How gender stereotyping affects the enjoyment of human rights

Harmful gender stereotypes and wrongful gender stereotyping are one of the root causes for discrimination, abuse and violence in manifold areas and can lead to violations of a wide array of human rights. The following are some examples of how gender stereotyping affects the enjoyment of human rights.

Access to quality education

Gender stereotypes act as a barrier for girls to access quality education. For example, stereotypes about the role of women as confined to the domestic and family sphere underpin all obstacles to girls’ equal access to quality education. Girls are often socialized to assume domestic and care responsibilities, with the assumption that they will be economically dependent on men. The stereotype of men as breadwinners leads to the prioritization of boys’ education. Stereotypes often dictate different expectations for boys and girls, such as completion of education and fields of study to pursue. Stereotypes are also perpetuated in school curricula and materials, which often leads to occupational gender segregation, with girls less likely to study and pursue careers in highly valued professional and traditionally male-dominated fields, such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

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Access to and participation in information and communication technologies (ICTs)

ICTs bring both opportunities and risks for women’s human rights and gender equality. The gender digital divide has recently grown from 11 per cent in 2013 to 12 per cent in 2016. The factors behind this divide are multiple and complex and often linked to social norms, bias and gender stereotypes as well as gender discrimination offline. As examples of harmful gender stereotypes impeding women and girls’ access to ICTs, gender stereotypes which perceive girls as ‘inherently not tech savvy’ may discourage girls to pursue education and occupation in STEM fields. It may result in the low representation of women and girls in the development of ICTs, its contents and services tailored for their needs and interests, and thus attract less women and girls to ICTs. Online job advertisement generated by artificial intelligence may propose less highly-paid job opportunities to women, compared to men, due to the harmful gender stereotypes reflected in the data used for machine learning.

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Violence against women

Harmful gender stereotypes, rigid constructions of femininity and masculinity and stereotyped gender roles are a root cause of gender-based violence against women. To eliminate gender-based violence against women, it would be crucial to transform discriminatory gender norms and stereotypes and to promote non-violent, respectful and equal gender relations between men, women and non-binary persons. Such transformation could be facilitated through a number of measures, including: gender-responsive early childhood education and development; the integration of gender equality content into curricula at all levels of education and scientifically based and age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education; promoting equal sharing of responsibilities in unpaid care and domestic work, including through parental leave policies and increased flexibility in working arrangements; and dismantling discriminatory stereotypes in sexual and reproductive health.

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