Kendra DeLoach McCutcheon
Social workers have a responsibility to challenge discrimination and promote social and economic justice. To fulfill this responsibility, it must be understood how discrimination exists and the detrimental affect it has on the relationship between individuals who are disenfranchised (targeted groups) and individuals who have privilege, resources, and power (advantaged groups) (Hardiman & Jackson, 2007). This entry will present an overview of discrimination, define the various forms of discrimination, present public policy and legislation regarding discrimination, and discuss implications for social workers and the profession.
The definition of human trafficking generally includes the commercial exploitation of persons for labor or sex. Although the International Labour Organization estimated in 2012 that exploitation through forced labor trafficking is up to three times more prevalent than forced sexual exploitation, sex trafficking seems to receive greater media and public attention. This article provides a historical context for sex trafficking, some discussion about the political evolution of sex trafficking legislation, current knowledge, and practice.
This article summarizes the incidence of women in the United States who have been sentenced to prison as a consequence of a felony conviction for violation of state or federal laws. It also describes their characteristics and co-occurring health conditions; issues that contribute to women’s experiences after release from prison, including those that lead to success and failure during re-entry; and gendered practices and policies that provide alternatives to incarceration.
Jill Theresa Messing
Intimate partner violence—the continual and systematic exercise of power and control within an intimate relationship that often also includes physical and sexual violence—has emerged as a significant and complex social problem warranting the attention of social workers. Risk and protective factors have been identified at the individual, family, community, and societal levels. Some of these risk factors for repeat and lethal violence have been organized into risk assessment instruments that can be used by social workers to educate and empower survivors. Intimate partner violence has multiple negative health and mental health consequences for female victims and their children. Social workers in all areas of practice should be prepared to intervene with victims of intimate partner violence in a culturally competent manner using a strengths-based framework.
Gerald P. Mallon
According to U.S. census data, an estimated 270,313 American children were living in households headed by same-sex couples in 2005, and nearly twice that number had a single lesbian or gay parent. Since the 1990s, a quiet revolution has been blooming in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. More and more lesbians and gay men from all walks of life are becoming parents. LGBT people become parents for some of the same reasons that heterosexual people do. Some pursue parenting as single people and others seek to create a family as a couple; still other LGBT people became parents in a heterosexual relationship. Although there are many common themes between LGBT parenting and heterosexual parenting, there are also some unique features. Unlike their heterosexual counterparts, who couple, get pregnant, and give birth, most LGBT individuals and couples who wish to parent must consider many other variables in deciding whether to become parents because the birth option is not the only option.
Lori Messinger and Jennifer Wheeler Brooks
This entry provides an overview of research on lesbians in the United States using an overarching framework of oppression and empowerment. Historical and current demographic and cultural information about lesbians will be reported, along with an analysis of personal and environmental factors critical to social work practitioners' ability to enhance the well-being of lesbian individuals, couples, and families.
Deana F. Morrow
This entry will provide an overview of psychosocial issues and social work intervention relevant to working with lesbians. Practice issues related to the impact of heterosexism, coming out, lesbian identity development, and lesbian couple and family formation will be discussed. Assessment and intervention methods appropriate for social work practice with lesbians will be addressed.
Elaine M. Maccio
This entry briefly covers the history, demographics, research, clinical practice, diversity, debates, and trends surrounding marriage and domestic partnership in the United States. Who marries and why, when, and at what rate people marry is covered, as are some of the statistics behind alternatives to marriage, such as cohabitation, domestic partnership, and civil unions. It is beyond the scope of this entry to discuss in detail relationship dissolution and divorce, although information is provided insomuch as it relates to marriage and domestic partnership.
The ability to form close relationships with others is a crucial component of life span development. In fact, an inability to do so may be considered partial criteria for some types of mental disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Psychologist Erik Erikson (1980) theorized that young adults must master intimacy over isolation if they are to move successfully through his proposed stages of psychosocial development. Apart from these theoretical obligations, much of global society sanctions the forming of close relationships that it deems appropriate. Proms, engagements, weddings, and anniversary celebrations serve to socially reinforce (usually heterosexual) couplings and the norms surrounding acceptable relationships.
Marriage is the legal, and most often consensual, partnering of two persons of either sex. Domestic partnership can refer to any unrelated persons 18 years of age or older living together for a minimum specified period of time (for example, one year) and in a financially interdependent relationship. Both unmarried heterosexual couples and same-sex couples can apply for domestic partner status in those jurisdictions, companies, and institutions that recognize it. However, such distinction still falls short of the 1,138 federal benefits and protections afforded to legally married couples (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1997, 2004). For example, access to a partner's Social Security benefits, Medicaid and Medicare benefits, and veterans' pensions, and the exemption from gift and estate tax liabilities, are just a few of the laws mentioned in the U.S. Code that are affected by marital status. Only marriage offers couples such entitlements; civil unions, a proposed substitute for same-sex marriage and available in only a handful of states, afford no federal benefits and protections.
A consistent theme for the majority of men in the United States remains the code of manhood. Men are expected by society to be stoic in the face of danger and to play out, in all aspects of life, the idea of the rugged individual going it alone, even in the face of a quickly changing world. Whereas social-work theorists and practitioners talk about male aggression, sexuality, intimacy, depression, anxiety, addiction, ageing, and work-related concerns, most men are less likely to view these as problems. If they do enter into counseling or treatment, they are less likely to remain for any length of time. Faced with these issues, practitioners are challenged to find ways of engaging men and forming successful collaboration and meaningful outcomes.
Marjorie R. Sable and Patricia J. Kelly
Reproductive health includes family planning, prenatal care, and the broader scope of primary care. Because a woman's health status at conception is as important as prenatal care, genetic screening and 20th century medical technology, reproductive health includes “the preconceptual and interconceptual periods and the menopause, and finally, not only reproductive tract problems but the wide range of risk factors that influence a woman's health in general.” Quantitative indicators of reproductive outcomes are useful for summarizing progress in reproductive health. Important indicators are discussed and reveal significant racial disparities.
Sondra J. Fogel
Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination as well as a complex social issue with psychological implications for both those who are harassed and those who perpetrate the harassment. Women continue to be primary targets, although men, youths, and sexual minorities are increasingly pursued. Legally prohibited in the workplace and educational institutions, sexual harassment persists in personal interactions as well as by electronic means despite prevention efforts such as education programs and zero-tolerance policies. This entry will define sexual harassment, provide an overview of its prevalence, and describe approaches for its remedy.
William J. Hall
Sexual orientation is a multidimensional phenomenon involving a person’s sexual attraction, sexual behavior, and sexual orientation identity. Sexual orientation patterns may remain consistent or fluctuate over time. Although heterosexual attractions, behaviors, and identities appear to be the dominant manifestations of sexual orientation, other sexual expressions exist. The causes of sexual orientation are still not completely understood; however, evidence suggests that biological factors play a strong role. Sexual development is an important part of human development, and there are parallel and differing developmental tasks and trajectories for those who are heterosexual and those who are queer. Non-heterosexual sexualities are often stigmatized, which contributes to homophobia and heterosexism. There is a continuing history in the mental health professions of efforts to change the sexual orientation of people who are queer, despite evidence of harm and ethical mandates. Researchers and service providers should assess sexual orientation because it is one of many important characteristics in the lives of individuals.
The risk of HIV infection looms large among male, female, and transgender sex workers in India. Several individual, sociocultural, and structural-environmental factors enhance the risk of HIV infection among sex workers by restricting their ability to engage in safer sexual practices with clients and/or intimate partners. While most HIV prevention programs and research focus on visible groups of women sex workers operating from brothels (Pardasani, 2005) and traditional sex workers, for example, Devadasis (Orchard, 2007); there is a whole subgroup of the sex worker population that remains invisible within HIV prevention programs, such as the male, female, and transgender sex workers operating from non-brothel-based settings. This paper provides an overview of the different types and contexts of sex work prevalent in Indian society, discusses the factors that increase a sex worker’s risk of HIV infection, describes the varied approaches to HIV prevention adopted by the existing HIV prevention programs for sex workers, discusses the limitations of the HIV prevention programs, and concludes with implications for social work practice and education.
Janet L. Finn and Maxine Jacobson
This entry examines the concept of social justice and its significance as a core value of social work. Diverse conceptualizations of social justice and their historical and philosophical underpinnings are examined. The influence of John Rawls' perspectives on social justice is addressed as are alternative conceptualizations, such as the capabilities perspective. The roots of social justice are traced through social work history, from the Settlement House Movement to the Rank and Film Movement, Civil Rights Movement, and contemporary struggles in the context of globalization. Challenges for social justice-oriented practice in the 21st century are address. The discussion concludes with concrete example of ways in which social workers are translating principles of social justice into concrete practices.
S. Megan Berthold
Although state-sponsored torture violates human rights and international law, it is a widespread practice worldwide. The effects are profound and extend beyond the targeted individual. This entry will explore the debate surrounding different definitions of torture and examine who is targeted for torture and why, as well as the wide range of effects of torture on individuals, families, and communities. Factors that contribute to the resilience of torture survivors will be identified. The various roles that social workers can play with this population will be outlined and common assessment and intervention approaches utilized by social workers with torture survivors will be discussed.
M. J. Gilbert
In this entry, transgender is defined in the context of ethnomethodology and social construction of gender. A history of the role of transgender people in the gay, lesbian, and bisexual rights movement is presented, including tensions concerning the role of transgender people in this movement. Issues regarding social work practice related to transgender issues on the micro, mezzo, macro, and meta levels are discussed.
Women have a lengthy history of fighting their oppression as women and the inequalities associated with this to claim their place on the world stage, in their countries, and within their families. This article focuses on women’s struggles to be recognized as having legitimate concerns about development initiatives at all levels of society and valuable contributions to make to social development. Crucial to their endeavors were: (1) upholding gender equality and insisting that women be included in all deliberations about sustainable development and (2) seeing that their daily life needs, including their human rights, be treated with respect and dignity and their right to and need for education, health, housing, and all other public goods are realized. The role of the United Nations in these endeavors is also considered. Its policies on gender and development, on poverty alleviation strategies—including the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals—are discussed and critiqued. Women’s rights are human rights, but their realization remains a challenge for policymakers and practitioners everywhere. Social workers have a vital role to play in advocating for gender equality and mobilizing women to take action in support of their right to social justice. Our struggle for equality has a long and courageous history.