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MAMTA Health Institute for Mother & Child | New Delhi

How is Gender different from Sex?

Everyone is born male or female and our sex can be determined simply by looking at the genitalia. But every culture has different ways of evaluating men and women and assigning roles and responsibilities. Gender refers to the socio--cultural definition of men and women, the language society uses to distinguish between them. All social and cultural packaging for girls and boys from birth onwards, is gendering.



Sex is biological. It refers to visible differences in genitals and the related differences in anatomy and procreative functions.

Gender is socio-cultural and refers to masculine and feminine qualities, behaviour patterns, roles and responsibilities.

Sex is constant.


Gender is culture specific and hence variable.

For example, the norms of dress change across regions and across times: in some places males dress in a salwar-kurtabut in others it is looked on as definitely female attire.

Sex is an individual attribute.

Gender is systemic - gender norms are common to all men and women in a particular cultural context. The differences between men and women are codified and reflected in different systems like law and religion.

Sex is non-hierarchical.


Gender is hierarchical. This refers to values being placed at different levels. Thus men, the breadwinners, are “stronger”, “braver.”

Sex cannot be changed except by a deliberate surgical procedure.

Gender roles evolve over time and over generations. For example. Earlier, women were considered to be responsible for household activities only; but these days, women are also the bread-earners of the family.


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