In many countries of the world, men are discriminated against according to at least part of the following points:

  • Army draft
  • Retirement age
  • Criminal punishment (either stronger punishment for male criminals or stronger punishment for crimes against women or both)
  • Custody and adoption rights
  • Legality of homosexual intercourse
  • Legality of genital mutilation of children

This caused me to wonder if discrimination against men existed in US laws?

  • 10
    Are you only talking about official laws and policies? In particular criminal sentencing isn't officially different for men and women but statistics suggest similarly situated convicts get lighter sentences on average if they are female. Commented Mar 17 at 19:14
  • @IllusiveBrian for now yes, the official laws.
    – Anixx
    Commented Mar 17 at 19:36
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    This question is phrased in a very loaded way. Why not ask "in the US are there isntances where the law treats men more harshly than women"?
    – Ben Cohen
    Commented Mar 17 at 23:25
  • 7
    "In most countries of the world" -- citation needed. Rest of Q fails NPOV.
    – shoover
    Commented Mar 18 at 2:25
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    Why not ask specifically if the US has different pension ages for men and women? Or some other question that particularly interests you? Or do some research yourself, and state what you couldn't find out.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Mar 18 at 14:57

2 Answers 2


In principle, the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution "mandates that individuals in similar situations be treated equally by the law" (Wikipedia's phrasing, backed by multiple sources). However, considerable legal argument exists as to what constitutes a similar situation, or equal treatment.

In practice it can be lawful to discriminate where lawmakers don't consider situations between men and women equal, or where such discrimination is not a matter of law. (I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.) As such, a large amount of discrimination against men in the United States is implemented culturally rather than in law. However, this extends as far as apparent unequal treatment in the legal system in spite of nominally unbiased codified law; so it's necessary to touch on the topic. To avoid straying too far from legal matters (this is difficult for me here, because I'm constantly frustrated by these misandrist biases - I can see them even in some of the very sources I cite), I'll just leave some book recommendations for further investigation here.

Army draft

Yes, exactly as Kelvin describes. This fact continues to baffle me; to consider this disparity justified by "dissimilar situations" requires a complete betrayal of feminist principles regarding the relative capability and agency of women.

Retirement age

No (this is the source Wikipedia uses for the claim). Social security pensions become available at age 62 and reach full value for those retiring at 70, regardless of sex or gender. Private pension plans may also exist, but in these cases it would be clearly unlawful to discriminate.

Criminal punishment

For the most part, not explicitly. Historically, rape was defined by the FBI in a way that inherently excluded male victims. Individual state law descriptions may vary.

Aside from actually recognizing whether a crime occurred, there is no prescription in law of longer sentences for men for the same crime. Such a proposed law would be clearly unconstitutional as discussed above.

However, crime statistics show a clear de facto bias against men in terms of outcome, which clearly exceeds any disparity that can be explained by rates of actual known criminal conduct (otherwise, I would not present the argument). For example, I have previously researched (long ago; I don't have the notes any more) that men in the US represent about 2/3 of users of illegal drugs, but 4/5 of those arrested for possession. Similar biases are observed at every step along the way, to the point where 90% of the incarcerated population is male, which increases to 93% considering only the prison (i.e., not jail) population.

Of particular note here is explicitly trained bias in how the police respond to domestic violence ("intimate partner violence") calls. This training is used to justify a prejudice that, in a heterosexual relationship, the man is the abuser and the woman the victim - despite statistical evidence that paints a much less clear picture.

Custody and adoption rights

This is very complicated, but suffice to say that there is a clear bias in results if not codified in law. Wikipedia summarizes:

In the decades leading up to the 1970s child custody battles were rare, and in most cases the mother of minor children would receive custody.[5] Since the 1970s, as custody laws have been made gender-neutral, contested custody cases have increased as have cases in which the children are placed in the primary custody of the father.[5]

But this is very much whitewashing the issue; there are clear biases (towards awarding custody to mothers and expecting support payments from fathers), and the lawyers have noticed. The American Bar Association also has a lot to say about it. Historically this was justified by the Tender Years Doctrine borrowed from English law; the current standard is "best interests of the child", but this does nothing to avoid the effect of implicit biases.

Legality of homosexual intercourse

No. "Sodomy" laws were passed at the state level, and all were overturned by 2003; and same-sex marriage has been legal and federally recognized since 2015. These provisions apply regardless of sex or gender.

Socially, there may be stronger negative perception of male as opposed to female homosexuals; there is considerable debate over how to frame this.

Legality of genital mutilation of children

Yes, assuming that one considers circumcision to be genital mutilation. Anti-circumcision activists have many compelling arguments that it is. At any rate, it should be noted that all the most common arguments used to defend circumcision would apply equally well to an analogous form or severity of female genital mutilation - in particular, it is a known religious rite, and excising homologous tissue would clearly have the same (highly dubious) health benefits. (There are some fringe theories that circumcision could reduce the risk of AIDS transmission, but the purported effect is quite minor, and both the statistics and the supposed mechanism of action are highly dubious.)


Under federal law, all male (based on birth gender) citizens and immigrants between 18-25 are required to register with the Selective Service System (i.e., the draft). Failure to register can result in five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and can prevent government employment or citizenship (for immigrants). (Reportedly prosecution of non-registration has been suspended since 1988 or so). Many states also have laws requiring Selective Service registration for state employment and obtaining a driver's license.

In National Coalition for Men v. Selective Service System (2019) the court initially found the gender discrimination to be unconstitutional but that was reversed on appeal. The Supreme Court declined to review it since Congress was considering expanding registration to all genders but, to date, that has not happened.

  • 1
    They draft immigrants?!
    – gerrit
    Commented Mar 18 at 10:28
  • 2
    "Failure to register is a felony and non-registrants may be denied the following benefits for life: State-based student loans and grant programs in 31 states, Federal job training under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (formerly Workforce Investment Act), Federal (and many state and local) jobs,Up to a 5-year delay of U.S. citizenship proceedings for immigrants" -- how have I never heard of this law?!
    – bertieb
    Commented Mar 18 at 11:39
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    @gerrit they need to register. Immigrant are those seeking permanent residence. This doesn't mean they will be drafted. Only that they might be. Commented Mar 18 at 13:50
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    For context: nobody has been involuntarily drafted in the US since the Vietnam War, from which the US withdrew over 50 years ago. In theory, the laws allowing to reinstate a draft are still on the books "just in case". In practice, the discrimination here boils down to nothing more than every man having to fill out a form once in their life.
    – Philipp
    Commented Mar 19 at 9:45
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    @Philipp Legally, you're supposed to update Selective Service within 10 days when you move, but I'm sure compliance on that is essentially 0. I'm sure the database is pretty worthless, they'd either start over or pull from driver's license/social security/voter records if there was a draft. Selective Service exists as a political thing and as I understand it, DoD itself is against it, as they'd rather spend the money and political effort elsewhere.
    – user71659
    Commented Mar 20 at 17:18

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