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
(1) Desprez-Bouanchaud, A., Doolaege, J., and Ruprecht, L. (1999). Guidelines on Gender-Neutral Language, Paris, Unesco, Paris. Available at:
http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0011/001149/114950mo.pdf; (2) CEDAW Committee (2010). General Recommendation No 28 on the core obligations of States parties under Article 2 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.