Intended for healthcare professionals


How serious are global health leaders about gender equality?

BMJ 2018; 361 doi: (Published 06 April 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;361:k1462
  1. Anuj Kapilashrami, lecturer in global health policy and associate director for Global Development Academy
  1. University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  1. anuj.kapilashrami{at}

Not at all serious, according to a new report

In the past year unprecedented public attention has been given to gender based discrimination and inequalities, and demands for a fairer world for women. Closing the gender parity gap, however, seems a distant reality across multiple dimensions—economic participation, political empowerment, and health.1

But it is not only a women’s issue. Gender based inequalities can disadvantage women, men, and those with diverse genders.2 Gender norms prevalent throughout society affect health behaviours, care seeking practices, health systems responses, and health outcomes.

That women’s and men’s positions in society affect their life chances and their access to health promoting resources is well established.3 In most countries, men die younger while women have a higher risk of morbidities linked to their reproductive roles, a lower status in society, and gender norms that impair their agency and bargaining position in sexual relationships. Men’s poor health is also affected by gender norms around masculinity, exposing them to risk environments and harmful products, including alcohol and tobacco, which are promoted by commercial interests.4 People who do not conform to gender binaries remain stigmatised and, in many institutional and policy contexts, …

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