Book cover: Transitioning to Gender Equality
Open Access Edited Book

Transitioning to Gender Equality

Published: September 2021
Pages: 249
ISBN 978-3-03897-866-4 (hardback); ISBN 978-3-03897-867-1 (PDF)
This book is part of the book series: Transitioning to Sustainability
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Gender Equality, the fifth UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 5), aims for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and girls. It thereby addresses all forms of violence, unpaid and unacknowledged care and domestic work, as well as the need for equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.


In this volume, we focus on three main areas of inquiry, ‘Sexuality’, ‘Politics of Difference’ and ‘Care, Work and Family’, and raise the following transversal questions:

  • How can gender be addressed in an intersectional perspective, linking gender to further categories of difference, which are involved in discrimination?
  • In which ways are binary notions of gender taking part in inequality regimes and by which means can these binaries be questioned?
  • How can we measure, control and portray progress with regard to gender equality and how do we, in doing so, define gender?
  • Which multi-, inter- or transdisciplinary perspectives are needed for understanding the diversity of gender, in order to support a transition to 'gender equality'?

Transitioning to Gender Equality is part of MDPI's new Open Access book series Transitioning to Sustainability. With this series, MDPI pursues environmentally and socially relevant research which contributes to efforts toward a sustainable world. Transitioning to Sustainability aims to add to the conversation about regional and global sustainable development according to the 17 SDGs. The book series is intended to reach beyond disciplinary, even academic boundaries. 


SDGs; gender equality; sexuality; care; politics of difference; work; family; discrimination


Published with the generous support of the Swiss National Science Foundation.


  • Part 1: Politics of Difference

    Interview with Margo Okazawa-Rey: Politics of Difference as Politics of Connection
    Margo Okazawa-Rey, a founding member of the Combahee River Collective and a world-renowned activist and scholar, talks to Andrea Zimmermann about challenges for a transnational feminist politics of difference. Okazawa-Rey reflects on feminist genealogies and intersectionality from the perspective of personal experience and points out the importance of analyzing the complex individual relations between power regimes and difference. As feminist politics of identity have not managed to change power dynamics fundamentally, but rather reworked them along categories of difference, she strongly advocates coalitions of transnational feminism. These coalitions need to take differences and contexts into account. It is in this vein that Okazawa-Rey proposes the reimagination of politics of difference as politics of connection.
  • Policing Difference, Feminist Oblivions and the (Im-) Possibilities of Intersectional Abolition
    Intensive policing and the expansion of the carceral condition are some of the most flagrant expressions of the current phase of gendered racial capitalism. Through the regulation and illegalization of migration, anti-terror legislation, the punishment of poverty and the war on crime, black and other negatively racialized subjects and groups are particularly vulnerable to state sanctioned forms of premature death across the Global North and South. In many contexts of continental Europe, mobilizations against racist policing (racial profiling) lead by human rights and community organizations and initiatives have addressed this condition in the recent years. What often remains at the margins, however, are the intersectional modalities and dimensions of racist policing and punishment. Likewise, the issue of racist policing and the expansion of the punitive condition is seldomly discussed within European gender studies and broader feminist movements in continental Europe. As the title suggests, this article challenges one-dimensional readings of racist policing and engages with the silences around intersectional modalities of police violence. It further addresses the reproduction of carceral feminisms within gender studies and feminist approaches in continental Europe. Departing from current debates and my scholar activist work on racial profiling in the contexts of continental Europe (mainly Germany, Switzerland and France) and by applying a black feminist framework, I interrogate modalities of intersectional structural, slow and silent violence engendered by policing. In a second step, I discuss the implications of carceral feminisms and problematize the broad silences within gender studies and feminist movements around intersectional modalities of police violence. Finally, possibilities and horizons of intersectional abolition are sketched out.
  • Who Intervenes? Thoughts from the Perspective of Arts and Culture Activism
    The following text is a transcription and translation of a conversation between Rahel El-Maawi and Sarah Owens, which took place as part of the 2018 lecture series “‘The Art of Intervention.”’. Their dialogue touches upon topics such as Blackness, in/visibility, community, culture, art and criticism. Using their own voluntary work and Black-/queer-feminist literature as a starting point, El-Maawi and Owens talk about their motivations for, as well as possibilities and consequences of, intersectional activism in arts and culture. Through this, the point of view shifts from the art of intervention to the question of who intervenes and how this intervention is supported or restricted by sociopolitical conditions.
  • Gender Roles and Empowerment in Women’s Islamic Activism
    The success and longevity of women’s Islamic social activist work across Muslim majority countries has gained much attention from feminist scholars who focus their work on gender empowerment and women’s status in Muslim majority societies. While some studies applauded the positive impact Islamic activism has had on women in these societies, others remained skeptical about the extent of empowerment women might enjoy in Arab Muslim countries. Essentialized as misogynist and patriarchal in the extreme, Muslim majority countries are often depicted as hostile to women’s empowerment, which leads some to represent Islamic women activists as women who “buy into the very discourses which subjugate them.” Further noting that women who join Islamic movements and organizations parrot their male leaders, others maintain that Muslim activist women have access to leadership only under male supervision and command. The following chapter questions the theoretical assumptions on which these conflicting views rest, to consider forms of empowerment other than those informed by mainstream liberal principles. Drawing on feminist literature on power, the discussion is based on what empowerment entails for Islamic women activists thus offering an Islamic alternative.
  • Men and Masculinities: What Have They Got to Do with Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment?
    This chapter addresses how men and masculinities are relevant for the positive promotion of gender equality, in the context of the persistence of gender inequality in society and policy development that impedes the achievement of SDG5 and other SDGs. This concerns both how gender regimes can and do change men, and how men can be and are involved in changing gender regimes. In particular, I address challenges in terms of organizing with and by men, and strategies for changing men and masculinities, including action against violence, and transnational approaches.
  • Transitioning Gender Equality to the Equality of Sexgender Diversity
    In this article, I will show that achieving sustainable “gender equality” is possible only when sexgender is seen as a whole, that is, when human rights are extended to those who are intersex, trans, and sexgender non-conforming. This transformation is shown in the 2006 Yogyakarta Principles (YP) and the 2017 addition to them, the Yogyakarta Principles Plus 10 (YP+10), in their extension of Human Rights Law in the years 2006 and 2017, based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics (SOGIESC). To do so, I will take the word transition literally in the sense of trans-ness, and will use the concept of “trans-” as an intersectional approach to sexgender diversity. I will also use the neologism “sexgender” as an umbrella term to include the diverse spectrum of sexes and genders. Furthermore, data gathered on the situation of sexgenderdiverse people worldwide, as well as claims made by intersex, trans and sexgender non-conforming activists, will support my conclusion that the SDG 5 must adopt a broader understanding of sexes and genders in order to do justice to intersex, trans, and sexgender non-conforming children and adults.
  • Part 2: Sexuality

    Interview with Kathy Davis: Transitioning to Gender Equality with Regard to Sexuality
    This interview opens up the chapter on transitioning to gender equality, exploring sexuality and sexual agency. It aims at addressing possible changes towards more equal sexual relations among all sexes. Within the field of Feminist and Gender Studies, sexuality and sexual encounters are contested topics and riddled with tensions regarding gender relations. These tensions have provoked many debates or even “wars” within the field of Feminist and Gender Studies. In the interview with Kathy Davis, Christa Binswanger takes up feminist discussions dealing with inequality within sexual relations in order to lay out the field. In the interview Davis and Binswanger discuss some problematic aspects of the feminist movement in the 1970s, like, for example, the assumption of a single notion of female sexuality. More recently, work on transnational feminism has also been helpful for thinking about sexuality and gender and for fostering a self-critical and open dialogue about the complexity of sexual practices and desires. Davis points to the importance of listening to what women in different parts of the world have to say about their own problems and struggles. As such, notions of gender equality and sexual freedom always need to be kept in perspective, as one version of feminism, but never the only one.
  • Comprehensive Sexuality Education as a Tool towards Gender Equality
    The attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 is a global imperative. In order to achieve the goal of gender equality, there is a growing realization that respecting everyone’s rights to sexual and reproductive health is of paramount importance. This foregrounds the importance of comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) towards the attainment of universal sexual and reproductive health. Thus, this chapter focuses on the need for sexuality education to drive the agenda for sustainable communities and the achievement of the SDGs. It highlights the current challenges towards sexuality education in schools and how these can be overcome. It also brings forth the need for changed laws supporting the rights of women and girls to sexual and reproductive health. Finally, it discusses how communities that embrace CSE can be enabled to reach a state of equitable treatment of all.
  • The Political Economy of Violence: Gender, Sexuality and SDGs
    In this paper, we explore the theoretical framework of the violence(s) of development through the empirical convergence of two seemingly disparate local realities—the skewed child sex ratio in rural North India and bride trafficking. We approach the idea of violence of development through a political economy perspective which enables us to understand how social institutions of caste, class and gender intersect in rural India, together with political structures, to create contexts of inclusion and exclusion. We suggest that development is inherently paradoxical; while development envisions the elimination of social inequalities, it inadvertently also recreates them. When the state does not adequately respond to its agenda of development and social justice, the vulnerability of marginalised social groups is enhanced. The Sustainable Development Goals which aim to achieve gender equality and counter gender-based discrimination need to acknowledge these complex but nonetheless skewed gendered realities that shape the lives of many in India.
  • Queering Gender Equality: UN SDG 5 Beyond the Sex_Gender Binary
    With the aim of introducing a queer perspective to the UN SDG 5, the article explores tensions between gender equality politics and gender diversity politics within different strands of the United Nations (UN). It asks if there is indeed an irresolvable dilemma concerning gender equality and LGBTI+ diversity politics. Analyzing programmatic material found online on websites of UN bodies focusing on gender equality or LGBTI+ rights, the article concludes that the shift towards the SOGIEC (sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics) approach in Human Rights law (see Yogyakarta principles), provides a decisive steps towards resolving the dilemma. In looking at current reforms in German Civil Status Law, the article moves from critically considering the newly established sex-gender registration ‘diverse’ towards queerversity, which is offered as a modification of diversity politics. The principle of queerversity is meant to function as a political corrective, an ethical attitude and an aesthetic strategy. As such it combines the avowal of multiplicity, ambiguity and alterity with struggles against discrimination, social inequalities and the intersectional complexity of regimes of domination. Consequently, the article proposes the principle of queerversity as an overarching perspective of intersectional justice.
  • Part 3: Care, Work and Family

    Interview With Shahra Razavi: Global Trends, Challenges and Controversies in the Areas of Care, Work and Family Relations
    This interview opens up the chapter on Care, Work and Family. It analyzes international trends in women’s paid and unpaid work. Kristina Lanz and Shahra Razavi also discuss why—despite the increasing visibility of “women’s economic empowerment” on the international policy agenda—gender inequalities in the work place and at home persist and how they can be overcome. The interview also picks up important discussions on the role of men and masculinity in these debates, on the intersectional and globalized dimensions of work and care (i.e., care chains), and on the challenges of adopting a non-binary lens, when analyzing and assessing progress in gender equality, in the areas of care, work and the family.
  • Care and Work Matter: A Social Sustainability Approach
    The intersections of work, family, and life relations are a fundamental component of gender research and the pursuit of the United Nations’ Social Development Goal 5: Gender Equality. This chapter takes a social sustainability approach to exploring the diversity of these realities for men, women and further genders worldwide. Both societal and policy-focused solutions are necessary to correct the historical inequalities in gendered care and unpaid labor.
  • Ideas of Family and Work—Their Impact on the Careers of Young Men* and Women*
    The article deals with the question “How do ideas of family and work impact the careers of young men* and women*?” The first hypothesis is the ideas of a future family and one’s own occupational activities reciprocally influence each other and, secondly, that it is precisely this interrelationship that causes occupational gender segregation. Our analyses show the interconnections of institutional and individual perspectives.
  • Gender and Intersectional Climate Justice
    Climate change basically affects all people—but to varying degrees. Apart from regional differences, this is mainly due to social structures. Being affected by the consequences of climate change also depends to a relevant extent on genderconform behaviour and gender-unjust distribution of resources. Women and men are affected differently by the effects of climate change. A central reason for this is their social understanding of their roles and role behaviour and the social and economic inequality associated with them. Thus, climate change-induced problems and responses are deeply connected to gender justice.

Review Mode

Each chapter in this edited book has been reviewed by the editor/s, and a minimum of one external single-blind reviewer. The opinions expressed in the chapters do not reflect the view of the publisher.

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