Topic 2 How to distinguish deviant behavior from various cultural norms

Defining and dealing with GBV is challenging and is influenced by historical, political, cultural, and social factors (Henry, 2018; Mergaert et al., 2016). An impact of proliferation, normalization, and concealment of  GBV on hegemonic masculinity and socio-cultural norms within sport has been observed (Lang, 2023).

Statistically significant differences were found between coaches and female student-athletes in the degree of severity in which they relate to their perceptions of sexual harassment in sport (Fejgin, N., & Hanegby, R. 2001).

Distinguishing deviant behavior related to gender-based violence from cultural norms involves:

  • balancing an understanding of cultural context with a commitment to endorsing universal human rights, principles of consent and respect
  • recognition of harmful impact
  • adherence to legal and ethical standards
  • promotion of gender equality and social justice

Here's how to differentiate between the two:

Recognize that cultural norms vary widely across societies and communities. What may be considered acceptable behavior in one cultural context may be viewed as deviant in another. For example, attitudes towards gender roles, interpersonal relationships, and communication styles can vary significantly between cultures.

While cultural norms may shape behavior, it’s essential to endorse universal human rights principles. Deviant behavior related to gender-based violence infringes upon individuals’ rights to safety, autonomy, and dignity, regardless of cultural context. Therefore, behaviors that violate fundamental human rights should be identified as deviant, regardless of cultural norms.

Evaluate whether the behavior respects principles of consent, respect, and equality. Deviant behavior related to gender-based violence often involves actions that are non-consensual, coercive, or disrespectful towards individuals’ boundaries and autonomy. Even if certain cultural norms condone such behavior, it remains deviant from a human rights perspective.

Consider the impact of the behavior on individuals’ well-being and safety. Deviant behavior related to gender-based violence typically causes harm, trauma, and distress to those targeted, irrespective of cultural norms. Therefore, actions that result in harm should be identified as deviant, regardless of cultural acceptance.

Compare the behavior to legal and ethical standards established within the broader societal context. While cultural norms may influence behavior, there are often legal and ethical principles that universally condemn acts of gender-based violence and discrimination. Behaviors that contravene these standards should be recognized as deviant.

Consider whether the behavior promotes gender equality and social justice. Deviant behavior related to gender-based violence perpetuates power imbalances and reinforces harmful stereotypes. Conversely, cultural norms that promote equality, respect, and inclusion contribute to a more just and equitable society.