“Gender” refers to a socially constructed set of economic, social and political roles, responsibilities, rights, entitlements and obligations associated with being female and male, as well as power relations between and among women, men, boys and girls. One’s gender identity may or may not correlate with one’s sex assigned at birth, may change over time and may intersect with other factors such as race, class, age and sexual orientation.

While “gender” refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities and attributions that a given society considers appropriate for men and women, “sex” refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women.

Gender inequality and harmful gender norms inhibit people of all genders and ages from accessing health information and services—including family planning, maternal health, HIV and care for survivors of gender-based violence. For example, in some settings men decide whether women deliver babies at home or in a health care facility. In other contexts, gender norms have relegated health care to being a women’s issue, and men avoid seeking health services so as not to be perceived as weak.