The gender approach focuses towards the observation, analysis and transformation of the cultural, economic and political differences that make up the conditions and position of men and women, boys and girls, and which cause inequalities and arise in discrimination and social exclusion situations.
The progressive inclusion of this approach in the field of public-policies planning and management in different countries in general, and in the UN in particular, emerges from the need to assess and value the reality from a justice and equality point of view. On one hand, it is meant to control the possible adverse effects and impacts that leave men and women in a disadvantaged position –trying not to incur in gender discrimination– and, on the other hand, it will enhance the promotion of equal opportunities with special emphasis in the reinforcement of capabilities and competences of girls and women, through their empowerment as rights-holders.
The gender approach points to the fact that all human beings have “the right to have rights”, no matter their personal features. Gender equality does not imply that men and women are identical, nor that women need to be more similar to men so they can enjoy the same rights. Equality between men and women implies an identical or a different treatment, which results in the total absence of discrimination against women for the sole fact of being women, in terms of their entitlement and exercise of human rights.
Furthermore, gender equality points out an impartial treatment of men and women, depending on their respective needs, whether with an identical or a differentiated treatment depending on the circumstances.
A substantial difference between the two concepts is that equality is a human right and, as such, a legal obligation that States are forced to observe. The right to equality between men and women requires that each state must implement specific actions in order to eliminate discrimination against women. As such, gender equality is a partial reference to a complex problem, because it seeks to give responses to practical needs, and not necessarily to strategical needs.