If a person is treated unequally when compared to another person in a similar situation, on the grounds of sex or gender, such treatment may result in sex or gender discrimination.

‘Sex’ refers to a person’s biological status and means a male or a female, a group of men or a group of women, girls or boys.  Sex may also mean gender identity, the way one perceives oneself – as a man, a woman or a transsexual.  ‘Gender’ refers to the roles that are given to people in society based on their sex.

There are many gender stereotypes in society. For example, the belief that a certain job should be done by a woman simply because of her sex, or that women are generally less competent than men in decision making because they are more emotional.

Unfortunately, gender stereotypes often lead on to gender discrimination, when certain rights are denied to someone because of their sex or gender. Moreover, there are different ways in which discrimination can occur, and this is not always in a direct and overt manner. Therefore, it is important to recognize different types of discrimination.

Employment context

Sex or gender discrimination, especially against women, often takes place in an employment context. For instance, it often occurs when hiring, promoting or determining salary. 

example Sex discrimination against a woman would take place if she is refused a job because the employer thinks she might become pregnant or through paying a male employee a higher salary for doing the same job. Sex discrimination against a man would occur if only women were hired as social workers, because they were perceived to have more empathy. 

Sexual harassment is also a form of discrimination associated with the workplace. In cases of sexual harassment, the victim may not have received lower pay or been passed over for promotions. However, it may be difficult or impossible for the person to do their job due to inappropriate sexual comments, or the type of behaviour taking place there.  

example Inappropriate sexual jokes or material placed on a bulletin board, which would create a hostile working environment, would be considered sexual harassment. A supervisor’s demand that subordinates tolerate sexual advances as a condition for getting or keeping a job, is sexual harassment.

In this Guide, you can read more about the most common areas of daily life where discriminatory practices may occur. 


Last updated 26/09/2019