The UCL Centre for Gender and Global Health

What we do

Gender and Coloniality

Coloniality is the theory that colonialism was not a closed historical event, but is an ongoing process of  social and political domination. Social structures such as gender are shaped by this process, changing over time and across locations in relation to the dominant model. Coloniality established the European model of patriarchy as the dominant gender order against which all others are judged, giving rise to the coloniality of gender concept.

As the world became increasingly interconnected, this binary, heterosexual and Western patriarchal notion of gender became that around which all modern societies organise family, economy, politics and interpersonal relationships,  making it appear to be a natural form of social organisation and thus marginalising other genders and sexualities. Communities which previously held complementary gender relationships, or non-patriarchal family structures became assimilated, eliminated or discriminated. 

Coloniality also created the concept of race, redefining the ethnicity of indigenous and black people as biologically inherited and positioned hierarchically below that of white Europeans. Race became a proxy for colonial domination (Lugones 2008, p2), and an axis of oppression that sustains  the system of coloniality. Race and gender intersect within this process, defining, for example, sexualized stereotypes of colonized women and naturalizing propensity to violence as an attribute of Latino and black men.

How Does the Coloniality of Gender Intersect with Health?

The health of colonised populations, indigenous communities and minority ethnic groups the world over is affected by the coloniality of gender. Reproduction, sexuality and sexual practices, maternity and maternal health as well as practices relating to risk taking and interpersonal violence are all areas of global health where the coloniality of gender has the potential to undermine life chances and put women and men more at risk of harm.  Stereotypes have become justification for abuse, criminalisation, political marginalisation and exploitation and Global health institutions have not responded adequately or decisively to excess deaths of, for example, Aboriginal men due to alcohol in Australia, the sexual exploitation of women or high rates of HIV incidence of transgender sex workers on the Mexican-Guatemalan border or the social and psychological burden of infertility among heterosexual couples in Mali.

Decolonising Research

Discover key texts and writings on Decolonisation in our reading list. To see the dazzling diversity of gender around the world, explore Global Health’s This is Gender online photography resource.