Gender Stereotyping: Transnational Legal Perspectives

Gender Stereotyping: Transnational Legal Perspectives

Gender Stereotyping: Transnational Legal Perspectives

Gender Stereotyping: Transnational Legal Perspectives


Drawing on domestic and international law, as well as on judgments given by courts and human rights treaty bodies, Gender Stereotyping offers perspectives on ways gender stereotypes might be eliminated through the transnational legal process in order to ensure women's equality and the full exercise of their human rights.

A leading international framework for debates on the subject of stereotypes, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, was adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly and defines what constitutes discrimination against women. It also establishes an agenda to eliminate discrimination in all its forms in order to ensure substantive equality for women. Applying the Convention as the primary framework for analysis, this book provides essential strategies for eradicating gender stereotyping. Its proposed methodology requires naming operative gender stereotypes, identifying how they violate the human rights of women, and articulating states' obligations to eliminate and remedy these violations.

According to Rebecca J. Cook and Simone Cusack, in order to abolish all forms of discrimination against women, priority needs to be given to the elimination of gender stereotypes. While stereotypes affect both men and women, they can have particularly egregious effects on women, often devaluing them and assigning them to subservient roles in society. As the legal perspectives offered in Gender Stereotyping demonstrate, treating women according to restrictive generalizations instead of their individual needs, abilities, and circumstances denies women their human rights and fundamental freedoms.


Striking about this book is its demonstration of how common the phenomenon of repressive stereotyping of women is in all parts of the world. Within a country, stereotyping is liable to pervade different sectors of national life, whether it be in the education, employment or health sectors, marriage or family relations or other areas of national life. The pervasiveness of gender stereotypes that determine women’s value in life or direct or restrict their “proper” role in their communities combines with the persistence of the conceptions of women’s roles, qualities and attributes over time. While the content of stereotypes might vary according to countries and sectors, they generally function to contribute to systemic beliefs that justify women’s subordination in society.

If countries are going to benefit from the knowledge, capacity, ingenuity, and leadership of their female populations, they will need to take seriously the importance of eliminating restrictive stereotypes of women. Countries will need to ensure that women are considered in terms of their actual characteristics and competence, not in terms of stereotypical generalizations about their inherent value as human beings or the roles that they should perform in the various dimensions of their families, communities, and wider societies.

Societies cannot wait for extraordinary individuals to break stereotypes, although such individuals are to be supported and celebrated. They need to refine their own strategic methodology, informed by the methodology presented in this book, of identifying each stereotype, diagnosing its harm and determining how the law perpetuates its use. They will need to take account of its historical origins and its political, economic and social contexts, to inspire individuals and institutions to eliminate its harms to women and society at large.

This book is an important step in advancing understanding of how . . .

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