proposal is endorsed. An analysis from a gender perspective helps to indicate whether the needs of women and men are equally taken into account and served by a given proposal. It enables policymakers to develop policies with an understanding of the socioeconomic reality of women and men and allows for the development of policies that take (gender) differences into account. Gender impact assessment can be applied to legislation, policy plans, policy programmes, budgets, concrete actions, bills and reports or calls for research. Gender impact assessment methods do not have to be applied exclusively to policy in the making; they can also be applied to existing policies. They can be used in the administration as well as by external actors; in both cases, they require a considerable amount of knowledge of gender issues. The advantage of these tools lies in the fact that they draw a very accurate picture of the effects of a given policy.

Gender Index

The newly constructed GDI is a direct measure of gender gaps in human development achievements in three basic areas of human development: health, education, and command over economic resources.

gender indicators

Gender indicators are a useful tool in monitoring gender differences, gender-related changes over time and progress towards gender equality goals. In general, indicators are statistics with a reference point (a norm or a benchmark), against which value judgments can be made. Indicators have a normative nature, in the sense that a change from the reference point in a particular direction can be interpreted as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. In the case of gender statistics, the status of women in a particular country is usually evaluated by reference to (comparison with) the situation of men in that country. In a few cases – such as for maternal mortality or access to antenatal services − the norm is the situation of women in other countries. Besides quantitative indicators (based on statistics broken down by sex), there may be qualitative indicators (based on women’s and men’s experiences, attitudes, opinions and feelings). Gender-sensitive indicators allow for the measurement of changes in the relations between women and men in a certain policy area, programme or activity, as well as changes in the status or situation of women and men.

gender inequality

Gender inequality refers to a legal, social and cultural situation in which sex and/or gender determine different rights and dignity for women and men, which are reflected in their unequal access to or enjoyment of rights, as well as the assumption of stereotyped social and cultural roles. These affect their status in all areas of life in society, whether public or private, in the family or the labour market, in economic or political life, in power and decision-making, as well as in social gender relations. In virtually all societies, women are in an inferior position to men.

gender issue(s)

The term ‘gender issue’ refers to any issue or concern determined by gender-based and/or sex-based differences between women and men. Gender issues include all aspects and concerns related to women’s and men’s lives and situation in society, to the way they interrelate, their differences in access to and use of resources, their activities, and how they react to changes, interventions and policies.

gender mainstreaming

The systematic consideration of the differences between the conditions, situations and needs of women and men in all policies and actions.

Gender mainstreaming is the (re)organisation, improvement, development and evaluation of policy processes, so that a gender equality perspective is incorporated into all policies at all levels and all stages, by the actors normally involved in policymaking.

Mainstreaming a gender perspective is the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in all areas and at all levels. It is a way to make women’s as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension 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 is to achieve gender equality.

Gender mainstreaming is a complementary strategy and not a substitute for targeted, women-centred policies and programmes, gender equality legislation, institutional mechanisms for gender equality, and specific interventions that aim to close the gender gap.

gender mainstreaming in statistics

Gender mainstreaming in national statistics means that gender issues and gender-based biases are taken into account systematically, in the production of all official statistics and at all stages of data production. In this process, all data – both those on individuals as well as those not directly related to individuals – are collected, compiled and analysed in light of the consideration that gender-based factors influence women and men differently.

See also: gender statistics

gender monitoring and evaluation

Gender monitoring and evaluation is a process requiring that the monitoring, reporting and evaluation practices of all policies and plans integrate a gender perspective both in processes and inputs as well as in results and impacts, so as to learn how programmes or specific projects affect women’s and men’s lives and to guarantee that inequality is not perpetuated.

See also: gender perspective

gender needs of women

The term ‘gender needs’ refers to two types of needs usually identified in a given society, namely practical gender needs and strategic gender needs. Addressing the practical gender needs of women alone – often related to women’s domestic tasks and concerned with inadequate living conditions – perpetuates the factors which keep women in a disadvantaged position compared to men. Needs related to women’s empowerment are strategic needs that are required to overcome the subordinate position of women.

See also: strategic gender needs of women (SGNs); practical gender needs of women (PGNs)

gender norms

Gender norms are the standards and expectations to which women and men generally conform, within a range that defines a particular society, culture and community at that point in time. Gender norms are ideas about how women and men should be and act. Internalised early in life, gender norms can establish a life cycle of gender socialisation and stereotyping

gender parity

Gender parity is a numerical concept related to gender equality.

Gender parity concerns relative equality in terms of numbers and proportions of women and men, girls and boys, and is often calculated as the ratio of female-to-male values for a given indicator. When males-to-females ratios are calculated instead, the label ‘sex ratio’ is used instead of ‘gender parity’.

In the context of gender equality, gender parity refers to the equal contribution of women and men to every dimension of life, whether private or public.

See also: parity; parity democracy

gender pay gap

The gender pay gap is shown as a percentage of men’s earnings and represents the difference between the average gross hourly earnings of female and male employ­ees. Gross earnings are wages or salaries paid directly to an employee before income tax and social security contributions are deducted.

In the EU, the gender pay gap is referred to officially as the ‘unadjusted gender pay gap’, as it does not take into account all of the factors that impact on the gender pay gap, such as differences in education, labour market experience, hours worked, type of job, etc.

gender perspective

Taking a gender perspective means taking into account gender-based differences when looking at any social phenomenon, policy or process. The gender perspective focuses particularly on gender-based differences in status and power, and considers how such discrimination shapes the immediate needs, as well as the long-term interests, of women and men. In a policy context, taking a gender perspective is a strategy for making women’s as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension 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.

gender planning

An active approach to planning that takes gender as a key variable or criterion and which seeks to integrate an explicit gender dimension into policy or action.

gender position

The term ‘gender position’ refers to women’s social and economic standing in society relative to men, such as female/male disparities in wages and employment opportunities, unequal representation in the political process, unequal ownership of land and property, and vulnerability to violence (i.e. strategic gender need/interests).

gender power relations

The ways in which gender shapes the distributions of power at all levels of society. One of the most persistent patterns in the distribution of power is that of inequalities between women and men. The set of roles, behaviours and attitudes that societies define as appropriate for women and men (‘gender’) can be the cause, consequence and mechanism of power relations, from the intimate sphere of the household to the highest levels of political decision-making. Wider structures and institutions can also shape the distribution of power by reinforcing and relying on gender roles.

gender procurement

Gender procurement involves the introduction of gender equality requirements in public procurement, in order to use these as an instrument to advance gender equality. It is a question both of ensuring that all citizens are offered equal services, regardless of gender, but also a matter of increasing the efficiency and quality of services, since making the integration of a gender perspective a requirement encourages providers to develop and offer services that are in line with gender equality objectives.

gender proofing

A check carried out on any policy proposal to ensure that any potential gender discriminatory effects arising from that policy have been avoided and that gender equality is promoted.

gender quotas

A quota is a positive measurement instrument aimed at accelerating the achievement of gender-balanced participation and representation. It establishes a defined proportion (percentage) or number of places or seats to be filled by, or allocated to, women and/or men, generally under certain rules or criteria. Quotas can be applied in order to correct a previous gender imbalance in different areas and at different levels, including in political assemblies, decision-making positions in public, political life and economic life (corporate boards), as well as to ensure the inclusion of women and their participation in international bodies, or as a tool to promote equal access to training opportunities or jobs.

Quotas aimed at increasing gender-balanced representation may be mandated by the constitution or by electoral, labour or gender equality law (legal gender quotas, which may entail sanctions for non-compliance), or applied on a voluntary basis (voluntary political party quotas). Types of quotas also differ depending on the aspect of the selection and nomination process that the quota targets.

gender reassignment

Gender reassignment, or gender-confirming treatment, is a set of medical measures that can, but do not have to, include psychological, endocrinological and surgical treatments aimed at aligning a person’s physical appearance with their gender identity.

It might include psychological consultation, cross-hormonal treatment, sex or gender reassignment surgery (GRS) (such as facial surgery, chest/breast surgery, different kinds of genital surgery, or a hysterectomy), sterilisation (leading to infertility), hair removal and voice training. Not every transgender person wishes for, or is able to undergo, all or any of these measures.

See also: transgender

gender redistributive policies

Gender redistributive policies aim to transform the existing distribution of resources and responsibilities in order to create a more equal relationship between women and men.

gender relations

Gender relations are the specific subset of social relations uniting women and men as social groups in a particular community, including how power – and access to/control over resources – is distributed between the sexes. Gender relations intersect with all other influences on social relations – age, ethnicity, race, religion, etc. – to determine the position and identity of people in a social group. Since gender relations are a social construct, they can be transformed over time to become more equitable.

See also: gender contract; gender power relations

gender relevance

The question of whether a particular law, policy or action is relevant to gender relations and/or gender equality.

See also: gender-neutral; gender blindness; gender sensitivity

gender roles

Gender roles refer to social and behavioural norms which, within a specific culture, are widely considered to be socially appropriate for individuals of a specific sex. These often determine the traditional responsibilities and tasks assigned to women, men, girls and boys (see gender division of labour). Gender-specific roles are often conditioned by household structure, access to resources, specific impacts of the global economy, occurrence of conflict or disaster, and other locally relevant factors such as ecological conditions. Like gender itself, gender roles can evolve over time, in particular through the empowerment of women and transformation of masculinities.

gender segregation

Gender segregation manifests itself in differences in patterns of representation of women and men in the labour market, public and political life, unpaid domestic work and caring, and in young women’s and men’s choice of education.

gender sensitivity

Gender sensitivity refers to the aim of understanding and taking account of the societal and cultural factors involved in gender-based exclusion and discrimination in the most diverse spheres of public and private life. It focuses mainly on instances of structural disadvantage in the positions and roles of women.

See also: gender-sensitive

gender socialisation

The process by which individuals learn the cultural behaviours associated with the concepts of femininity or masculinity.

gender statistics

Gender statistics are defined as statistics that adequately reflect differences and inequalities in the situation of women and men in all areas of life. Gender statistics are defined by the sum of the following characteristics: (a) data are collected and presented disaggregated by sex as a primary and overall classification; (b) data reflect gender issues – questions, problems and concerns related to all aspects of women’s and men’s lives, including their specific needs, opportunities or contributions to society; (c) data are based on concepts and definitions that adequately reflect the diversity of women and men and capture all aspects of their lives; and (d) data collection methods take into account stereotypes and social and cultural factors that may induce gender biases.

gender stereotypes

Gender stereotypes are preconceived ideas whereby females and males are arbitrarily assigned characteristics and roles determined and limited by their gender. Gender stereotyping can limit the development of the natural talents and abilities of girls and boys, women and men, as well as their educational and professional experiences and life opportunities in general. Stereotypes about women both result from, and are the cause of, deeply engrained attitudes, values, norms and prejudices against women. They are used to justify and maintain the historical relations of power of men over women as well as sexist attitudes that hold back the advancement of women.

gender stereotyping

Gender stereotyping is the practice of ascribing to an individual woman or man specific attributes, characteristics or roles on the sole basis of her or his membership of the social group of women or men.

gender studies

An academic, usually interdisciplinary, approach to the analysis of the situations of women and men and gender relations, as well as the gender dimension of all other disciplines.

gender system

A system of economic, social, cultural and political structures that sustain and reproduce distinctive gender roles and the attributes of women and men.

See: gender contract

gender training

A process of developing awareness and capacity on gender issues, to bring about personal or organisational change for gender equality.

See also: gender equality competence development


Initially, the concept of gender(s) referred to the socio-cultural construction within the binarism of women and men. This created the difference between the societal roles of genders and ‘biological’ sexed bodies. The described ‘sex/gender’ dichotomy led to an important finding that the social-cultural constructions of genders are not always directly related to anatomy and physiology. Thus the distinction between the so-called (social) gender and (biological) sex was followed by deconstruction of the idea of biological corporeality.

Note: The majority of agreed language regarding the definition of gender in different regional and international policies and conventions does not question the gender dualism and asymmetry.

gender-balanced participation

In a strict sense, gender-balanced participation implies equal representation, which is often referred to as the parity of participation of women and men, as recommended by the European Parliament. Differing definitions exist, however. The Council of Europe takes balanced participation to mean that the representation of either women or men in any decision-making body in public and political life should not fall below 40 %.


gender-based bullying

Gender-based bullying is a complex form of violence that targets a person’s sex or sexuality, representing a pattern of behaviour rather than an isolated event. The most common forms of bullying are verbal. If left unchecked, verbal bullying can lead to extreme violence.

In school and educational settings, teachers and other children commonly put pressure on children to make them conform to cultural values and social attitudes that define what it means to be ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’. The Internet and mobile phones have provided new opportunities for bullying through e-mails, online chat lines, personal webpages, text messages, and transmission of images.

gender-based discrimination

See: discrimination against women; sex and gender-based discrimination

gender-based violence

Gender-based violence is violence that is directed against a person because of that person’s gender, gender identity or gender expression, or which affects persons of a particular gender disproportionately. It may result in physical, sexual, emotional or psychological harm to the victim, or cause her or him economic loss.

See also: gender-based violence against women; victim; survivor

gender-based violence against women

Any form of violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately. Gender-based violence against women is a form of discrimination and a violation of their fundamental freedoms and rights. It includes all acts of violence against women that result in, or are likely to result in, physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.

Gender-based violence includes forms of violence, such as violence in close relationships, sexual violence (including rape, sexual assault and harassment), psychological and economic violence, trafficking in women, forced prostitution, slavery, and different forms of harmful practices, such as child and/or forced marriages, female genital mutilation, crimes committed in the name of so-called honour, forced abortion, forced pregnancy and forced sterilisation.

Gender-based violence against women is based on hierarchical and unequal structural power relations rooted in culture-related gender norms. It also reveals domination in the symbolic and cultural order, and often manifests itself in direct violence. This definition highlights the fact that violence against women is based on gender, aims at making the historical power imbalance between women and men more visible, and tries to capture the oppressive pattern of coercive control which deprives women of fundamental freedoms.

See also: violence against women; victim; survivor


A policy, programme or situation that has no differential positive or negative impact in terms of gender relations or equality between women and men.

The term ‘gender-neutral’ means that something is not associated with either women or men. It may refer to various aspects such as concepts or style of language. However, what is often perceived to be gender-neutral, including in areas of statistics or dissemination of data collected in reference to a population, often reflects gender blindness in practice (a failure to recognise gender specificities).

See also: gender blindness

gender-neutral language

Language that is not gender-specific and which considers people in general, with no reference to women and men.

See also: gender-sensitive language

gender-neutral legislation

Legislation that is drafted in universal terms, ignoring gender-specific situations and power relations between women and men that underpin sex-and gender-based discrimination, including gender-based violence against women.

The scrutiny of gender-neutral laws that treat women and men alike is necessary in order to evaluate whether they will hinder or accelerate gender equality and eliminate sex- and gender-based discrimination.

gender-neutral policies

Policies that are not specifically aimed at either women or men and are assumed to affect both sexes equally. However, they may actually preserve existing gender inequalities or even result in having a differential impact on women and men, in particular women and men from disadvantaged groups. Gender-neutral policies do not promote substantive gender equality and are also referred to as being ‘gender-blind’.

gender-sensitive accountability

Accountability refers to the obligation and responsibility on the part of state structures and public officials to implement gender mainstreaming and achieve gender equality policy objectives, to report on progress achieved, and to be answerable in the event of a failure to meet stated gender equality objectives.

Gender-sensitive accountability requires that the decisions of public actors can be regularly assessed from the perspective of women’s and men’s needs and interests and that gender equality is one of the standards against which the performance of decision-makers is assessed.

See also: gender-sensitive

gender-sensitive institutional transformation

A process that aims to integrate gender equality into the regular rules, procedures and practices of an institution. Successful gender mainstreaming implementation will lead to the transformation of an institution, thus also impacting on the organisational culture. To achieve this, the internal mechanisms of an institution will have to be adjusted within a process of organisational development. This entails an internal dimension of gender mainstreaming (organisational and personnel development) as well as an external dimension (service provision).

See also: gender-sensitive; gender audit

gender-sensitive language

Gender-sensitive language is the realisation of gender equality in written and spoken language. Gender equality in language is attained when women and men and those who do not conform to the binary gender system are made visible and addressed in language as persons of equal value, dignity, integrity and respect.

Avoiding sex- and gender-based discrimination starts with language, as the systematic use of gender-biased terminology influences attitudes and expectations and could, in the mind of the reader or listener, relegate women to the background or help perpetuate a stereotyped view of women’s and men’s roles. There are number of different strategies that can be used to express gender relationships with accuracy, such as avoiding, to the greatest possible extent, the use of language that refers explicitly or implicitly to only one gender, and ensuring, through inclusionary alternatives and according to each language’s characteristics, the use of gender-sensitive and inclusive language.

gender-sensitive mediation

Optional or mandatory gender-sensitive (gender-responsive) mediation refers to methods of resolving disputes through a means other than judicial decisions, which may better serve women seeking justice, in particular by providing more flexibility, decreasing costs and delays, and ensuring that victims are not subjected to secondary victimisation.

According to the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence and relevant international standards, the use of mandatory mediation and conciliation in cases of gender-based violence against women is not appropriate and should be prohibited. This is because mediation is not always gender-sensitive, and may not serve the needs of women and men equally.

See also: gender-sensitive; victim

gender-sensitive monitoring and evaluation

A method of gender mainstreaming that integrates gender equality concerns into the evaluation objectives but also into the evaluation methodology, approaches and use.

Gender-sensitive monitoring and evaluation is used to reveal whether a programme addresses the different priorities and needs of women and men, to assess if it has an impact on gender relations, and to determine the gender aspects that need to be integrated into monitoring and evaluation systems. The inclusion of explicit gender equality objectives and indicators at the planning stage also strengthens accountability in terms of the progress made on gender equality issues. Effective gender-responsive monitoring and evaluation needs to include both qualitative and quantitative data that measure the impact on gender relations. Without sufficient data, a meaningful analysis of the impact on gender equality is very difficult. This also implies that, as a minimum, all data should be collected, presented and analysed in a sex-disaggregated manner.

This form of monitoring and evaluation is sometimes used synonymously with 'gender-specific monitoring and evaluation'.

See also: gender-sensitive


Something or someone is gendered when exhibiting gender-differentiated patterns (e.g. pink and blue as gendered colours, gendered institutions, gendered appearances, etc.). The usage of gender as a verb ( ‘gendering’, ‘engendered’, etc.) is a reflection of a changed understanding of gender as an active ongoing process – something is gendered when it is actively engaged in social processes that produce and reproduce distinctions in gender identities.


A concept from feminist theory, with a denotative meaning of integrating the gender perspective into the understanding and construction of persons, phenomena, reflections, things, relationships, sectors of action, societal subsystems and institutions. In relation to people, the term ‘gendering’ refers to the process of socialisation according to the dominant gender norms. It may also refer to the adoption of an alternative gender identity, and the transcendence of all the recognised modes of how to be, live and subvert gender (gender fluidity).

The contemporary conceptualisation of gendering in the domain of the gender identity of women is historically indebted to Simone de Beauvoir’s renowned thesis, expressed in her Second Sex: ‘One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.’

glass ceiling

The glass ceiling refers to artificial impediments and invisible barriers that militate against women’s access to top decision-making and managerial positions in an organisation, whether public or private and in whatever domain. The term ‘glass’ is used because these impediments are apparently invisible and are usually linked to the maintenance of the status quo in organisations, as opposed to transparent and equal career advancement opportunities for women and men within organisations.

See also: sticky floor

glass cliff

Extending the metaphor of the glass ceiling, ‘the glass cliff’ describes the phenomenon whereby individuals belonging to particular groups are more likely to be found in leadership positions that are associated with a greater risk of failure and criticism.

According to research by the University of Exeter, women and minority groups are, for example, more likely to be appointed as CEOs of a failing company rather than a successful one, making their position risky and difficult.

See also: glass ceiling

good practice for gender mainstreaming

A good practice in the context of gender mainstreaming is any experience or initiative displaying techniques, methods or approaches which function in a way that produces effects and results coherent with the definition of gender mainstreaming, which are considered to be effective in delivering gender mainstreaming as a transformative strategy, and which, therefore, deserve to be disseminated and pro­posed to other organisational contexts.

See also: best practices for gender equality

governmental gender equality body

A body within government whose purpose is to design, coordinate and implement government policies for gender equality, and which is normally located in the government hierarchy (i.e. in a ministry or in the Prime Minister’s Office). Such bodies can also exist at the regional and local level.

See also: institutional mechanisms for gender equality


harassment related to sex

Unwanted conduct related to the sex of a person occurring with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of that person, and of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.

harmful practices

When used in the gender equality context, harmful practices towards women and girls are those grounded in discrimination based on sex, gender, age or other grounds, and have often been justified by invoking sociocultural and religious customs and values as well as misconceptions related to some disadvantaged groups of women and girls. They serve to highlight the gender dimension of violence and indicate that sex- and gender-based attitudes and stereotypes, power imbalances, inequalities and discrimination perpetuate the widespread existence of such practices, which are themselves a form of gender-based violence or involve violence or coercion. They are also often used to justify gender-based violence as a form of ‘protection’ or control of women and children.

In addition to practices associated with tradition, harmful practices related to socially defined notions of beauty have been emerging in the so-called western world. Many women and children in societies throughout the world increasingly undergo medical treatment and/or plastic surgery, often at considerable risk to their physical health, to comply with such social norms of the body. Many women and girls are also pressured by the cultural obsession with thinness as a cultural and sexual ideal, putting their health at risk by severely restricting their dietary intake. This has resulted in an epidemic of eating and health disorders.

harmful stereotypes

In relation to gender equality and women, a harmful stereotype is a gender stereotype that limits women’s gaining of personal abilities, pursuing their professional careers and making choices about their lives and life plans. Harmful stereotypes can be both hostile and negative (e.g. women are irrational) or seemingly benign (e.g. women are nurturing).

hegemonic masculinity

The concept of hegemonic masculinity can be seen as a cultural norm that continuously connects men to power and economic achievements. This pattern of masculinity, which shapes the hegemonic position, is not only adverse to equality and inclusion, but also brings disadvantages and costs for men.

From this perspective, men’s health problems have been interpreted as ‘costs of masculinity’, as opposed to the privileges men gain from the current gender relations, for example higher income and less unpaid work.

See also: caring masculinity


This term refers to heterosexuality being the norm, and includes the assumption of a person’s heterosexuality. Heteronormativity is what makes heterosexuality seem coherent, natural and privileged. It involves the assumption that everyone is ‘naturally’ heterosexual, and that heterosexuality is an ideal, superior to homosexuality or bisexuality.


The assumption that every person should be heterosexual, thus marginalising those who do not identify themselves as heterosexual. It also implies that heterosexuality is superior to homosexuality and other sexual identities and orientations. Thus, heterosexism is about power rather than sexual orientation.


A person who is attracted to someone of a sex other than one’s own.

See also: heterosexuality


Sexual, emotional and/or romantic attraction to a sex other than one’s own. It is commonly thought of as ‘attraction to the opposite sex’, but this is inaccurate because there are not only two sexes (see intersex and transsexual).

hidden unemployment

Those who are unemployed but who do not meet the requirements of national systems of unemployment registration (requirements that may exclude women in particular).

home-based work

Work carried out by a person in her or his home or in other premises of her or his choice, other than the workplace of the employer, for remuneration, which results in a product or a service as specified by the employer, irrespective of who provides the equipment, materials or other inputs used (ILO Convention No 177).


Homophobia is the irrational fear of, and aversion to, homosexuality and to lesbian, gay and bisexual people based on prejudice.


A person who is attracted to someone of the same sex.

See also: homosexuality


Sexual, emotional and/or romantic attraction to persons of the same sex. The term covers both female and male homosexuality, or, to avoid reductionism and the inappropriateness of this term, gay relationships and lesbian relationships.

horizontal segregation

In relation to gender equality, horizontal segregation refers to the concentration of women and men in different sectors and occupations. It is understood as under- or overrepresentation of women or men in occupations or sectors, not ordered by any criterion. This contrasts with vertical segregation, which concerns the top of an ordering based on ‘desirable’ attributes such as income, prestige, etc.

See also: vertical segregation


Housework (as distinct from paid domestic work) is the unremunerated work of maintaining a household that is performed by household members. Women everywhere still bear the primary responsibility for housework.

human rights of women and girls

The human rights of women and girls are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights. The full and equal participation of women in political, civil, economic, social and cultural life, at the national, regional and international levels, and the eradication of all forms of discrimination on grounds of sex, are priority objectives of the international community.

human trafficking

In everyday language, this term is often used to refer to trafficking in human beings or trafficking in persons, although it is substantively incorrect and of contradictory meaning in itself (contradictio in terminis). The preferred term is trafficking in human beings.

See: trafficking in human beings


An exaggerated image of hegemonic masculinity, mainly in the media. It overemphasises the ideals, such as physical strength, aggression and sexuality set out for men, thereby reinforcing them.

See also: hegemonic masculinity


indirect discrimination

Indirect discrimination occurs where an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice would put persons of one sex at a particular disadvantage compared with persons of the other sex, unless that provision, criterion or practice is objectively justified by a legitimate aim, and the means for achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary. The concept focuses on the effect of a rule or a practice and takes into account everyday social realities.

Indirect discrimination occurs when a law, policy or programme does not appear to be discriminatory, but has a discriminatory effect when implemented. This can occur, for example, when women are disadvantaged compared to men with respect to the enjoyment of a particular opportunity or benefit due to pre-existing inequalities. Applying a gender-neutral law may leave the existing inequality in place, or exacerbate it.

See also: direct discrimination

indirect violence

Indirect violence in a gender context focuses pre­dominantly on the attitudes, stereotypes and cultural norms that underpin gendered practices and may cause gender-based forms of direct violence.

See also: direct violence

individual rights

Rights that accrue directly to an individual (as opposed to derived rights).                                          

See also: derived rights

informal economy

Unpaid economic activities performed for the direct benefit of the household or for the households of relatives or friends on a reciprocal basis, including everyday domestic work and a great variety of self-provisioning activities and/or professional activity, whether as a sole or secondary occupation, exercised gainfully and not occasionally, on the limits of, or outside, statutory, regulatory or contractual obligations, but excluding informal activities that are also part of the criminal economy.

institutional capacity for gender mainstreaming

The institutional capacity for gender mainstreaming refers to the potential of an institution to deliver upon its gender mainstreaming commitments and the ability to identify and solve implementation-related problems. Such capacity involves a set of functional conditions that allow for the elaboration and implementation of better-performing programmes.

institutional mechanisms for gender equality

Bodies mandated to promote gender equality and support mainstreaming of gender equality into general policies in all areas. They usually consist of the central government body complemented with an interministerial coordinating gender mainstreaming structure and contact persons or focal points responsible for gender mainstreaming in ministries.

The overall structure may include bodies at various levels of governance − national, regional and local – and other state institutions beyond governments, particularly at parliamentary level, as well as independent agencies and other bodies, such as gender equality bodies and/or ombudspersons, which may be either specific to gender equality or more general in nature, with competence to receive and analyse complaints concerning discrimination on the basis of sex and gender.


In relation to gender equality, intersectionality is an analytical tool for studying, understanding and responding to the ways in which sex and gender intersect with other personal characteristics/identities, and how these intersections contribute to unique experiences of discrimination. It starts from the premise that people live multiple, layered identities derived from social relations, history and the operation of structures of power. Intersectional analysis aims to reveal multiple identities, exposing the different types of intersectional and multiple discrimination and disadvantage that occur as a consequence of the combination of identities and the intersection of sex and gender with other grounds.

See also: intersectional discrimination, multiple discrimination


Intersex is an umbrella term to denote a number of different variations in a person’s bodily characteristics that do not match strict medical definitions of female or male. These characteristics may be chromosomal, hormonal and/or anatomical, and may be present to differing degrees. Many variants of sex characteristics are immediately detected at birth, or even before. Sometimes these variants become evident only at later stages in life, often during puberty. While most intersex people are healthy, a very small percentage may have medical conditions that might be life-threatening if not treated promptly.

intimate partner violence

A pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviours, including physical, sexual and psychological acts, as well as economic coercion, which adults or adolescents may use against their intimate partners without their consent. The resulting feelings of shame, fear and helplessness lead to low levels of reporting and, subsequently, relatively few convictions.

The largest burden of intimate partner violence is inflicted by men against their women partners.

intra-household resource distribution

The dynamics of how different resources that are generated within or which come into the household are accessed and controlled by its members. Unequal power relations between women and men tend to disadvantage women.

invisible barriers

In relation to gender equality, invisible barriers refer to attitudes and the underlying traditional assumptions, norms and values that prevent women’s empowerment/full participation in society.

See also: glass ceiling

irregular and/or precarious employment

Irregular and/or precarious employment refers to various forms of non-standard, atypical, alternative employment. Irregular and/or precarious work is frequently associated with part-time employment, seasonal and casual work, self-employment, fixed-term work, temporary work, on-call work, home-based workers, and agency work.

Dimensions of such work may include, inter alia, uncertainty of continuing work, a lack of control over the labour process, low income and limited social and regulatory protection. The erosion of the standard employment relationship may render the employment of women more precarious.



job sharing

Job sharing refers to a job in which employees in an employment relationship with reduced working time distribute among themselves the actual working hours and the tasks pertaining to the job, and the full-time post benefits.

There are many combinations and permutations of job sharing and it may provide considerable flexibility for employees who wish to work part-time, in particular parents with small children.

judicial stereotyping

Judicial stereotyping is the practice of judges ascribing to an individual specific attributes, characteristics or roles on the sole basis of her or his membership of a particular social group. It also refers to the practice of judges perpetuating harmful stereotypes through their failure to challenge stereotyping.

See also: gender stereotyping; harmful stereotypes


legal aid

Assistance provided by the state to persons who do not have sufficient financial means to defend themselves in court (or to bring judicial proceedings). Thus defined, legal aid is mainly concerned with legal representation in court. However, legal aid may also be concerned with legal advice: not everyone who encounters a legal problem will necessarily take the matter to court.

Legal aid and legal advice are often a crucial element in guaranteeing economic access to justice and the right to fair remedy, in particular to women victims of domestic violence and women from disadvantaged groups, such as migrant women.

See also: equal access to justice of women and men; victim; survivor


The term ‘lesbian’ refers to a woman who is attracted to other women.


Lesbophobia is the irrational fear of, and aversion to, lesbians.

lone parent

Also named a single parent, a lone parent is considered to be someone who lives without a partner, and who has daily caring responsibilities for a dependent child or children. In Europe, the vast majority of lone parents are lone mothers.



The term ‘male’ refers to biologically based references to the sex of a man.



A male human being; a person assigned a male sex at birth, or a person who defines himself as a man.

marginalised position

A position of insignificant importance, influence or power.

See also: disadvantaged groups

Marginalized groups

Different groups of people within a given culture, context and history at risk of being subjected to multiple discrimination due to the interplay of different personal characteristics or grounds, such as sex, gender, age, ethnicity, religion or belief, health status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, education or income, or living in various geographic localities. Belonging to such groups or even being perceived to belong to them heightens the risk of inequalities in terms of access to rights and use of services and goods in a variety of domains, such as access to education, employment, health, social and housing assistance, protection against domestic or institutional violence, and justice.

marital rape

Marital rape refers to the non-consensual vaginal, anal or oral penetration of the body of another person where the penetration is of a sexual nature, with any bodily part or with an object, as well as to any other non-consensual acts of a sexual nature, by a spouse or ex-spouse or by a former or current partner with whom a victim of rape is or has been living in a partnership recognised by the national law. Causing a spouse or ex-spouse or a former or current partner to engage in non-consensual acts of a sexual nature with a third person is also considered as marital rape.

Consent refers to voluntary agreement as the result of a person’s free will.

According to the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, the intimacy and trust connected with the relationship makes rape between such current or former intimate partners an aggravating circumstance that must be considered in the determination of the sentence.

See also: victim; survivor

marital status

Marital status describes the situation of a person according to their civil status as single, married (including living in a civil partnership or living in a de facto union/committed intimate relationship recognised by national law), widowed or divorced.

Note: EIGE experts inserted additional words to demonstrate that the status of being married is inclusive of lesbian, gay and bisexual persons.

marriage migration

Migration within countries or across borders due to marriage, a trend that has become more common with globalisation, increased mobility and large numbers of labour migrants in host societies. Family-linked migration includes marriage migration of second and subsequent generations who bring partners from their homeland into the host country, international marriages of citizens and non-citizens arising from tourism, education, business and professional activities, and finally the movement of entire families.

There are different strands of issues within this form of migration, ranging from uneven levels of development inside and among countries; the predominance of women marriage migrants; economic and social mobility; arranged marriages and the increasing number of Internet and mail-order brides; immigration policies, integration and identity; and the emergence of new citizens in migrant-receiving countries.

Marriage migrants who are women are at high risk of being subjected to specific forms of gender violence (psychological or physical domestic violence, forced marriage, domestic work exploitation, etc.), and may have limited access to protection and support services.


The different notions of what it means to be a man, including patterns of conduct linked to men’s place in a given set of gender roles and relations. It involves questioning the masculine values and norms that society places on men’s behaviour, identifying and addressing issues confronting men and boys in the world of work, and promoting the positive roles that men and boys can play in attaining gender equality.

See also: caring masculinity; hegemonic masculinity

maternity leave

Maternity leave is the leave from work to which a woman is entitled for a continuous period before and after giving birth. In principle, it is a non-transferable right, unless a possibility to transfer maternity rights to the father or to another family member under specific circumstances is provided in the national law.

medical abortion

Medical abortion is a safe and effective non-surgical method of terminating early pregnancy using certain medications taken orally or through injections.


A sheltered relationship that allows learning and experimentation to take place and personal potential and new skills to flourish through a process in which one person, the mentor, supports the career and development of another, the mentee, outside the normal superior–subordinate relationship. Mentoring is increasingly used to support the personal or professional development of women.

men’s studies

Men’s studies are grounded in men’s movements and the common goal, shared with feminists, of creating a partnership in the gender framework of the 1970s and challenging accepted notions of masculinity and femininity. Yet feminist and men’s studies did not always share common epistemological concerns, as there was a constant possibility of co-optation and misuse of feminist knowledge. In the 1990s the renewed hegemonic masculinity was integrated into men’s studies, and today the epistemic background is still not without ambivalence, which is a sign of the transition of ‘masculinities’, and also a distancing from the latter in queer studies.

methods for gender mainstreaming

General methodological approaches that facilitate the integration of a gender dimension into policies and programmes. They utilise different tools in a strategic way, propose coherent systems for gender mainstreaming, and can be combined together to collect information, enhance knowledge and shape widely different programmes.

migrant women

The term ‘migrant women’ embraces a wide variety of women in many different situations, but in general it refers to non-nationals who have moved (or are endeavouring to move) to a country from another one − often but not necessarily the country of their nationality − and whose presence in the former may or may not be lawful or regular.

Furthermore, the move (or attempted move) may not always be voluntary because sometimes the women concerned will have been brought to the country by force, improper pressure or deception, with a view to their future exploitation, and, in other instances, the compulsion to move may be the result of economic or natural disasters, or environmental catastrophes.

minimum wage

A wage level defined in law or by agreement, representing the lowest possible rate an employer is permitted to pay.

multidimensional vulnerability to violence

Multiple discrimination influences the risk of being subjected to multiple forms of violence. Women with multiple identities, in particular migrant women, women with disabilities, elderly women, women who are substance abusers, women in detention, lesbian, bisexual and transgender women, as well as intersex persons, may all be more exposed to violence and particularly affected by certain forms. As victims of violence, they are also often restricted in their access to escape routes and support services.

See also: victim; survivor

multiple discrimination

The term ‘multiple discrimination’ is used as an overarching, neutral notion for all instances of discrimination on several discriminatory grounds. It refers to any combination of forms of discrimination against persons on the grounds of sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or other characteristics, and to discrimination suffered by those who have, or who are perceived to have, those characteristics.

This phenomenon can manifest itself in two ways. First, there is ‘additive discrimina­tion’, where discrimination takes place on the basis of several grounds operating separately. Second, there is ‘intersectional discrimination’, where two or more grounds interact in such a way that they are inextricable.

Women belonging to certain disadvantaged groups are at higher risk of being subjected to unequal treatment, because they share a combination of characteristics that may trigger discrimination, and are affected by multiple discrimination in different ways or to different degrees than men belonging to the same groups (for example, the sterilisation of Roma women without their consent).

See also: intersectional discrimination

multiple discrimination

Intersectional discrimination describes discrimination that takes place on the basis of several personal grounds or characteristics/identities, which operate and interact with each other at the same time in such a way as to be inseparable.

See also: multiple discrimination


National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs)

NHRIs are independent bodies established by domestic law with a mandate to protect and promote human rights within a state.

Such institutions are key elements within a strong, effective national human rights protection system, provided they are grounded in national law, independent from government, possessed of a broad mandate to cover all international human rights standards, underpinned by a diverse membership, invested with the responsibility to work with both civil society and the state, and function well.

NHRIs have the power to promote and protect human rights. Human rights promotion includes providing government and parliament with advice on various human rights issues and raising human rights awareness. The power of NHRIs to protect human rights includes the monitoring of human rights violations and making recommendations to improve the human rights situation on the ground. In terms of protection, their mandate can also include the power to receive, investigate and resolve complaints and make appropriate recommendations, such as proposing new legislation, and suggesting revisions to existing legislation or new policy measures.

The wide spectrum of existing NHRIs includes: commissions, ombudsperson institutions, and institutes or centres. NHRIs in some EU Member States, for example, also function as equality bodies under EU legislation.

national women’s helpline

A national women’s helpline is a service provided specifically to serve only, or predominantly, women victims of violence.

Standards set out in the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention) provide that a women’s helpline should operate 24/7, should be free of charge, should provide advice to callers confidentially or with due regard for their anonymity, and should serve victims of all forms of violence against women.

The women’s helpline should operate nationally and provide adequate support to women from all regions; this means that the staff must be properly trained, have effective communication skills, and be knowledgeable about the regional situations and all relevant provisions.

See also: victim; survivor

new household economics

An approach to the analysis of the household in which the latter is depicted as combining the time of household members with market goods to produce the outputs or commodities it ultimately desires. It ignores the internal organisation and structure of families and households because, in the context of pure neoclassical theory, and analogously to the treatment of firms, the theory assumes a costless and efficient operation. Its subject matter includes not only the market behaviour of the household (supply of labour, demand for goods), but also such phenomena as marriage, fertility, the education of children, and the allocation of time.

non-governmental organisations (NGOs)

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs), often also referred to as ‘civil society organisations’ and women’s organisations, are non-profit, voluntary citizens’ groups, principally independent from government, which are organised on a local, national or international level to address issues in support of the public good. NGOs are recognised as key third-sector actors within the landscapes of development, human rights, humanitarian action, gender equality, the environment, and many other areas of public action.

Women’s NGOs are best known for two different, but often interrelated, types of activity: the delivery of services to women in need, and the organisation of policy advocacy and public campaigns in pursuit of the social transformation required to achieve gender equality.

NGOs are also active in a wide range of other specialised roles such as parity democracy building, conflict resolution, policy analysis, research, and information provision. NGOs are essential partners of governments in the pursuit of gender equality. By presenting the views of their members on matters relevant to gender equality, making proposals or suggestions, cooperating in specific projects, pursuing research into substantive issues, or, in the context of the media, giving visibility and legitimacy to gender equality matters, NGOs have a role to play in the achievement of gender equality, one which must be valued and encouraged by states.

non-sexist use of language

One of the basic norms of the non-sexist use of language is the avoidance of both an ambiguous generic masculine gender in the grammatical forms of nouns and ‘discriminatory expressions which describe women and men in terms of their physical appearance or … the qualities and gender roles attributed to their sex’.

See also: gender-sensitive language


occupational gender segregation

Occupational gender segregation can either be considered in absolute terms – that is, the actual dominance of one sex in a particular occupation – or in relative terms, that is to say, the higher share of one sex relative to the expected share. For example, as women tend to be underrepresented at an aggregate level among the employed population, their expected share in a single occupation could be lower than that of men if they were distributed in the same way as men across all occupations. In practice, conceiving gender segregation in relative terms can be problematic, as the main reason why women tend to account for less than 50 % of the employed workforce is the gender division of domestic labour and women's disproportionate share of unpaid care and domestic work. Thus, a reasonable starting expectation for gender equality is to measure segregation by measuring whether one sex or the other is in the majority in an occupation or workplace (using absolute terms).

See also: vertical segregation; horizontal segregation

older women workers

Older women workers are at a heightened risk of being vulnerable to multiple discriminations on grounds of sex and gender, age, and other characteristics such as ethnicity. As women get older, age-based discrimination becomes harsher, and multiple discrimination structurally reduces their choices for work or working arrangements (e.g. a shift to part-time or informal work, or self-employment). These circumstances entail poorer working conditions and inadequate remuneration, making retirement insecure or not a viable choice.


An ombudsperson is usually appointed by the government or by parliament, but has a significant degree of independence and is mandated with representing the interests of the public by investigating and addressing complaints of maladministration or a violation of rights. In many countries where the ombudsperson’s responsibility includes protecting human rights, the ombudsperson is recognised as the National Human Rights Institution.

See also: National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs)


parental leave

Parental leave is granted to either parent in order to care for a child. This parents’ right may be transferred to another family member if the national law provides for such an exemption. It generally follows a period of maternity leave, to which in principle only the mother is entitled. In some countries, parental leave is granted to adoptive or foster parents, while others consider adoption leave as a form of maternity leave. Parental leave may be combined with part-time work arrangements. Parental leave aims at facilitating the reconciliation of work, private and family life, thus creating an important link with gender equality.

parental rights

The term ‘parental rights’ refers to the rights and obligations of parents concerning their children. Parents, with a view to supporting children's healthy growth, harmonious personal development and the capacity to lead an independent life and career, have the right and obligation to take care of the life, personal development, rights and benefits of their children.

Thus, parental rights also reflect the child’s rights as a human being. Parental rights can never be against the basic human rights of a child, as governed by national and international legislation. The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner states all the rights of the child in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Parental rights are conferred upon both parents. This term is also referred to as ‘parental responsibility’.

See also: parental leave


In relation to gender equality, parity is a concept and a goal that aims to acknowledge the equal value of women and men, rendering visible the equal dignity of women and men and establishing social organisations in which women and men actually share rights and responsibilities, are liberated from pre-determined spaces and functions engendered by prejudices and gender stereotyping, and fully enjoy equality and freedom in their participation at every level and in every sphere.

See also: gender parity; parity democracy

parity democracy

Parity democracy is a concept implying the full integration of women, on an equal footing with men, at all levels and in all areas of the workings of a democratic society, by means of multidisciplinary strategies.

See also: gender parity; parity

parity threshold

In achieving the goal of equal participation of women and men, a 50/50 participation rate is generally considered as the parity objective. A minimum participation rate of 40 % for both women and men is considered by the Council of Europe as the parity threshold.

See also: parity

part-time employment

In general, part-time employment/work is defined in relation to full-time working hours: a part-time worker works fewer than the usual number of full-time working hours. The full-time working hours might be calculated, for example, on a daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly basis, or on the basis of an average period of employment.

Women are overrepresented in part-time jobs and therefore suffer disadvantages related to part-time work, such as not earning enough income to reach economic independence, having fewer career opportunities and accruing lower pensions, in particular when employed in precarious (minor) part-time jobs. However, quality part-time work can contribute to the increased labour market participation of women.

Traditions vary across countries in terms of how part-time work is viewed in general and in particular by the social partners. Part-time work may be seen as an end product mirroring traditional gender roles, with emphasis on the disadvantages of part-time work in terms of pay, promotion, pension rights, etc. On the other hand, it might be seen as an instrument to increase the labour market participation – and thus, to a certain extent at least, the economic independence – of women.


participatory gender audit

A participatory gender audit is a tool and a process based on a participatory methodology. It seeks to promote organisational learning at the individual, work unit and organisational levels on the subject of how to practically and effectively mainstream gender.

The concept and practice of participatory gender audits was coined by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in 2001. It was initially developed to fulfil the internal ILO Gender Mainstreaming Policy. A manual has been made available to disseminate the practice.

See also: gender audit

paternity leave

Paternity leave usually refers to a fixed amount of leave that the father of a child may take at the time of birth, or to fixed amounts of time in any year or period of years.


The social system of masculine domination over women.

physical violence

Physical violence refers to a bodily harm suffered as a result of the application of immediate and unlawful physical force. It is often associated with sexual and psychological violence resulting in injuries, distress and health problems. It also encompasses violence resulting in the death of the victim.

positive action (measures)

Positive action is one of various terms used to describe ‘positive measures’. However, positive action is also used in international human rights law to describe ‘positive state action’ (the obligation of a state to initiate action versus a state’s obligation to abstain from action). Its use can thus be ambiguous in that it is not confined to meaning positive measures in the area of gender equality.

See: positive measures

positive discrimination

In common language this term is often used to refer to positive measures or positive action. However, it is important to stress that ‘positive discrimination’ technically makes no sense. In accordance with the now general practice of using the term ‘discrimination’ exclusively to designate ‘arbitrary’, ‘unjust’ or ‘illegitimate distinctions’, the term ‘positive discrimination’ is a contradiction in terms: either the distinction in question is justified and legitimate (because it is not arbitrary) and therefore cannot be called ‘discrimination’, or the distinction in question is unjustified or illegitimate (because it is arbitrary) and should not be labelled ‘positive’. Preferable terms are therefore positive action, positive measures and affirmation action measures.

See: positive action; positive measures.

positive measures

The term ‘positive measures’ refers to action aimed at favouring access by members of certain categories of people, in this particular case, women, to rights which they are guaranteed, to the same extent as members of other categories, in this particular case, men.

In some cases, the reason that discrimination is found to occur is due to the fact that the same rule is applied to everyone without consideration of relevant differences. In order to remedy and prevent this kind of situation, governments, employers and service providers must ensure that they take steps to adjust their rules and practices to take such differences into consideration – that is, they must do something to adjust current policies and measures.

The concept of positive measures is generally referred to in international law as ‘special measures’. Such measures are described with different terms, which may also have different meaning and interpretation given to them in different national contexts and areas of their applicability. The most widely known terms are: affirmative action or affirmative measures; positive action; preferential treatment; special measures; specific action; reverse discrimination; and positive discrimination.

See also: temporary special measures; specific action

practical gender needs of women (PGNs)

The practical gender needs (PGNs) of women are the needs women identify in their socially accepted roles in society. Practical gender needs do not challenge, although they arise out of, gender divisions of labour and women’s subordinate position in society. These needs are a response to immediate perceived necessity, identified within a specific context. They are practical in nature and often stem from inadequacies in living conditions such as water provision, healthcare and employment.

pre-natal sex selection

Pre-natal sex selection and the abortion of female foetuses are forms of harmful practices driven by the tradition of patrilineal inheritance in many societies, coupled with a reliance on boys to provide economic support, to ensure security in old age and to perform death rites. They are part of a set of social norms that place greater value on sons than daughters. In addition, a general trend towards declining family size, occasionally fostered by stringent policies restricting the number of children that people are allowed to have, is reinforcing a deeply rooted preference for male offspring.

Sex selection can occur before a pregnancy is established (pre-implantation), during pregnancy through pre-natal sex detection and selective abortion, or following birth through infanticide or child neglect. Sex selection is sometimes used for family balancing purposes, but far more typically occurs because of a systematic preference for boys.

preferential treatment

The treatment of one individual or group of individuals in a manner that is likely to lead to greater benefits, access, rights, opportunities or status than those of another individual or group of individuals. Preferential treatment as regards women and men requires the adoption of specific measures not considered discriminatory and involving explicit benefits (preferences) for one of the sexes. Such measures are intended to address disadvantaged situations and remove barriers to gender equality. The Court of Justice of the European Union, in the Kalanke case, used the terms ‘automatic’ priorities and ‘absolute and unconditional’ priorities.


Pregnancy refers to the nine months during which a woman carries a developing embryo and foetus in her body. During pregnancy, both the woman and her developing child may face various health risks. Disorders and complications related to pregnancy, which may result in incapacity to work, form part of the risks inherent in pregnancy and less favourable treatment on that ground, or perhaps even dismissal, amount to direct discrimination against women.

While such rights have been seen in the past as an exception to the principle of equal treatment, nowadays they are rather considered as a means to ensure the implementation of the principle of equal treatment of women and men, regarding both access to employment and working conditions. In fact, they aim to accommodate the main biological difference between women and men.


Prejudice refers to the attitudes and feelings − whether positive or negative and whether conscious or non-conscious − that people have about members of other groups, which may be based on preconceived ideas and influenced by elements such as gender, race, class, personal characteristics or other factors.

proactive measures

In relation to gender equality, the term ‘proactive measures’ refers to many types of measures to promote or achieve gender equality that are alternatives to a complaints-led model addressing gender inequalities. The essence of such measures is that they are forward-looking, requiring bodies, such as public authorities and employers, to take the initiative rather than merely responding to complaints. They are proactive in that they aim to change existing practices, scrutinise future practices in terms of their impact on women, or implement express policies to further gender equality.

protection order

In the context of incidents of gender-based violence, a protection order represents a fast legal remedy to protect persons at risk of any form of violence by prohibiting, restraining or prescribing certain behaviour by the perpetrator. The wide range of measures covered by such orders means that they exist under various names, such as restraining order, barring order, eviction order, protection order or injunction.

An offender that refuses to comply with the order faces criminal or civil penalties, depending on the specific case and the legal context in the country.

protective measures

Legislative and other measures aimed to protect victims as well as their families and witnesses from any further form of violence and re-victimisation or secondary victimisation, at all stages of investigations and judicial proceedings.

See also: victim; survivor

psychological assault

Assault that can vary from threats of violence and harm to emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is a tactic of control based on a wide variety of verbal attacks, humiliations or affective neglect, following a pattern of coercive behaviour towards the woman victim. Isolation of the victim by the perpetrator and the use of children to control or punish the victim (i.e. physical or sexual attack on the children, or forcing them to witness the abuse towards their mother) are also examples of psychological violence.

See also: victim; survivor

psychological violence

Psychological violence is any intentional conduct that seriously impairs another person’s psychological integrity through coercion or threats. Its significant characteristic is an abusive pattern of behaviour occurring over time – within or outside the family. It not only affects individuals’ mental health and their social networks, but also deprives them of opportunities for future personal, social and economic development. Examples of psychological violence include acts such as isolation from others, verbal aggression, threats, intimidation, control, harassment or stalking, insults, humiliation and defamation.

public/private dichotomy

In relation to gender equality, the private/public dichotomy arises from its gendered nature, and from the association of masculinity and the public, and femininity and the private.



Historically, this was a derogatory slang term used to identify LGBTQ+ people. Since the 1980s, the term has been embraced and reclaimed by the LGBTQ+ community as a symbol of pride, representing all individuals who fall outside of the gender and sexuality ‘norms’.

queer theory

The theoretical reflection, developed in the humanities in the mid 1980s against a backdrop of growing theoretical interest in sexualities, which was coterminous with the civil movement’s adoption of the word ‘queer’, which previously had a pejorative meaning. The basic thesis on the positivity of ‘outlaw/justice’ sexuality status derives from questioning the normality and performativity of heterosexual identity.



Any non-consensual vaginal, anal or oral penetration of the body of another person where the penetration is of a sexual nature, with any bodily part or with an object, as well as any other non-consensual acts of a sexual nature by the use of coercion, violence, threats, duress, ruse, surprise or other means, regardless of the perpetrator’s relationship to the victim. Causing another person to engage in non-consensual acts of a sexual nature with a third person is also considered as rape.

Consent refers to voluntary agreement as the result of a person’s free will. When the victim is a child below the age defined in national law as the age of consent, sexual intercourse with her or him constitutes rape.

In international legal regimes rape, is conceptualised as a violation of women’s human rights (UN General Assembly Resolution 48/104 based on the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights); as a form of torture (practice of the European Court of Human Rights, based on the European Convention on Human Rights); as a war crime (Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court); and as a form of gender-based discrimination against women (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, CEDAW Committee’s General Recommendation No 19).

See also: victim; survivor

rape culture

This term refers to a complex of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It describes a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent. Manifestations of a rape culture include instances of sexual violence that range from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape, as well as condoning such violence against women and presenting it as normal. The term may also be used in relation to certain groups or settings, like war rape or prison rape.

recognition and valuation of unpaid work

The measurement, in quantitative terms, including by assessing and reflecting its value in satellite accounts, of unremunerated work that is outside the scope of national accounts (UN system of national accounts), such as domestic work, caring for children and other dependants, preparing food for the family, community and other voluntary work.

See also: satellite accounts

reconciliation of work, family and private life

An objective pertaining to gender equality that requires the introduction of family and parental leave schemes, child and elderly care arrangements, and the development of a working environment which facilitates the combination of work, family and private life for women and men. Reconciliation of family/private life with work is viewed as a natural corollary to gender equality and a means for achieving gender equality not only in law but also in everyday life.

See also: work–family balance; work–life balance

refugee women

A refugee woman is any woman who meets the eligibility criteria under the applicable refugee definition, as provided for in international or regional refugee instruments, under the mandate of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and/or in national legislation.

Although international and regional refugee law, including European Union refugee law, does not explicitly refer to ‘gender’ as a ground of persecution, it is widely accepted that it can influence, or dictate, the type of persecution or harm suffered and the reasons for this treatment. The EU definition of persons recognised as in need of international protection (albeit not as refugees but as beneficiaries of ‘subsidiary protection’), if properly interpreted, therefore covers gender-related claims.

Violence against women is one of the major forms of persecution experienced by women in the context of refugee status and asylum. It may include the threat of female genital mutilation, forced/early marriage, threat of violence and/or so-called honour crimes, trafficking in women, rape and other forms of sexual assault, serious forms of domestic violence, the imposition of the death penalty or other physical punishments existing in discriminatory justice systems, forced sterilisation, political or religious persecution for holding feminist or other views, and the persecutory consequences of failing to conform to gender-prescribed social norms and mores. Therefore, asylum procedures that do not take into account the special situation or needs of women can impede a comprehensive determination of their claims.


regulation of part-time work

The introduction of rules that govern the scope and use of part-time work, aimed at preventing any form of discrimination against part-time workers, improving the quality of part-time work and facilitating the development of part-time work as a choice.

reproductive health

Reproductive health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes. Reproductive health therefore implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life and that they have the capacity to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so. Implicit in this last condition are the following: the rights of women and men to be informed; to have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of family planning, including methods for regulation of fertility, which are not against the law; and the right of access to appropriate healthcare services to enable women to have a safe pregnancy and childbirth and provide couples with the best chance of having a healthy infant. Reproductive health is a compo­nent of reproductive rights.

reproductive rights

Reproductive rights embrace certain human rights that are already recognised in national laws, international laws and international human rights documents and other consensus documents. These rights rest on the recognition of the basic rights of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and repro­ductive health. It also includes the right to make decisions concern­ing reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence, as expressed in human rights documents.

The human rights of women include their right to have control over, and freely and responsibly decide upon, matters relating to their sex­uality, including sexual and reproductive health, free from coercion, discrimination and violence. Equal relationships between women and men in matters of sexual relations and reproduction, including full respect for the bodily integrity of the person, require mutual respect, consent and shared responsibility for sexual behaviour and its consequences.

reproductive work

Reproductive work involves all the tasks associated with supporting and servicing the current and future workforce – those who undertake or will undertake productive work. It includes childbearing and nurture, but is not limited to these tasks. It has increasingly been referred to as ‘social reproduction’ to indicate that the term has a broader scope than simply the activities associated with biological reproduction. The fact that reproductive work is the essential basis of productive work is the principal argument for the economic importance of reproductive work. Most of it is undertaken primarily by women, and is unpaid and therefore unrecorded in national accounts.


safe housing

Emergency, transitional or permanent shelter/housing that is confidentially located to respond to critical situations, usually related to domestic violence.

See also: women’s shelter

safe motherhood

The concept and conditions for ensuring that women receive the appropriate services in connection with pregnancy, childbirth and the post-natal period, including family planning and emergency obstetric care.

satellite account

An official account that is separate from, but consistent with, core national accounts.

secondary victimisation

Secondary victimisation entails victimisation of the victim of any act of violence and trafficking in human beings.

To limit or avoid any risk of secondary victimisation, a number of specific counselling, support and assistance services must be provided to a victim, as well as general procedural and service rights, including information rights, respect for victims’ dignity during questioning (abstaining from actions that can lead to the victim’s secondary victimisation during the investigation), anonymity for certain victims, trials behind closed doors in certain cases, screening from the perpetrator during testimony, officers specialised in victims’ issues, etc.

sectoral approach to gender mainstreaming

The overall objective of the sectoral approach is to ensure that a gender dimension is integrated into the work of all governmental bodies and into all policy areas. This objective requires an effective commitment to gender mainstreaming by policymakers when devising sectoral plans and programmes, as well as the building/strengthening of the technical competencies of all those involved in the implementation of this strategy.


Sex refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define humans as female or male. These sets of biological characteristics are not mutually exclusive, as there are individuals who possess both, but these characteristics tend to differentiate humans as females or males.

sex bias in data collection

Sex bias in data collection refers to the underreporting or misreporting of demographic, social or economic characteristics associated with one of the sexes. Some examples of sex bias in data collected are: underreporting of women’s economic activity; undercounting of girls, their births or their deaths; or underreporting of violence against women.

sex trade

The trade in human beings, largely in women and children, for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

See also: trafficking in human beings

sex- and gender-based discrimination

Sex- and gender-based discrimination occurs due to interaction between sex (as the biological characteristics of women and men) and their socially constructed identities, attributes and roles and society’s social and cultural meaning for biological differences between women and men. Such interactions result in hierarchical and unequal relations and roles between and among women and men, and a disadvantaged social positioning of women. The social positioning of women and men is affected by political, economic, cultural, social, religious, ideological and environmental factors, and can be changed over time.

See also: discrimination against women

sex-disaggregated statistics

Sex-disaggregated statistics are data collected and tabulated separately for women and men. They allow for the measurement of differences between women and men in terms of various social and economic dimensions and are one of the requirements to obtaining gender statistics. Having data broken down by sex does not guarantee, for example, that concepts, definitions and methods used in data production are conceived to reflect gender roles, relations and inequalities in society; therefore, collecting data disaggregated by sex represents only one of the characteristics of gender statistics.

See also: gender statistics; statistical gender bias


Actions or attitudes that discriminate against people based solely on their gender. Sexism is linked to power in that those with power are typically treated with favour and those without power are typically discriminated against. Sexism is also related to stereotypes since discriminatory actions or attitudes are frequently based on false beliefs or generalisations about gender, and on considering gender as relevant where it is not.

sexual abuse

According to the United Nations, sexual abuse covers the actual or threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force or under unequal or coercive conditions. Although this definition is general in nature, the term is often used specifically in relation to children. According to the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, sexual abuse of children encompasses (a) acts of engaging in sexual activities with a child who, according to the relevant provisions of national law, has not reached the legal age for sexual activities (this does not apply to consensual sexual activities between minors), and (b) engaging in sexual activities with a child where use is made of coercion, force or threats, where there is abuse of a recognised position of trust, authority or influence over the child, including within the family, or where there is abuse of the particularly vulnerable situation of the child, notably because of a mental or physical disability or a situation of dependence.

sexual assault on women

Any sexual act committed against a non-consenting woman, even if she does not show signs of resistance, with the exception of rape.

sexual exploitation

Any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power or trust, for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another.

The term is often used specifically in relation to the sexual exploitation of children. According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, sexual exploitation encompasses the use of children in commercial sexual exploitation and in audio or visual images of child sexual abuse, child prostitution, sexual slavery, sexual exploitation in travel and tourism, trafficking (within and between countries), and sale of children for sexual purposes and forced marriage.

According to the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, sexual exploitation encompasses conduct related to (a) sexual abuse; (b) offences concerning child prostitution; (c) offences concerning child pornography; (d) offences concerning the participation of a child in pornographic performances; (e) intentionally causing, for sexual purposes, a child to watch sexual acts; and (e) the solicitation of children for sexual purposes, known as ‘grooming’.

See also: commercial sexual exploitation

sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is a form of gender-based violence encompassing acts of unwanted physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature, which have a purpose or effect of violating the victim’s dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.

Acts of sexual harassment are, typically, carried out in the context of abuse of power, promise of reward or threat of reprisal.

See also: victim; survivor

sexual health

Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being related to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled.

sexual identity

Sexual identity refers to how one thinks of oneself in terms of attraction to the same sex or members of the other sex, based on one’s own experiences, thoughts and reactions, rather than defining oneself based on the gender or sex of one’s sexual partner(s).

This can include refusing to label oneself with a sexual identification.

See also: sexual orientation.

sexual orientation

Sexual orientation is understood to refer to each person’s capacity for profound emotional, affectional and sexual attraction to, and intimate and sexual relations with, individuals of a different gender, the same gender or more than one gender.

sexual rights

Sexual rights embrace human rights that are already recognised in national laws, international human rights documents and other consensus documents. These include the right of all persons, free of coercion, discrimination and violence, to the highest attainable standard of health in relation to sexuality, including access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services; the capacity to seek, receive and impart information in relation to sexuality; access to sexuality education; respect for bodily integrity; free choice of partner; the right to decide to be sexually active or not; the right to consensual sexual relations, the right to consensual marriage; the right to decide whether or not, and when, to have children; and the right to pursue a satisfying, safe and pleasurable sexual life.

See also: reproductive rights

sexual slavery

Sexual slavery is a form of sexual exploitation of individuals through the use or threat of force, often occurring in times of armed conflict or belligerent occupation.

sexual violence

Any non-consensual sexual act or attempt to obtain an act of a sexual nature that is performed on another person without her or his freely given consent, irrespective of the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work. Acts of sexual violence attack the right to sexual freedom, autonomy, control, integrity and security, as well as the right to experience pleasure and to have a healthy, safe and satisfying sexual life. At the same time, these rights are intimately related to reproductive rights, such as the freedom and autonomy to decide when to have children, how many children to have, and which contraceptive to use.

Examples of sexual violence include, but are not limited to, rape, date rape and marital rape.

See also: rape; date rape; marital rape; sexual harassment; gender-based violence; victim; survivor

sexual violence referral centre

A sexual violence referral centre or rape crisis centre provides specialised services to victims of sexual violence, such as immediate medical care and trauma support combined with immediate forensic examinations to collect the evidence needed for prosecution, plus long-term psychological counselling and therapy, support to victims during court proceedings, and other practical help.

Standards provided by the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence provide that such centres are available in sufficient numbers and are easy accessible, and that their services are performed in an appropriate manner. At least one such centre should be available per every 200 000 inhabitants.

Rape crisis centres may exist in many different forms and typically offer long-term help. Sexual violence referral centres, on the other hand, may specialise in immediate medical care, high-quality forensic practice and crisis intervention. They can be set up in a hospital setting to carry out medical checks and refer the victim to specialised women’s centres.


Sexuality is a central aspect of being human throughout life and encompasses sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction. Sexuality is experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviours, practices, roles and relationships. While sexuality can include all of these dimensions, not all of them are always experienced or expressed. Sexuality is influenced by the interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic, political, cultural, ethical, legal, historical, religious and spiritual factors.

specific action

Measures targeted at a particular group and intended to eliminate and prevent discrimination or to offset disadvantages arising from existing attitudes, behaviours and structures.

Specific action aims at favouring access by members of certain categories of people, in this particular case, women, to rights which they are guaranteed, to the same extent as members of other categories, in this particular case, men.

Together with gender mainstreaming, specific action is one of the two approaches to gender equality implemented by the European Union.

See also: positive measures

stakeholder consultations

Stakeholder consultations help to make EU law and policymaking transparent, well targeted and coherent. Consultations – together with impact assessments, evaluations and expertise – are a key tool for transparent and informed policymaking. They help ensure that decisions are taken in respect of principles of proportionality and subsidiarity, and that they are based on evidence and the experiences and views of those affected by the policies and involved in their implementation. Stakeholders include gender experts, women’s organisations, other civil society organisations, and social partners.

Stakeholder consultations are part of the participatory approach to gender mainstreaming. Close liaison with all policy stakeholders is essential throughout the policy cycle to take on board the concerns, expectations and views of the various target groups. It is recommended that opportunities and structures for stakeholder involvement and consultations are anchored into policy processes.

See also: consultative and participatory techniques and tools

stalking of women

Stalking is a form of violence against women defined as repeatedly engaging in threatening conduct directed at a woman, causing her to fear for her safety. It entails seeking the proximity of the victim with serious detriment to the person’s lifestyle and arousing, indirectly, directly or virtually, distress, fear or harm in the targeted person. This can be done in particular by trying to establish contact by any means, misusing the victim’s personal data for the purpose of ordering goods or services, or causing third persons to make contact, threatening the victim or someone close to the victim.

See also: victim; survivor

stateless women

A stateless woman is a woman who, under national laws, does not have a legal bond of nationality with any state. Article 1 of the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons indicates that a person not automatically considered a national (or citizen) under the laws of any state is stateless. However, in addition to this legal status (de jure statelessness), many women are de facto stateless because their citizenship is practically useless or because they cannot prove or verify their nationality.

De facto statelessness is a particular issue for women, such as trafficked women who may have had their documents confiscated or stolen, or undocumented migrant women, including asylum-seekers, who may also be unable to prove their nationality and may be effectively stateless. Citizenship laws may also directly or indirectly discriminate against women and expose them to a greater extent than men to the risk of being rendered stateless. Statelessness may arise, for example, from denial of a woman’s ability to pass on nationality, from loss of nationality due to her marriage to an alien, from the change of nationality of a spouse during marriage, or from deprivation of nationality resulting from discriminatory practices.

Birth registration is also closely linked to the enjoyment by women and their children of the right to a nationality. In practice, indirect discrimination, cultural practices and poverty often make it impossible for mothers, especially unmarried mothers, to register their children on an equal basis as fathers. Failure to register a child’s birth may impair or nullify the child’s effective enjoyment of a range of rights, including the right to nationality, to a name and identity, to equality before the law and to recognition of legal capacity as well as to problems in gaining access to diplomatic protection, and prolonged detention pending determination of proof of identity and nationality.

statistical gender bias

An effect that deprives a statistical result of representativeness by systematically distorting it, due to prejudiced actions or thoughts based on gender-based perceptions that women are not equal to men. For example, the answers to questions on physical or sexual violence against women would be completely biased if the woman’s partner or other relatives were present during the interview.

sticky floor

An expression used as a metaphor to point to a discriminatory employment pattern that keeps workers, mainly women, in the lower ranks of the job scale, with low mobility and invisible barriers to career advancement.

See also: glass ceiling

strategic gender interests (SGIs)

Strategic gender interests (SGIs) are identified by women as a result of their subordinate social status, and tend to challenge gender divisions of labour, power and control, and traditionally defined norms and roles. SGIs vary according to particular contexts and may include such issues as legal rights, domestic violence, equal wages, and women’s control over their bodies.

strategic gender needs of women (SGNs)

Strategic gender needs (SGNs) represent what women or men require in order to improve their position or status in regard to each other. They place people in greater control of themselves instead of limiting them to the restrictions imposed by socially defined roles. They are long-term (i.e. they aim to improve positions); they also intend to remove restrictions, and are less visible as they seek to change attitudes. Examples of addressing SGNs include actions such as giving rights to land, inheritance, credit and financial services; increasing participation of women in decision-making; creating equal opportunities to employment (equal pay for equal work); and improving social systems.

See also: gender needs

structural adjustment

A process of market-oriented economic reform aimed at restoring a sustainable balance of payments, reducing inflation, and creating the conditions for sustainable growth in per capita income. Structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) have usually been undertaken in response to a balance of payments crisis in developing countries. Gender impact assessment in the design and implementation of SAPs enables the identification of gender dimensions that affect the implementation process, or gender differentials in the burden of adjustment. This tool has been used by several development agencies in industrialised countries to review their aid to adjustment programmes.

structural inequality

Structural inequality between women and men refers to the embedding of gender inequalities in social structures, based on institutionalised conceptions of gender differences. Conceptions of masculinity and femininity, ideas concerning expectations of women and men, internalised judgements of women’s and men’s actions, prescribed rules about proper behaviour of women and men – all of these, and more, encompass the organisation and persistence of gender inequality in social structures. The social and cultural environments, as well as the institutions that structure them and the individuals that operate within and outside these institutions, are engaged in the production and reproduction of gender norms, attitudes and stereotypes. Beliefs that symbolise, legitimate, invoke, guide, induce or help sustain gender equality are themselves a product of gender inequality.

structural violence

Structural violence is violence without a clear actor, and which is built into and inherent in the structure of a society. Its general formula is power and inequality. Structural violence is often aimed at women, and is maintained through gender socialisation, gender stereotyping and a constant threat of violence, all of which insidiously identify women as inferior, influencing their actions at all levels.

Structural violence is understood as social exploitation and unequal power (and consequently, unequal life chances), which become part of the social order. With regard to violence against women, structural inequality and the unbalance of power create the conditions for the social subordination of women.

substantive gender equality

The concept of substantive gender equality combines formal gender equality with equality of outcome, meaning that equality in law, equal opportunities and equal treatment of women and men are complemented by equality in impact, outcome or result. Substantive gender equality requires that equality is interpreted according to the broad context or realities of women’s disadvantages and the impact of these circumstances in terms of eliminating disadvantage in outcome or result. It is a channel by which women can exercise and fully enjoy all human rights and freedoms on an equal footing with men.

The concept of substantive equality has special relevance in addressing disadvantage based on sex and gender. The scrutiny of gender-neutral formal laws, policies and programmes that treat women and men alike becomes necessary to evaluate whether they will accelerate the achievement of gender equality in practice and eliminate discrimination against women.

See also: formal gender equality; equality of outcome


In relation to violence against women, the term survivor is used to attribute agency to the woman who has been subjected to gender-based violence. This term is often used interchangeably with the more conventional term victim. The term survivor may, however, be misleading when used about a woman who has been raped, since it might imply that her actions could have made a difference and thus be consistent with victim-blaming.

See also: victim

symbolic violence

Symbolic violence is the kind of gentle, invisible, pervasive violence that is exercised through cognition and misrecognition, knowledge and sentiment, often with the unwitting consent or complicity of the dominated. It is embedded in the very modes of action and structures of cognition of individuals, and imposes the spectre of legitimacy of the social order characterised by masculine domination. Manifestations of symbolic violence give recognition to structural and direct violence.

See also: direct violence; indirect violence; structural violence


temporary special measures

Temporary special measures is the term used in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women to describe measures aimed at accelerating the improvement of the position of women with a view to achieving substantive equality with men, and to effect the structural, social and cultural changes necessary to correct past and current forms and effects of discrimination against women, as well as to provide them with compensation for inequalities and harm suffered. This term explicitly states the ‘temporary’ nature of such special measures, while the meaning of the term ‘special’ is that the measures are designed to serve a specific goal and not to cast women subjected to discrimination as weak, vulnerable and in need of extra or ‘special’ measures in order to participate or compete in society.

The use of special measures does not suggest a special favour but rather an entitlement. Special measures are essential to secure equal opportunities in participation and competition in various fields of social life, where social, health and economic burdens may be placed on women as a result of gender stereotypes or their role in maternity.

See also: positive measures

the third/other gender

Queer theory and civil movements – focused on alternative gender or transgender/transsexual identity, traditional praxes and knowledge of the ‘third’ gender – together initiated a new administrative and statistical category, beyond the binary opposition of woman/man (or female/male). It has been introduced in New Zealand and Germany (as ‘indeterminate/unspecified’ gender), and in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan either as the gender category of ‘other’, or ‘third gender’.

See also: the ‘Other gender’

the ‘Other gender’

The notion of the ‘Other gender’ describes women’s status in patriarchal societies, as explored in Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex. Women are defined and differentiated in relation to men, constituting norms; they are inessential (the Other), in opposition to the essential (a Man as the Subject, the Absolute, the One). In this relation, there is no (balanced) reciprocity.

time use survey

In relation to gender equality, a time use survey is a measurement of the use of time by women and men, particularly in relation to paid and unpaid work, market and non-market activities, and leisure and personal time.


A policy or practice that is mainly symbolic, and involves attempting to fulfil one’s obligations with regard to established targets, such as voluntary or mandated gender quotas, with limited efforts or gestures, especially towards minority groups and women, in ways that will not change men-dominated power and/or organisational arrangements. The practice has also often been observed in the nomination of candidates for elections.

tools for gender mainstreaming

Tools are to be understood as operationalised instruments that can be used separately or combined together to shape largely different programmes, in terms of aims, approaches and dimensions. Some are practical, ready-to-use ‘how-to’ tools (such as handbooks and toolkits), while others are more elaborate combinations of different elements (such as gender statistics).

traditional harmful practices

In the gender equality context, traditional harmful practices is a term mainly used to describe practices harmful to women and girls that are grounded in discrimination and associated with ‘tradition’. However, the term is not recommended, because it tends to suggest that such practices originate and persist almost exclusively within non-western cultural traditions. It may also suggest that, in western societies, practices harmful to girls and women are not practised, or even that their existence in western societies is overlooked by international human rights treaty bodies. Thus, the term ‘harmful practices’ is the preferred term.

See: harmful practices

trafficking in human beings

Trafficking in human beings is a serious crime and a gross violation of human rights. Trafficking is defined as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability, or through the giving or receiving of payments or benefits, to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation (including, at a minimum, the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude, or the removal of organs).

Trafficking takes place in multiple settings and usually involves many different actors including families, local brokers, international criminal networks and immigration authorities. It takes place both between and within countries.

trafficking in women and girls

Trafficking in women and girls is a form of trafficking that targets women and girls – in particular, but not limited to, those in the most disadvantaged positions. Women and girls are usually trafficked for the purpose of sexual and economic exploitation, particularly prostitution and pornography, forced labour, including for work in commercial agriculture and domestic work, arranged marriages or to be ‘sold’ as brides, recruitment for participation in hostilities and such related purposes as sexual services, portage and domestic functions in conflict situations.

Women’s and girls’ experience of trafficking is different to that of men and boys. Women and girls tend to suffer a disproportionately heavy impact, whereas trafficked men find it difficult to access existing programmes for victim assistance. This requires the inclusion of gender equality principles in the formulation and implementation of legislation and programmes aiming at the prevention of trafficking in human beings.

See also: victim; survivor


Transgender persons include those who have a gender identity that is different to the gender assigned at birth and those people who wish to portray their gender identity in a different way to the gender assigned at birth. It includes those people who feel they have to, or prefer to, or choose to, present themselves differently to the expectations of the gender role assigned to them at birth, whether by clothing, accessories, cosmetics or body modification. It includes, among many others, transgender persons who are between male and female, transsexuals, transvestites and cross-dressers.


Transphobia can be described as an irrational fear of gender non-conformity or gender transgression, such as a fear of, or aversion to, masculine women, feminine men, cross-dressers, transgenderists, transsexuals, and others who do not fit into existing gender stereotypes about their birth gender.


This term refers to a person who prefers another gender than their birth gender and feels the need to undergo physical alterations to the body to express this feeling, such as hormone treatment and/or surgery.


unpaid work

Work that produces goods and services but which carries no direct remuneration or other form of payment. In its narrow definition, it refers to housework and care work. Unpaid work is unevenly distributed among women and men, with women having a higher participation rate in this unremunerated work.

unsafe abortion

Procedures for terminating a pregnancy performed either by persons lacking the necessary skills or in an environment lacking the basic medical and standard sanitary conditions, or both. While the definition seems to be linked to the process, characteristics of an unsafe abortion touch on inappropriate circumstances before, during or after an abortion.

In countries where abortion is illegal, legally highly restricted and/or unavailable, women have little choice but to resort to unsafe abortion, which exposes them to an increased risk of mortality or morbidity.


vertical segregation

In relation to gender equality, vertical segregation refers to the concentration of women and men in different grades, levels of responsibility or positions. It indicates the under- (or over-) representation of women and men workers in occupations or sectors at the top of an ordering based on ‘desirable’ attributes (income, prestige, job stability, etc.), independent of the sector of activity.

See also: horizontal segregation


A victim is a natural person who has suffered harm (including physical, mental or emotional harm or economic loss) directly caused by a criminal offence – regardless of whether an offender is identified, apprehended, prosecuted or convicted, and regardless of the familial relationship between them. This definition also covers family members of a deceased victim who have suffered harm because of the person’s death directly caused by a criminal offence.

In relation to violence against women, the term ‘victim’ is often used interchangeably with the term ‘survivor’. However, the term victim has been subject to criticism as it denies agency to women subjected to gender-based violence, in particular victims of rape. It has thus been suggested that the term survivor should be used. The debates in relation to this terminology are ongoing.

Note: Despite the current debates on terms ‘victim’ and ‘survivor’ − for the sake of clarity and consistency − in all definitions in the Gender Equality Glossary related to gender-based violence we use term ‘victim’ as the same term is used in European and international sources.

See also: survivor


In the equality context, victimisation describes any adverse treatment (including dismissal in cases of unequal treatment at work) in reaction to a complaint. This tends to be carried out by the alleged perpetrator of an act of discrimination (including forms of violence).

See also: secondary victimisation

violence against women

Violence against women constitutes a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women. Violence against women means all acts of gender-based violence that result in, or are likely to result in, physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion, or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.

Forms and manifestations of violence against women are shaped by social and cultural norms as well as by the dynamics of each social, economic and political system. Factors such as women’s racial or ethnic origin, caste, class, migrant or refugee status, age, religion, sexual orientation, marital status, disability or HIV status will influence what forms of violence they suffer and how they experience it.

Generally speaking, the definitions and descriptions of violence against women emphasise that this type of violence is based on gender; therefore, the concepts ‘violence against women’ and ‘gender-based violence’ are often used as synonymous. In some terms, the expression ‘against women’ is used to engender the victims. Other concepts, such as ‘men’s violence against women’, engender both the perpetrators and the victims in order to avoid gender neutrality.

See also: gender-based violence against women; victim; survivor

violence against women in conflict situations

Violence experienced by women and girls during armed conflict, ranging from physical, sexual to psychological violence perpetrated by both state and non-state actors. These forms of violence include murder, unlawful killings, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, abductions, maiming and mutilation, forced recruitment of women combatants, rape, sexual slavery, sexual exploitation, involuntary disappearance, arbitrary detention, forced marriage, forced prostitution, forced abortion, forced pregnancy and forced sterilisation.

Sexual violence has been used during armed conflict for many different reasons, including as a form of torture, to inflict injury, to extract information, to degrade and intimidate, and to destroy communities. Rape of women has been used to humiliate opponents, to drive communities and groups off land and to wilfully spread HIV. Women have been forced to perform sexual and domestic slave labour. Women have also been abducted and then forced to serve as ‘wives’ to reward fighters.

violence at work

Discrimination at work may be compounded by physical or psychological violence, which may be gender-based. The clearest illustration of this is sexual harassment, but harassment accompanied by violence or the threat of violence need not be sexual in intent. Researches indicate that there is a close connection between violence at work and precarious work, gender, youth, and certain high-risk occupational sectors.

vulnerable groups

Women, children and persons belonging, or perceived to belong, to groups that are in a disadvantaged position or marginalised are often referred to as vulnerable groups.

The term ‘vulnerable groups’ is often used interchangeably with the term ‘disadvantaged groups’. The stereotyped preconception that ‘vulnerability’ is an inherent characteristic of women masks the fact that stereotypical gender roles and attitudes and their discriminatory impact on women, sustained by the lack/omission of acts on the part of states to effectively address them, impose disadvantages on women, which may result in increased risks of becoming vulnerable to discrimination, including violence. Therefore, the term ‘vulnerable groups’ is not recommended, and ‘disadvantaged groups’ should be used instead.

See also: disadvantaged groups



A female human being; a person assigned a female sex at birth, or a person who defines herself as a woman.

woman worker

A woman worker is a person who, for a certain period of time, performs services for, and under the direction of, another person, in return for which she receives remuneration. The concept of a worker does not include independent providers of services who are not in a subordinate relationship with the person who receives the services.

woman’s body

This is a key concept in women’s studies and feminist theory, with a focus on topics of control over women’s bodies, corporeal diversities, and critiques of gender dichotomy and essentialism.

Discourses about gender affect bodies in different ways, namely through informing the appearances or competencies of girls and boys, women and men, or through generalising narratives about anatomy, physiology and other bodily characteristics of the genders. Due to the ubiquity of (new) media and popular science discourses on women’s and men’s roles in their assumed direct relation with corporeality, these discourses hold significant prescriptive power.

women in development (WID)

Women in development (WID) is an approach that calls for greater attention to women in development policy and practice, and emphasises the need to integrate them into the development process.

See also: gender and development (GAD)

women’s centre

A women’s centre is a specialised service that provides non-residential support of any kind (including information, advice, counselling, practical support, court accompaniment, legal information, proactive support, and outreach) to women victims of any form of violence, and for their children.

Women’s centres are crucial services, for various reasons: women’s shelters do not exist in all regions and women’s centres provide advocacy and counselling. Some women may not need accommodation at a women’s shelter, but they do need support and advocacy for access to justice, for example.

See also: women’s shelter; victim; survivor

women’s entrepreneurship

Women’s entrepreneurship refers to a career option for women of all ages, involving taking up and performing the specific activity of running an enterprise.

Even though there are more women than men in Europe, women entrepreneurs represent only a third of the self-employed in the EU. There are some additional factors (such as reconciling business and family) that make entrepreneurship a less attractive option for women than for men. When establishing and running a business, women also face challenges such as access to finance, access to information, training, and access to networks for business purposes.

women’s human rights defenders (WHRDs)

Women’s human rights defenders (WHRDs) are women of all ages who engage in the promotion and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, and all people who engage in the defence of the rights of women and gender equality, either individually or in association with others. WHRDs act under the protection of the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, otherwise known as the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders of 1999.

WHRDs face the same types of risks as all defenders who work to uphold the rights of people, communities and the environment, but also, as women, they are exposed to gender-specific risks and are targets of gender-based violence. This may be due to the fact that WHRDs are perceived as opposed to accepted sociocultural norms, traditions and stereotypes about femininity and the role and status of women in society. Their work is often seen as challenging traditional notions of the family.

women’s shelter

A women’s shelter is a specialised service for women, providing safe accommodation and support for women who are victims of violence, and for their children. Women’s shelters or refuges are, along with national women’s helplines, some of the most vital specialised support services for women victims of violence and for their children. They not only provide safe and emergency accommodation where women and their children can seek refuge from violence, but also long-term support to enable victims to rebuild violence-free and empowered lives.

The number of shelter places in women’s shelters is mostly defined as the number of shelter beds, although in some countries, where shelter spaces include a specific number or percentage of beds for women and children, only the beds allocated to women are counted.

The Explanatory Report of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention) contains recommendations that states should provide a minimum of one woman’s shelter space per every 10 000 inhabitants (for the accommodation of a woman and her children).

See also: victim; survivor


women’s studies

An academic, usually interdisciplinary, approach to the analysis of women’s situation and gender relations, as well as to the gender dimension of all other disciplines. The establishment of women’s studies confirmed the idea that women are worthy of study in their own right, and led to the development of a feminist epistemology. In itself, the constitution of women’s studies is a political act, connecting women’s and feminist movements, and thus multiplying the options for social change.

See also: feminist studies; gender studies

women’s triple role

Women’s triple role refers to a reproductive, productive and community managing role. The way these forms are valued affects the way women and men set priorities in planning programmes or projects. The taking or not taking into consideration of these forms can enhance or limit women’s chances of taking advantage of development opportunities.

In most societies, low-income women undertake all three roles, while men primarily undertake productive and community politics activities, which usually generate payment, status or power.

The reproductive role of women includes the care and maintenance of the actual and future workforce of the family (childbearing responsibilities and domestic tasks). The productive role of women relates to work performed by women and men for pay in cash or kind (market production, informal production, home production, subsistence production). The community managing role of women includes work mostly related to care and unpaid work, and provision of collective resources as water, healthcare, etc.

work–family balance

Achieving balance between work and family life is central to the principle and objectives of promoting equal opportunity. The term work–family balance refers to the dual responsibility for maintaining the home and family and carrying out paid work. Motherhood and the gender division of labour places this responsibility primarily on women. This situation is an important determinant of gender-based inequalities between the sexes and of inequalities among women. Conflict between these family responsibilities and the demands of work contributes significantly to women’s disadvantage in the labour market and the slow progress towards equal opportunity and equal treatment of women and men in employment.

See also: reconciliation of work, family and private life

work–life balance

The term work–life balance relates to achieving balance between not only domestic tasks and caring for dependent relatives, but also extracurricular responsibilities or other important life priorities. Work arrangements should be sufficiently flexible to enable workers of both sexes to undertake lifelong learning activities and activities related to their further professional and personal development, not necessarily directly related to the worker’s job.

Issues related to the improvement of career opportunities, lifelong learning and other personal and professional development activities are considered to be secondary to the objective of promoting the more equal sharing between women and men of responsibilities in the family and household, as well as in the workplace.

See also: reconciliation of work, family and private life