Gender is context specific and can change over time. Gender norms set expectations for relationships between and among women, men, boys, girls, and gender diverse people, and determine expectations of people’s roles in households and communities. 

Gender norms affect the completeness and accuracy of civil registries and vital statistics systems (CRVS). Many countries require a husband to be present for birth, marriage, and death registrations, and enforce restrictions on women’s autonomy that limit their ability to travel to registration sites.  

Muslim doctors talking

Cultural and gender norms that affect death registration

Gender norms influence whether an individual dies at home or in a health facility, and influences individual and family interaction with civil registration authorities around the time of these vital events.

Gender norms that are common across some cultural contexts contribute to under-registration of deaths, particularly among women, children, and gender diverse people. These are a few gender norms common in many countries that affect death registrations:

  • Patrilineal inheritance provides motivation for registering male deaths and little incentive for registering female deaths. 
  • Cultural and legal norms limiting a woman’s independence of movement and autonomy in decision-making hinders their ability to access civil registration services to register a death. This may include women needing her husband, father, uncle, or brother’s consent to travel the distance to a registration office. 
  • Men are traditionally responsible for communicating with authorities and managing family documentation.

There are also country-specific gender norms that affect death registration. For example, in Guinea, where death registration rates are very low, these cultural norms affect complete death notification and registration for all genders:

  • Burials are meant to take place between two prayers, so people are usually buried within a few hours of their death. 
  • The deceased are not to be spoken of after their death, so that they are left to rest in peace.
  • If a child dies, they are thought to be an intermediary between the parents and God, so parents are not to grieve.

A greater understanding of gender norms that affect civil registration is required in country and subnational contexts. Gender sensitive solutions are needed to increase completeness and accuracy of death registrations globally. Ideally, gender transformative solutions would be implemented to increase death registration and support changes in gender norms that negatively impact the autonomy and health of women, men, boys, girls, and gender diverse people.