The World Health Organization plans to update its guidance on gender to assert that “sex is not limited to male or female.” The guidelines are being updated from the 2011 version based on “new scientific evidence and conceptual progress” on gender, health and development.
The new guidance will update “key concepts around gender,” as well as expanding on the concept of intersectionality, which examines how “gender power dynamics” interact with other hierarchies of privilege or disadvantage, leading to differing health outcomes among those individuals.
It will also be “going beyond non-binary approaches” to recognize that gender identity exists on a continuum and that “sex is not limited to male or female.”
Dr Karleen Gribble, an expert in nursing and midwifery from Western Sydney University, was critical of the move in an interview with MailOnline.
“The wording regarding there being more than male and female sexes is concerning,’”she said. “The website says that the handbook is being updated ‘in light of new scientific evidence and conceptual progress on gender, health and development’.
“However, there is no new scientific evidence suggesting there are more than two sexes. Rather, the idea that there are more than two sexes, is a postmodern, unscientific understanding that should not be supported by the WHO.”
WHO, on the other hand, maintains that going beyond binary approaches is needed to promote world health.
Gender analysis identifies, assesses and informs actions to address inequality and inequity. It is used to systematically identify differentials between groups of women and men, whether related to sex or gender, in terms of risk factors, exposures and manifestations of ill-health, severity and frequency of diseases, health seeking behaviours, access to care and experiences in health care settings, as well as outcomes and impact of ill-health. Systematically collecting and analyzing data disaggregated by sex and additional factors such as age, ethnicity, socio-economic status and disability, is critical.