Every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect in all areas of life.

Gender discrimination is when a person is treated unfairly or unfavorably because of sex. Gender discrimination can affect a person to varying degrees within the privacy of their own home or in public life. A person may experience gender discrimination in the home, in the workplace, and in public life.

The following information explains gender discrimination to and for women. The definitions and examples do, however, apply to all people.


Domestic discrimination

At home, a woman may be considered as inferior (lower than) the men, resulting in unfair or poor treatment. While it’s true that different cultures and families have customs for conducting the affairs of their household, a woman’s well-being and freedom should never be threatened or harmed. Abusive behavior is used to control and manipulate women, oftentimes by members of her own family. Abuse is wrong and always the fault of the abuser, not the victim. Gender discrimination in the home may include abusive treatment of the following types:

Physical Abuse is an intentional act to cause injury or pain to another person through bodily contact, such as hitting, kicking, throwing, burning, drowning, or suffocating. Physical abuse is often used to bully a person so that they will not resist the abuser. It may also be used as a punishment when the victim behaves in a way that is undesirable to the abuser. In some cases, physical abuse may start small, but it is always dangerous and can become life-threatening.

Verbal Abuse is a destructive way of speaking to another person that is intended to do harm and produce negative emotions. Verbal abuse is characterized by hostility and anger, aiming to attack the other person through judging, name-calling, accusing, criticizing and insults. The abuser may negate the thoughts and feelings of the victim (called “gaslighting”) in order to gain a sense of control and dominance over them. By denying the reality of the harm being experienced by the victim, the abuser causes even greater psychological harm. Even though verbal abuse does not leave bruising, exposure to it can be as damaging to a person’s health as physical abuse.

Sexual Abuse, including molestation, assault, and rape, is any unwanted sexual contact by one person to another. The damaging effects of sexual abuse can be both physical and psychological. Anytime sexual contact involves a child, it is a serious case of abuse. While it is commonly thought that sexual abuse is most often perpetrated by someone who is not one’s partner, it can occur in the context of a committed relationship.

Marital rape refers to a situation in which one spouse has been forced into sex by their partner. If the spouse does not  give consent or is unable to consent (for example, if unconscious or intoxicated). Marital sex between two committed partners is, and always should be, an expression of respect, love, and care. Being married does not legally mandate a person to have sex with their partner. Unfortunately, many women come to believe that their personal freedoms no longer apply once they are married, but the fact of being married does not entitle a man to his spouse’s body at any time. It is always immoral and abusive to force sex on another person.

Financial, or Economic Abuse, is when one partner takes control over the other’s access to money, income, and any other financial support. In this situation, it is difficult or impossible for the victim to retain independence, which forces her to depend on the abuser financially. Economic abuse may also involve controlling the woman’s ability to earn money by preventing her from getting a job or an education. This type of abuse may allow the abuser to exert greater control over other areas of a woman’s life.

Spiritual Abuse occurs when a person in religious authority/leadership uses their position to control or subjugate the people who look to them for guidance. It is when a religious leader uses their influence to gain power and to control others instead of helping them. Spiritual abuse often takes advantage of the beliefs of the person. For example, in many parts of Africa, voodoo threats have been made against women or their family members in order to coerce them into slavery.


Workplace Discrimination

Workplace discrimination refers to prejudicial treatment of different categories of people in context of employment, often because of race, age, or sex. Although gender discrimination in the workplace is illegal in many countries, women frequently face barriers in seeking and keeping employment. Women commonly experience discrimination in opportunity access, remuneration, and work conditions.

It’s important to note that differential treatment based on other factors, such as qualifications, experience, or responsibility, is not the same as gender discrimination. However, employers may claim to be acting for one of these reasons, while in reality be engaging in gender-based discrimination in the following areas:

Opportunity Access: Women may not be granted the same access to work opportunities as men. In some cases, it may not be immediately obvious that gender discrimination is at work. For example, a qualified woman may receive fewer calls for interviews than her male counterpart. Such practices may be based on an unconscious bias against women or more explicit beliefs against women working. During the hiring process, employers may discriminate against a woman because of her ability to become pregnant. This type of discrimination could occur early on or late in the process, even though in many countries it is illegal. A woman may not be given a chance at an interview because the employer prefers to avoid the possibility of having a pregnant employee.  An employee’s pregnancy may be viewed as an inconvenience, especially when it involves legal responsibilities by the employer.

Gender discrimination can also take place at the interview stage, when a woman is asked about her personal plans for the future, such as whether or not she is planning to have children. Being demoted as a result of becoming pregnant is another example of gender-based discriminatory practice. Italian law protects women against gender discrimination in employment access, career progression, access to public jobs, and the right to maternity leave. Italian law prohibits employers from firing women because they got married or had a child.

Remuneration: Women and men should be paid equally according to their experience and qualifications. However, it is an unfortunate fact that women all over the world are paid less on average than their male peers in the workplace. Sometimes this is because women are offered less than men from the beginning. Since women often find themselves in a more vulnerable state economically, a female employee may be less likely to negotiate salary than a man would, resulting in lower overall pay over the long run. When an equally-qualified woman has the same performance and responsibilities as a male employee but is paid less, this can be labelled as gender discrimination. Italian law protects women’s right to equal pay, which should be based on working responsibilities. Women also have the right to equal pension opportunities as men.

Work Conditions: Working conditions are another area in which women may experience discrimination. In some work environments, gender-based discrimination may be blatant. An employer could ask a woman for sexual favors in return for future opportunities or turn a blind eye to her harassment by other employees. When a woman is deprived of basic rights in the workplace or does not have access to the same quality working conditions as a man, this is another form of gender discrimination. The presence of disability can bring about more complex forms of discrimination. While a man with disability may be given an adequate accommodation to perform his work duties, a woman in a similar situation may have a harder time acquiring the same accomodation. She may be questioned or criticized for her disability, even if she is willing to compensate for the inconvenience caused by working additional hours. A woman with a disability tends to be more economically vulnerable than a man with a disability, which may allow an employer to exploit a woman in this situation more easily.

A more subtle form of gender discrimination occurs when women are denied job assignments that they are qualified for and capable of doing. It is gender discrimination when such assignments are passed on to a male colleague without any basis in merit. These instances can limit a woman’s career trajectory and often has a ripple effect into other areas of her professional life, for example, by limiting her opportunities for higher pay in the future. Italian law prohibits both direct and indirect forms of discrimination against women. Direct discrimination is when a person is treated in a less favorable manner than someone else on account of gender. Indirect discrimination includes any procedure that produces less favorable conditions for a woman. Any kind of harassment, including sexual harassment, is prohibited under Italian law. Harassment is a behavior that violates a person’s dignity and creates an intimidating or hostile environment for him/her.


Public Discrimination

Depending on the culture and laws of a particular place, gender discrimination in the public arena may look different. “Public discrimination” is defined here as unfair treatment of women in public life. In some countries, laws are explicitly designed to exclude women from certain rights and privileges. For example, many Middle Eastern countries do not allow women to drive or hold private property in their own name. Women can experience discrimination in many or all areas of their life in a society. Here, we will focus on three major areas of public life where discrimination has a major impact on women: education, voting, and the legal system.

Education: In some societies, women are allowed only limited access to schooling or are completely prohibited from receiving an education. Depriving women and girls of an education is a type of systematic discrimination that ensures male predominance in a society. Without access to an education, women are denied the possibility of a career and the financial autonomy that this would offer. Women in this situation remain dependent upon men to provide for their needs, putting them in a position in which they may become subject to the demands made by men.

Even in societies in which women have the legal right to an education, they may experience other types of discrimination in relation to schooling. School admissions may select students in a way that is unfavorable to women or simply deny women the chance to attend the institution. Male students may benefit from financial aid and education scholarships while female students do not enjoy the same access to these services. In educational institutions with housing attached, women students may experience discrimination when they do not receive the same quality of housing as their male classmates.

In primary or secondary school, gender discrimination can occur at the level of school discipline. For example, girls may be unfairly treated in the classroom or receive harsher punishment than their male classmates when being disciplined. A double standard may exist in which male students are permitted certain behaviors, while female students receive disciplinary action for the same behavior. Such unfair treatment means that female students are held to a higher standard of achievement and behavior in order to retain their educational opportunities.

Voting rights: Women have had to fight for equal voting rights in almost every country in the world. In some countries, women still do not have the legal right to vote. Not having the right to vote is unfair to women because they are affected by political decisions to the same, or to a greater, extent as compared to men. When women gain the right to vote, they acquire real power in determining the future of their country. Discrimination against women takes away that power by making it harder for women to participate in elections. Women may experience discrimination when voting procedures have the effect of excluding them from the electoral process. One example is when voting locations and times make it particularly difficult or impossible for women to participate. Misinformation can pose barriers as well, such as when women are intimidated into voting for a certain candidate because they are are not made aware that their ballot is kept secret.

Judicial Rights: The legal system exists to administer justice in a society. The ideal court would be unbiased, giving each person equal treatment. However, in many cases, the courts may be biased against women. Under international law, women have the right to a fair trial. A fair trial means that the court does not discriminate against a plaintiff or defendant on account of gender. A jury or judge may rule in favor of a man without recognizing that, based on the facts alone, the woman should be the one to receive a positive verdict. This type of treatment has been called implicit bias, which refers to the powerful effect of our unconscious prejudices on decision-making. Even women can be biased negatively against other women without realizing it. If a woman is the victim and has filed charges against a man, gender discrimination occurs when preference is arbitrarily given to the man.

Most countries have laws that put the weight of proof on the accuser rather than the person being accused. In other words, strong evidence must be given to show that someone has broken the law in order for there to be a sentence. This practice is laudable in that it protects people from being unfairly charged with crimes they did not commit. But discrimination can operate in insidious ways. It may come into play when the courts judge a woman guilty despite there being insufficient evidence to demonstrate this. On the other hand, a woman may credibly accuse a man of a crime, but when the jury is sympathetic to the man, the evidence may be ignored or suppressed. Both extremes illustrate the ways in which women sometimes receive unfair, or discriminatory, treatment in a court of law. Italian law seeks to compensate for the bias against women by ensuring the right to trial on account of gender-based discrimination. By law, gender discrimination cases require only a light onus of proof. In other words, a person who files a charge of gender discrimination should be believed in the Italian system so long as there is supporting evidence.