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Sexual Discrimination in the UK and Abroad

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 1 Aug 2013 | comments*Discuss
Sex gender sexism sexism sexist sex

Sexual discrimination, also known as sexism, still persists in societies around the world. In the United Kingdom there are laws that prohibit sexual discrimination in specific situations, but laws can not mandate the way that individuals think and they also can not enforce themselves - society must be disgusted with sexual discrimination and motivated to enforce these laws to ensure equal treatment for individuals of both sexes/genders. Many individuals in the UK understand that to treat individuals differently on account of sex/gender is unfair, but are unaware of the broad picture of sexual discrimination. Below are some basic answers to frequently asked questions about sexual discrimination.

What Is Sexual Discrimination?

Sexual discrimination is the unfair treatment of, or outright hatred of, individuals of a certain sex/gender. Sometimes sexual discrimination is described at the organisational level, as a system or policy of treating one sex/gender unfairly. Sexual discrimination may be practiced to benefit one sex/gender, or simply because one sex/gender is thought to be inferior.

Does Sexual Discrimination Only Affect Women?

No. Sexual discrimination can be practiced against both sexes/genders, though it is most often related to discrimination against women. Sexual discrimination may also be practiced against transgender individuals, or those who have undergone, are undergoing or will undergo gender reassignment.

Is Sexual Discrimination Illegal?

Yes. A variety of laws work to provide equal rights to males and females in the United Kingdom. The Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 protects individuals from being discriminated against in employment, vocational training, education, the provision and sale of goods, facilities and services, premises and the exercise of public functions due to their sex/gender. The Equal Pay Act of 1970 mandates equal pay for equal work regardless of an individual's sex/gender. The Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations 1999 also protect the rights of individuals who intend to undergo, are undergoing or have undergone gender reassignment. These Regulations pertain to pay and treatment in employment, self-employment and vocational training.

Is Sexual Discrimination Illegal Across the World?

No. Not every nation has laws on their books to outlaw sexual discrimination and ensure equal rights regardless of sex/gender. Generally this is because women's rights are not protected around the world. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is an international standard relating to women's rights, but it is not necessarily legally enforceable even in the countries which have signed and ratified it. CEDAW is an important document as it does multiple things to fight sexual discrimination. It defines discrimination against women and includes advice on national action plans for ending discrimination against women.

Most notably the countries which have ratified CEDAW have agreed to add the principle of equality of the sexes to their justice system (both by abolishing discriminatory laws and adding laws guaranteeing equality), establish public bodies to protect the rights of women and work to eliminate acts of discrimination against women by individuals and organisations. The United Kingdom signed the Convention in 1981 and ratified it in 1986.

Are There Organisations Working Against Sexual Discrimination in the UK?

Yes, and reporting instances and examples of sexual discrimination to organisations working for equal rights may also help to eradicate such behaviours. The Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Women and Equality Unit (www.womenandequalityunit.gov.uk) are both organisations that strive for equality and fight against sexual discrimination in the United Kingdom.

Can I Make A Difference In the Fight Against Sexual Discrimination?

Absolutely. Fighting sexual discrimination does not need to be about grand gestures and making headlines. Instead, every time an individual reconsiders a stereotype, speaks out against discrimination, ceases to make sexist jokes and references, tells others that such jokes and references are unacceptable, and does all that (s)he can to learn from the talents of each individual, regardless of sex/gender, then discrimination is being fought. Hopefully sexual discrimination will soon become a thing of the past, but until then everyone can play a part in helping it to end.

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