Gender: policy context

General policies in relation to gender equality and health

The Equality Act (Scotland) 2010 replaces all previous sex equality legislation. More information on policy in relation to sex and gender can be found on the gender pages of the NHS Health Scotland website. The Equality Act requires public organisations to carry out assessments of the equality impact of their new or changed policies.

Gender-based violence (GBV) policy

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a serious public health problem. It includes, but is not limited to, “domestic abuse, childhood sexual abuse, rape & sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, commercial sexual exploitation and harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM), forced marriage or so-called ‘honour crimes’” (NHS Health Scotland Gender Based Violence pages).  

GBV is experienced predominantly, but not exclusively, by women and perpetrated largely by men. It is both a cause and consequence of gender inequality (Lombard 2015 (0.2 MB)). As such the United Nations defines it as "violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman, or violence that affects women disproportionately. It includes acts that inflict physical, mental or sexual harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion and other deprivations of liberty" (General Recommendation No.19, (1992) of The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women).

Since 2008 there has been a national GBV programme within NHS Scotland which is designed to improve the healthcare identification and management of GBV (Scottish Government CEL 41 (2008): Gender-based violence action plan). A cornerstone of the programme is the implementation of routine enquiry of abuse in key settings (i.e. maternity, substance misuse, health visiting, sexual health and mental health services).

There is useful information from research studies and government statistics in the demographics section of the NHS Scotland GBV webpages. These give links to the Scottish Government framework and guidelines for tacking GBV, protective legislation, and further separate policies on human trafficking and forced marriage.

The Scottish Government’s Equally Safe strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls was originally launched in 2014 and was updated in 2016. It was developed in partnership with local authorities, Police Scotland, NHS Health Scotland and third sector organisations that support women who have experienced violence. The National Action Plan to Prevent and Eradicate FGM sets out an agreed range of actions to be taken forward by Scottish Government and its partners.

Gender equality policy

The gender equality section of the Scottish Government's website sets out a number of policies that are currently being pursued with the goal of achieving gender equality. These include provisions to: increase women's representation on the boards of public bodies and private sector companies; widen access to childcare; decrease the gender pay gap; tackle discrimination against pregnant women and new mothers; and to address occupational segregation (whereby there are unequal concentrations of men and women in particular occupational sectors or at different levels within sectors).