Sex & Gender and discrimination

Sex discrimination exists when a person (man or woman) or group of people (men or women) are treated unfairly solely on the basis of their sex. An understanding of gender is important to understanding inequality between women and men. Discrimination on the basis of gender is both subtle and persistent.

Women are expected to be ‘natural carers’ which has led to a huge imbalance in the types of jobs women do, how much they earn, how much housework/ caring they do and disapproval of society if they do not conform to this stereotype.

Men are expected to be ‘strong’ and unemotional, and they can often experience barriers when seeking jobs that require a degree of caring or empathy. Their masculinity can single them out for additional duties that rely on physical capacity rather than capacity to care.

There is a very serious side to this imposed difference. It means that women consistently earn less than men throughout their lives and often live in poverty when they are older. This lack of economic power has also meant that women have less power in society and less access to positions of power in politics.

In most cases we grow up feeling a sense of comfort or acceptance with our gender (as prescribed by biological sex at birth). However, a small number of us (around 1 in 11,500) find as we grow our prescribed gender is so different from our internal sense of where we exist in relation to being a boy/girl, man/women that we express a wish to live in the opposite, more appropriate gender. In Scotland, those of us experiencing this are referred to as ‘transgender people’ also covered by the Equality Act 2010.

What is sex discrimination? - a short film by the Equality & Human Rights Commission
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