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What is gender?

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What is gender?

The concept of "gender" has not been well defined and is not well understood. The definition of gender has even been the subject of exhaustive debate, including at a special United Nations session in connection with the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.

Gender is often confused with sex. However, sex generally refers to biology and anatomy. People are said to be of the male sex or the female sex, as determined by three sets of characteristics: external sex organs, internal sex organs, and secondary sexual development at puberty. The word sex is also used to mean sexual intercourse or activity.

By contrast, gender refers to a set of qualities and behaviors expected from a female or male by society. Gender roles are learned and can be affected by factors such as education or economics. They vary widely within and among cultures. While an individual's sex does not change, gender roles are socially determined and can evolve over time.

Gender roles and expectations are often identified as factors hindering the equal rights and status of women with adverse consequences that affect life, family, socioeconomic status, and health. For this reason, gender, like sexuality, is an important element of family planning and reproductive health services.

 
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