This module is a resource for lecturers
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is addressed in depth in Integrity and Ethics Module 2 (Ethics and Universal Values). Ethical behaviour involves treating people in this spirit, regardless of their gender. However, consciously and subconsciously, individuals and societies have permitted and tolerated the exclusion and denial of basic human rights through designating those outside of their circle as the "Other". We construct an "out" group when we search for and identify differences from "us" - whether they are rooted in skin, hair and eye colour, height, weight, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, age, physical or mental disabilities, socio-economic status, education, residency, legal status, vocation, languages spoken and accent. These internalized prejudices can lead us, and the institutions we create, to deny others the benefits we enjoy and justify our own over-entitlement.
One of the most common bases of exclusion, historically, has been gender. Consequently, women and girls are overwhelmingly subjected to several types of gender-based violence and discrimination. This is not to suggest that men and boys cannot be discriminated against. However, since men have historically asserted power over women, structural inequalities place women at a disadvantage in terms of access to rights and opportunities. This is recognized by the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which set out to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls by 2030. Ending gender discrimination against women is also the aim of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which was adopted by the United Nations in 1979. As of June 2018, there were 189 States parties to CEDAW.
Gender discrimination against women is compounded by the marginalization that many women face based on their socio-economic status, age, ethnicity, or race. These realities have led to the definition of women as "vulnerable persons". As explained in greater detail below, the Ethics of Care (EoC) theory calls on all individuals to take conscious and empathetic steps and actions towards the advancement and protection of vulnerable members of society - in this case, women. The Module illustrates how the EoC can help students take actions in their everyday lives to identify and address gender discrimination against women.
Several different ethical theories can be used to analyse and address gender discrimination, including utilitarianism, deontology and virtue ethics, which are discussed in Integrity and Ethics Module 1 (Introduction and Conceptual Framework). However, this Module focuses on the EoC theory because it is an important development within the long history of feminism, one that moves beyond the either/or dichotomy that suggests that someone must give up his or her entitlements for someone else to receive more. EOC is also an influential theory that provides us with rich resources for thinking about gender and sexuality. In discussing the EoC, the Module encourages us to think at a more transformational level by considering concepts such as care, trust and solidarity, and the roles that they play alongside concepts such as justice, equality and individual rights. At the same time, lecturers are encouraged to consider and utilize other theories and approaches that could be effective in motivating students to challenge key assumptions and power structures relating to gender in their location (e.g. country, region) or community type (e.g. urban, urban-periphery, rural-indigenous).
The sub-pages to this section provide a descriptive overview of the key issues that lecturers might want to cover with their students when teaching on this topic:
- Basic terms: Gender and gender discrimination
- Forms of gender discrimination
- The Ethics of Care (EoC) and Feminism