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WHO Updates Definition of Sex "Beyond Just Male or Female"

The World Health Organization (WHO) has changed its gender mainstreaming manual to include new wording that states “sex is not limited to male or female.”

The new definition and other changes expand the first edition of the manual from 2011.

The organization said in a news release that its updates focus in part on “going beyond non-binary approaches to gender and health to recognize gender and sexual diversity, or the concepts that gender identity exists on a continuum and that sex is not limited to male or female.”

The updates to the manual, in partnership with the United Nations University International Institute for Global Health, are taking place during the summer and fall of 2022.

The new guidance also plans to include “new gender, equity and human rights frameworks” that will feature various tools to support the revised concepts.

In a frequently asked questions handout related to the update, the WHO answered that the gender mainstreaming manual is being revised “in light of the new scientific evidence and conceptual advances on gender, health and development that should inform WHO leadership.”

The update also plans “to understand how gender intersects and interacts with different determinants and factors that affect health outcomes” and address “the unequal distribution of health outcomes across population groups due to effects of gender roles, norms and relations.”

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