Gender norms and stereotypes


Gen­der norms and stereo­typ­ing refers to the prac­tice of ascrib­ing spe­cific attrib­utes, char­ac­ter­is­tics, or roles to an indi­vid­ual by rea­son only of their mem­ber­ship in the social group of women or men. Spe­cific clothes, jobs, and par­ent­ing roles, for exam­ple, are often asso­ci­ated with the gen­der iden­ti­ties of ‘man’ and ‘woman.’ As social con­structs, these norms and stereo­types are defined and enforced by cul­tures, com­mu­ni­ties, and insti­tu­tions, and are often used to jus­tify dis­crim­i­na­tion against those that do not adhere to them. Gen­der norms and stereo­typ­ing can lead to the vio­la­tion of human rights and fun­da­men­tal free­doms.

Given that HIV is mainly tied to sex­ual health and behav­iour, gen­der norms greatly con­tribute to bar­ri­ers to pre­ven­tion, test­ing and treat­ment. For instance, in many cul­tures it is assumed that women will abstain from sex before mar­riage. Under that assump­tion, those seek­ing pre­ven­tive care or test­ing after inter­course may be turned away or harassed because they do not adhere to this gen­der norm. Sim­i­larly, to encour­age male HIV test­ing, some gov­ern­ments pri­or­i­tize the care of preg­nant peo­ple who are accom­pa­nied by male part­ners. Preg­nant peo­ple with HIV sta­tus who do not have this gen­der-stereo­typ­i­cal lifestyle may forgo appoint­ments, may be refused health ser­vices, or may go through labour with­out med­ical super­vi­sion. Social con­structs like these can vary dras­ti­cally, mak­ing key pop­u­la­tion and com­mu­nity lead­er­ship cen­tral to effec­tive responses.

Inter­na­tion­ally agreed res­o­lu­tions and other prece­dents reflected in the Lan­guage Com­pendium have urged States to change “gen­der stereo­types and neg­a­tive social norms.” Other prece­dents have called for pri­or­i­tiz­ing “invest­ments into gen­der-trans­for­ma­tive, com­mu­nity-led inter­ven­tions, espe­cially those shown to reduce both HIV and vio­lence against women and girls.”


2021 HRC resolution on human rights in the context of HIV and AIDS

2021 CSW Report on women and HIV/AIDS

2016 Resolution on Women, the Girl Child and HIV and AIDS

2012 Resolution on women in development

2011 Political Declaration of the HLM on NCDs

2011 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS

Expert precedents

2022 OHCHR Annual Report on Human Rights and HIV/AIDS

2016 General Comment No.22 on the Right to Sexual and Reproductive Health

1999 General Recommendation No.24 on women and health