Gender Equality and Family Planning

The neglect of women’s reproductive rights severely limits their opportunities in public and private life, including opportunities for education and economic and political empowerment (1). Gender equality and access to family planning are integrally related. As noted in the Human Rights section of the Introduction of this Handbook, people have a right to determine “whether and when to have children, how many, and with whom”. This is fundamental for every individual’s empowerment and agency over their own bodies and lives.

In order to implement gender-responsive care when applying the 9 human rights principles presented in the Human Rights section, providers should particularly pay attention to empowering all women, men, and gender‑diverse people to:

  • have full and equal access to sexual and reproductive health care, information and education
  • make their own informed decisions regarding their own health care, use of contraceptives, and whether or not to consent to sexual intercourse with their partner; this includes the right to make decisions alone or with their partner.

In doing so, providers need to be aware of the different needs and realities of women, men, and gender-diverse people’s lives. Providers should consider how people’s social, cultural, and economic circumstances, and particularly the harmful gender norms and inequalities they face, affect their contraceptive decision-making, their access to care, and continued use of their chosen method. Providers’ approaches to care should fully empower all women, men, and gender-diverse people regardless of these circumstances.

Key Gender Equality Definitions (2)
  • Sex refers to the different biological and physiological characteristics of males and females, such as reproductive organs, chromosomes, hormones, etc.
  • Gender refers to the socially constructed characteristics of women and men–such as norms, roles, and relationships of and between groups of women and men.
  • Gender equality refers to equal chances or opportunities for women and men to access and control social, economic, and political resources, including protection under the law (such as health services, education, and voting rights).
  • Gender-responsive policies, practices, and programs are ones that consider gender inequality and gender inequity and take measures to actively reduce their harmful effects.