Artwork using tissue paper depicting many hands holding up the gender equality symbol. © Lightspring | Shutterstock ID: 2172065821

Sexual and reproductive health

Gender norms play a highly significant role in influencing sexual and reproductive health (SRH). They influence expected behaviour related to relationship formation and sexual activity. They also influence social expectations about whether and when young people should start to engage in sexual activity, and the nature of that activity.

Gendered social norms affect decision-making about family planning, desired family size, child spacing and abortion. They also affect whether women and girls access SRH services and can influence the quality of care different groups receive. Gender norms that expect greater passivity on the part of women and girls can increase their vulnerability to sexually transmitted infections and to gender-based violence in heterosexual relationships. Prevailing norms of femininity and masculinity can also affect the health and wellbeing of sexual and gender minorities. 

A growing number of initiatives are attempting to shift discriminatory and harmful gender norms around SRH issues. The resources on this page highlight both the ways that gender norms affect SRH and evidence of approaches that have – and have not – worked well in changing these norms.

Tumaini maternity clinic supported by APHRC (African Population and Health Research Center) in Korogocho slum, one of Nairobi's most populated informal settlements, Kenya. ©Jonathan Torgovnik.

ALIGN guide to gender norms and health

Read ALIGN's guide to gender norms and health including more about sexual and reproductive health.