SECTION II
PROCESS OF GROWING UP
MODULE 5: UNDERSTANDING
AND CHALLENGING STEREOTYPES
AND DISCRIMINATION
Activity 1: Gender and Biology
Summing Up:
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Sex is biologically determined but gender is influenced by
the interaction of biological, psychological, social, cultural
and historical factors.
Gender is a concept made by society, teaching us how
men and women should behave and how they are
expected to act .This means that gender roles and
qualities vary from society to society, and at different
times in history.
The way girls and boys are socialized to be ‘feminine’ or
‘masculine’ is called gendering.
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Contd……
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Different cultures may value girls and boys differently and
assign them different gender roles, responsibilities and
attributes.
Gender-based stereotypes dictate certain behaviors and
practices which may not always be in the “best interest” of
individuals and communities
Recognizing that gender is socially constructed and that
gender- based behavior is learned helps us to understand
that behavior can be changed. For example, recognizing that
aggression in men is often learned can help us change the
way we socialize/ condition boys to be aggressive. Or that
women should stay at home and take care of children is based
on social norms, and can be countered by encouraging and
supporting women if they choose to work.
Contd……

Gender is not a fixed concept. It is dynamic (always
changing and evolving). For example, what women
were expected to be 20 years ago is very different from
the current expectations from women. Similarly, the
roles men had adopted in the past are very different
from their current roles. Hence, the concept of gender
is ever evolving, ever changing, at different paces
everywhere in this world.
Activity 2: Understanding and challenging
stereotypes
Character
Story 1
D
E
Story 2
A
B
Story 3
X
Story 4
Y
Z
Male
Female
Activity 2: Understanding and challenging stereotypes
Summing Up:
• Sex is biologically determined but gender is a social
construct. ‘Male’ and ‘female’ are sex categories. They are
basically assigned by nature. ‘Masculine’ and ‘feminine’ are
gender categories. They are influenced by the interaction
of biological, psychological, social, cultural and historical
factors.
•
Qualities like bravery, shyness, weak and strong are not ‘male’
or ‘female’. Qualities don’t have a gender. A woman can be
strong, a man can be shy etc. Society creates the ideas about
which qualities a man should possess and which qualities a
woman should possess. These messages are present all around
us – in the songs we hear, the movies we watch, the games we
play, the books we read etc.
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Family members, neighbors and even friends can give us
these messages about how girls and boys should behave. For
example a boy who is crying is likely to hear ‘boys don’t cry’
from family as well as friends. These ideas are so strong that
often we also start internalizing and believing in them.
These ideas are called gender stereotypes and are reinforced
by socialization.
In many societies today girls/women are stereotyped as
being more emotional , and boys/men are stereotyped being
as more independent-minded. However, the stereotypes
vary from one society to another.
A vast diversity of qualities which cannot be captured by
gender stereotypes. Most of us do not behave, feel, dress,
walk, talk act 100% in the way our society expects us to.
MODULE 5
Activity 2: Understanding and challenging
stereotypes
The facilitator should emphasize that:
• Most of us do not behave, feel, dress, walk, talk, act 100% in
the way that society expects us do. For example, I might be a
boy who is nervous or I might be a girl who laughs loudly.
The more we behave and act differently from gender
stereotypes the greater the discrimination we face.
•
Girls and boys who do not behave according to gender
stereotypes can face prejudice, fear, shame, stigma and
discrimination. The violations range from not being able to
express oneself, being laughed at, taunted, scolded, beaten,
denied equal opportunities of education, work etc.
MODULE 5
Activity 2: Understanding and challenging
stereotypes
The facilitator should emphasize that:
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Like gender there are also stereotypes and assumptions
related to sexuality. In the responses to case study 4, there
might be an assumption that it is only boys who will be the
first to express feelings of attraction, that they will be
active and the girls will be passive. This assumption is
rooted in the reality that social norms do not encourage
girls to take initiative in matters of love or romance.
Hence, girls may find it difficult to express themselves
frankly on these issues. However, this may not necessarily
be true of all the girls.
Also as in the responses to case study 2 there might be an

In order to decrease stereotypes and allow
people to live with respect and dignity, it is
important to broaden knowledge and
understanding of different kinds of people
and be aware of the rights of all people.
MODULE 5: UNDERSTANDING AND
CHALLENGING STEREOTYPES
AND DISCRIMINATION
Activity 3: Understanding and Challenging Discrimination
MODULE 5
Activity 3: Understanding and challenging
discrimination
The facilitator should emphasize that:
•
In the case studies there are details which might
be specific to certain contexts, such as urban or
rural, rich or poor. However, the key issues
being raised apply to different contexts
•
All the case studies highlight issues arising out
of discrimination based on gender and sexuality.
Some positive action against discrimination has
also been highlighted through individual
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Discrimination happens when similarly situated
individuals are treated differently from others.
Those facing discrimination are not treated in an
equal manner and are denied certain rights.
These rights could include the right to express
one self, right to live with dignity, right to
education, work, mobility, health, to be free from
violence etc.
Despite discrimination and the violation of
rights, people do find ways of negotiating and
expressing themselves
MODULE 5
Activity 3: Understanding and challenging
discrimination
The facilitator should emphasize that:
•
The case studies are about individual experiences but they
represent the nature of discrimination faced by entire
groups
•
For example, the first case study highlights that when only
girls are expected to perform household duties it amounts to
discrimination against them. This unfair burden of
household responsibilities may limit the educational
opportunities for girls. Substantial proportion of girls in
India drop out of school due to household responsibilities
•
The second case study highlights that often girls’/women’s
mobility is restricted. As a result, girls and women may suffer
several negative consequences. In this case study, Rehana’s
educational opportunities were restricted. The restrictions
placed on girls’ and women’s mobility are related to gender
and sexuality. There are fears related to vulnerability – that
the girl/ woman may be sexually harassed/ violated. There is
also the fear that the girl/ woman may be able to establish an
independent identity and take her own decisions. Girls and
women are seen to represent the honor of the family and often
face restrictions and discrimination owing to this reason.
•
The third case study highlights that many individuals and
families prefer a male child. As a result, the female child faces
neglect throughout her life. However, there are individuals
like Pooja’s mother who are able to fight the system against all
odds.
MODULE 5
Activity 3: Understanding and challenging
discrimination
The facilitator should emphasize that:

The case studies are about individual experiences but
they represent the nature of discrimination faced by
entire group
•
Sex Selection is the practice of determining the sex of the
unborn fetus and eliminating it if found to be female.
•
The fourth case study highlights that despite being illegal,
asking and giving dowry is rampant in our society. Many
women face violence in their marital homes due to dowry.
One of the reasons for son preference and sex selective
abortion is that parents do not want the burden of dowry.
Furthermore, the question of inheritance is linked to dowry.
This is a highly dangerous logic that operates at many levels and
apart from being unjust, it perpetuates discrimination against
girls and women. However, it is noteworthy that women have
equal inheritance rights as men and the law upholds this
equality.
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The fifth case study highlights that just like boys, girls also need
good nutrition to grow healthy and strong. Neglecting girls’
nutrition will prevent them from realizing their potential.
Although substantial proportions of young people in India suffer
from anemia, a larger proportion of girls are anemic. Findings
from the National Family Health Survey 2005-06 show that 56%
females and 25% males in the age group of 15-24 were found to
be anemic at the time of the survey.
MODULE 5
Activity 3: Understanding and Challenging
Discrimination
The facilitator should emphasize that:
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There are civil society movements to counter discrimination and
violation of rights of groups. Although there are significant
problems in implementation, there have also been positive
changes in laws, policies and programs that recognize rights
related to gender and sexuality
Efforts for more such positive changes continue
Importantly, each of us has a choice: to give in to discrimination
and perpetuate it or fight it like Pooja’s mother and Rani
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