Gender and Culture


What is gender?

The term gender refers to the social construction of female and male identity. It can be defined as more than biological differences between men and women. It includes the ways in which those differences, whether real or perceived, have been valued, used and relied upon to classify women and men and to assign roles and expectations to them. The significance of this is that the lives and experiences of women and men, including their experience of the legal system, occur within complex sets of differing social and cultural expectations.

Sex: this is a natural attribute that is used to identify men and women, boys and girls. This biological attribute is none changing. It is also important to note that people are born males or females; they learn to be boys and girls, and grow into men and women.

Gender discrimination: this refers to unfair treatment meted out usually to girls and women in comparison to men and boys. The differential treatment or discrimination is usually explained and justified in terms of stereotyping both men and women based on gender roles. These roles may include women’s core responsibility to family care and community development and men’s central role as family bread winners, providers of security and career advancement are usually explained in terms of these gender considerations.

Gender identity: it refers to our own perception or conception of being male or female and the roles that we consider should accompany it. This identity is strongly based on cultural setup of societies. But s societies begin to experience a wave of change over time and new opportunities like education are provided to males and females, these traditional aspirations or identity become less valid.

Gender gaps: this is the difference between males and females in terms of access to resources, opportunities, power, influence and control. Examples include; gas in education, leadership.

What is empowerment?

Empowerment is the process of marginalized people- both men and women- gaining resources, confidence and opportunity to take control over their lives. Empowerment means being able to negotiate with and influence people and institutions with power that is to say you have the capacity to ask, demand, bargain, discuss. It can be important as an individual process, but it is most powerful as a collective, social and political process involving solidarity and collective action. Women’s empowerment is essential to end gender discrimination and reduce poverty. Some indicators of empowerment include;

v  self-worth, self-confidence and self-reliance

v  solidarity, voice and action with like-minded people to demand rights and needs

v  Economic independence with control over resources and assets.

v  Leadership and influence over decisions, freedom of mobility and association.

v  Knowledge and its effective use and communication

v  Ability to ensure the health of development of children (girls and boys)

v  Being listened to and treated with respect within and outside the family.

v  Freedom from violence, abuse and exploitation

Gender analysis: it is a method of identifying, analyzing, and understanding different activities of men and women, relations between men and women as well as patterns of women’s access to and control of resources.

Gender analysis has further been defined as the collection and examination of information about;

  • The different roles of men and women
  • The relationship and inequalities between them
  • Their different experience, capacities, needs, constraints, rights, issues and priorities
  • The reasons for these differences
  • The need, strategies, and opportunities for change

Gender analysis:

  • Examines the differences in women’s and men’s lives, including those which lead to social and economic inequality for women, and applies this understanding to policy development and service delivery
  • Is concerned with the underlying causes of these inequities
  • aims to achieve positive change for women

Gender analysis recognizes that;

  • women’s and men’s lives and therefore experiences needs, issues, and priorities are different
  • women’s lives are not all the same; the interests that women have in common may be determined as much by their social position or their ethnic identity as by the fact that they are women
  • women’s life experiences, needs, issues and priorities are different for different ethnic groups
  • the life experiences, needs, issues and priorities vary for different groups of women (dependent on age, ethnicity, disability, income levels, employment status, marital status, sexual orientation and whether they have dependants)
  • different strategies may be necessary to achieve equitable outcomes for women and men

and different groups of women.



Gender analysis aims to achieve equity, rather than equality.

Gender equality is based on the premise that women and men should be treated in same way. This fails to recognize that equal treatment will not produce equitable results, because women and men have different life experiences.

Gender equity takes into consideration the differences in women’s and men’s lives and recognizes that different approaches maybe needed to produce outcomes that are equitable. It deals with equitable just and fair distribution of resources.

What is gender planning?

Gender planning is part of wider program/project planning. It involves decisions and resources allocations, based on gender analysis that ensures that programs and projects are gender equitable. This means taking into account the unequal relations of women and men in the target communities, their different roles and needs, and the particular constraints that women face.

Gender planning involves identifying special measures that will challenge these unequal relations so that women become more empowered, men become more accepting, and both can participate and benefit fully from projects. Gender planning includes deciding gender equity approaches, objectives, indicators, activities, technical supports and monitoring and evaluation processes. These may form a gender equity plan.

Gender planning further means the identification of women’s triple roles and the distinction between practical gender needs and strategic gender needs. it emphasizes the fact that in planning for development, there should be specific interventions to meet gender needs in all sectors for example in sectors which offer basic services like water, health, education, community development, sectors which offer employment housing, etc. Moser argues that the role women play in societies is widely recognized, though not paid for but at least their roles are recognized. However in sectors, districts and general government plans, this appreciation is not reflected in their plans.










The concept gender clearly shows how men and women relate with one another, and their relationships signify the different power struggles between the two sexes. Womanhood is closely associated with subordination, inferiority, obedience, and lower positions in society. Manhood on the other hand is closely related with higher power, domination, superiority and headship.

Gender relations are not only reflected in different social relations but also in different economic and political relations. Men own more productive resources, women do not, even what women supposedly own, in actual sense, they do not, in some cultures women are part of the assets a man owns, so even what is actually hers, transfers to her husband upon marriage.

In political institutions, women are not expected to be leaders, in one of the campaigns one woman was reminded that. You came to marry not rule us, do what brought you here, women therefore have a dilemma when it comes to constituencies they are supposed to compete from. Even in their own homes where they are born, they will be reminded that they actually left and are no longer members of those particular areas.

It is clear that their exists un equal gender relations, right from the home to the public institutions. In homes, it is men who make decisions, control all assets and members of the house hold. The house hold members are only expected to implement what has been decided by the head. This implies that in planning for development we need to do analysis of the actual needs of men and those of women, study the concerns of men and those of women and identify interventions which can address the different needs.


Uganda has a strong legislative and policy framework that supports gender equality and women’s empowerment, based on commitments under the Constitution well as other international obligations on gender equality. However, Ugandan society is characterized by strong patriarchal beliefs that value male supremacy and women’s subordination. Gender inequalities stand in the way of Uganda’s achievement of economic growth and transformation as highlighted in the National Development Plan (NDP) and the Millennium Development Goals. Government is determined to tackle the various forms of gender inequalities including Gender Based Violence (GBV).
Definition - GBV is an umbrella term used to describe any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person’s will on the basis of unequal relations between women and men, as well as through abuse of power. GBV in particular, sexual and physical violence is widespread in Uganda and is mainly committed against women and girls.
                              Forms of GBV
There are different forms of GBV that have been identified; these include:

  1.        I.            Domestic violence is not an isolated, individual event, but rather a pattern of perpetrator behavior used against the survivor .the pattern consists of variety of abusive acts, occurring in multiple episodes over the course of the relationships .some episodes consists of a sustained attack with one tactic repeated many times for example punching combined with a variety of other tactics such as name calling, threats or attacks against property.
  2.     II.             Physical Violence it may include spitting scratching, biting, grabbing shaking pushing, throwing or use of weapons guns knives the physical assault may or may not cause injuries.
  3.  III.            Sexual violence, a person can be sexually violated by one individual or several people for example gang rapes, the incident may be planed or a surprise attack. Sexual violence takes place in many settings such as the work place, at school, in prisons, cars, streets or open places like farm land and parks.
  4.  IV.            Psychological violence, these can be suicide threats and sometimes the threats include killing the victim and others and then committing suicide. the threats may be directly with words or with actions.
  • Emotional violence is tactic of control that consistss
  • Psychological / emotional Violence.
  • Treatment of women as commodities (includes trafficking women and girls for Sexual exploitation)
  • Economic Violence (includes denial of rights to property)
  • Harmful Traditional Practices (include widow inheritance, Female Genital Mutilation/cutting, early or forced marriages, denial of education for girl child
  • Sexual Gender Based Violence ( sexual harassment, rape and defilement)

                              Victims and Perpetrators of GBV
Perpetrators are often current or former close family members or friends of the family. Women and girls are primary victims due to unequal power relations.

Survivor/Victims: a person who has directly or indirectly suffered from Gender Based violence, Victims usually used in legal medical sectors, Survivor is the term generally preferred in the psychological and social support sectors because it implies resiliency.

Perpetrator: is a person who commits an act of gender Based Violence

                              Magnitude of GBV in Uganda
GBV is wide spread in Uganda and it affects all people irrespective of their social, economic and political status. It occurs in families, communities, workplaces and institutions. For example, the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS) 2011 indicate that 56% of women aged between 15 and 49 years in Uganda have experienced physical violence at some point in life, 28% of women in the same age group have experienced sexual violence, compared to 9% of men.

GBV is critical, it has devastating effects and high prevalence of social problems such as social exclusion, psychological distress mental and anxiety disorders, spread of HIV and STD infections, unwanted pregnancies and the trauma experienced by victims, it has a direct negative impact on the dignity of victims and productivity in general.

                                                   Causes of GBV
Economic Instability
The major cause of GBV is economic instability whereby if a man is not economically established yet culturally a man is portrayed as strong, educative creative and clever and a woman is the opposite of all these traits tension will be in a family.
Social attitudes and gender inequalities
The way parents bring up their children, leads to a disparity between boys and girls, which is a source of GBV in later life. For example boys grow up knowing that they are not supposed to wash their own clothes, cook or help in the housework and when they grow up with this kind of attitude and get married to a woman who comes from a home where duties are equally shared   between girls and boys, this can create tension that might lead to violence.

                        EFFECTS OF GBV

a)  Physical effects
     Pain from bodily injuries, disability, chronic health problems
b)  Psychological problems
     Fear, shame, insecurity, self blame, mental illness, mistrust of others, Inability to concentrate,             loneliness, suicidal thoughts, depression, Psychosomatic illness, Withdrawal ,alcohol or drug use.
c)  Social effects
Rejection by spouse and family breakdown, loss of ability to function in community-withdrawal from social and community participation, Social stigma, social rejection and isolation, acute fear of future violence, damage to women’s confidence resulting in fear of venturing into public spaces which can limit their ability to participate in income generating activities.
d)  Economic effects
Job loss due to absenteeism as a result of violence, inability to effectively participate in productive work , e.g. farm work, effect on women’s family and dependants due to inability to carry out care work( for instance household work and care for the sick).
e)  Other negative effects
• Divorce or broken families
• Jeopardizing family’s economic and emotional development
• Babies may be born with health disorders as a result of violence experienced by the mother during pregnancy (i.e. premature birth or low birth weight).
• Increased likelihood of violence against children growing up in households where there is domestic violence.
• Collateral effects on children who witness violence at home( emotional and behavioral disturbances e.g. withdrawal, low self esteem, nightmares, self-blame, aggression against peers family members and property , increased risk of growing up to be either a perpetrator or a victim of violence.

Efforts put in place by Government to prevent and eliminate Gender Based Violence in Uganda.
Actions taken to prevent GBV include

 the operationalization of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda provisions. In this regard the following specific laws have been enacted;
• The Domestic Violence Act 2010 and its Regulations 2011
• The prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation 2010 and Its regulations 2013
• The Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act 2009
• The Penal code Act , Cap 120
• The Children Act Cap 59
• The International Criminal Court Act 2010

• Other laws include the land Act, cap 227, the Employment (sexual Harassment regulations 2012
The Government has also developed policies and frameworks to prevent and respond to Gender Based Violence these include; The Uganda Gender Policy(2007); The National Action Plan on Women(2008); The National Development Plan(NDP) 2010/11 - 2014/15 ; National Referral Pathway for Prevention and Response to Gender Based Violence Cases in Uganda (2013); National Guidelines on establishment and Management of GBV Shelters in Uganda and The National Action Plan on the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, 1820 and Goma Declaration(2008);
In addition, there are other documents in draft form i.e. The GBV Policy and the National Guidelines for the provision of psychosocial support for gender based violence victims/survivors.
Besides this, the Justice, Law and Order Sector (JLOS) revised Police Form 3, while the Health Sector developed a Training manual to guide health workers in management of GBV survivors/victims.
Gender analysis and mainstreaming of legal services, education and awareness raising, Initiating male involvement programmes, Initiating women empowerment programmes


The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development gets support from various development partners to implement the Gender Based Violence programme namely;
The GOU-UNFPA seventh country programme, One of the outputs under this programme is aimed at strengthening the capacity of public and civil society actors to prevent and manage GBV and advancement of Reproductive Rights. The output is directly implemented by the Department of Gender and Women Affairs together with the District Community Based Services in the Districts of: Gulu, Pader, Amuru, Amuria, Kitgum, Dokolo, Lira, Kapchorwa, Kween and Bukwo.
The GoU- Irish Aid supported programme in Busoga Region. The major objectives of the programme is

1. To strengthen coordination among key actors at national and local government level for effective prevention and response to GBV.
2. To build capacity of duty bearers in Local Governments in Busoga Sub region to prevent and respond to Gender Based Violence
3. To mobilize communities with a particular focus on men’s involvement as agents of change to prevent and respond to GBV
4. To generate and disseminate information on GBV in the Busoga Sub-region for policy, programming and advocacy.

A joint programme for accelerated abandonment of FGM/C in Karamonja region supported by UNICEF the programme is implemented in the districts of; Amudat, Moroto, Nakapirit.

The implementing partners include; POZIDEP, REACH, Straight Talk and TPO

                                     Challenges of gender based violence

Multi-sectoral dimension required to manage GBV cases needs a lot of coordination and referral. There is limited data and information on GBV, there is limited access to GBV services, Human Resource limitations, and inadequate infrastructure.
• The implementation of the laws has been hampered by the inadequate finances
• Survivors often fail to access the services available to lack transportation to health facilities and other services points.
• Training of health facility staff has commenced however, not all health centers have received the requisite skills to handle survivor of violence.
• The prosecution is often slow and is hampered by inadequate evidence presented by the survivors
• Communities have inadequate information concerning civic education and human rights
Way forward
More education to the public about GBV, Develop and maintain a GBV data base, Community mobilization and empowerment, establishment of One-Stop Centers, Strengthen the referral system, mainstream GBV in policies and sector plans, Develop a GBV M & E framework, conduct study to quantify GBV impact on economic growth and development.