A call to men to fight gen­der vi­o­lence

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GEN­DER-BASED vi­o­lence (GBV) is a global prob­lem of pan­demic proportions. Ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions, one in three women will be beaten, raped or abused in her lifetime.

This trans­lates to one bil­lion women who are both di­rectly and in­di­rectly af­fected by gen­der vi­o­lence. Across the many dif­fer­ent types of vi­o­lence de­fined by the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO), in­clud­ing self-di­rected, in­ter­per­sonal and col­lec­tive vi­o­lence, be­tween men and against women, the per­pe­tra­tors are pri­mar­ily men.

Like­wise, ac­cord­ing to a GBV In­di­ca­tors Study car­ried out by Gen­der Links in six coun­tries of South­ern Africa, the most pre­dom­i­nant form of GBV ex­pe­ri­enced by women and per­pe­trated by men in the six coun­tries oc­curs within in­ti­mate part­ner­ships. This ranges from 90 per­cent in the Zam­bian dis­tricts sur­veyed to 23 per­cent in Mau­ri­tius. Men in­ter­viewed are also con­firm­ing th­ese fig­ures, and in some cases ex­ceed­ing them.

From 73 per­cent men in Zam­bia to 22 per­cent in Mau­ri­tius ad­mit­ting to per­pe­tra­tion of gen­der vi­o­lence at least once in their life time.

The pro­por­tion of men re­port­ing rape per­pe­tra­tion in the six coun­tries is sig­nif­i­cantly higher than the pro­por­tion of women re­port­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Th­ese statis­tics are alarm­ing, point­ing to an ur­gent multi-pronged ap­proach that tar­gets men and de­mands that they join the fight to tackle gen­der vi­o­lence.

The same study shows that men who were abused in child­hood were more likely to be vi­o­lent to their part­ners and were also more likely to have done so more than once. Misogyny and male vi­o­lence is learned be­hav­ior that is af­firmed and per­pet­u­ated in homes, schools, the me­dia and many dif­fer­ent cul­tures around the world.

Men’s use of vi­o­lence is usu­ally an as­ser­tion of gen­der ‘norms’ and a form of sex­ist mas­culin­ity they have in­ter­nalised. This is part of an en­trenched pa­tri­ar­chal power struc­ture in which men, es­pe­cially those with more power, use vi­o­lence to sub­ju­gate women, girls and other men.

At the re­cent UN Women launch of the He4She cam­paign, UN Women Good­will Am­bas­sador Emma Wat­son gave a rous­ing speech in which she in­vited men to step up and con­trib­ute to ad­vanc­ing gen­der equal­ity.

Although her speech was a pas­sion­ate, it lacked the crit­i­cal and prac­ti­cal steps that men need in or­der to con­trib­ute to health­ier, safer and more equal com­mu­ni­ties. One cru­cial step, which gets to the root of pa­tri­archy, is to en­sure that gov­ern­ments and com­mu­ni­ties change the way we ed­u­cate and so­cialise boys and girls.

Men can also get in­volved by lob­by­ing pol­icy mak­ers to in­cor­po­rate gen­der stud­ies into pri­mary and sec­ondary school cur­ric­ula. Men must be en­cour­aged from an early age to be­come ac­tive sup­port­ers of gen­der equal­ity.

Many or­gan­i­sa­tions and sec­tors around the world are mak­ing con­certed ef­forts to in­volve men in their strate­gies to erad­i­cate GBV and gen­der in­equal­ity, which en­cour­age men to be ac­tive in end­ing sex­ism and vi­o­lence against women in their com­mu­ni­ties.

In the United States, or­gan­i­sa­tions such as A Call to Men and Men Can Stop Rape (MCSR) train and ed­u­cate men and boys with the aim of chang­ing neg­a­tive gen­der norms, and to de­velop a health­ier def­i­ni­tion of man­hood.

They be­lieve that pre­vent­ing do­mes­tic and sex­ual vi­o­lence is pri­mar­ily the re­spon­si­bil­ity of men. In South­ern Africa there are many or­gan­i­sa­tions do­ing the same, such as Men as Part­ners (MAP), who work with men to pro­mote gen­der eq­uity in relation to sex­ual and re­pro­duc­tive health; South African Men’s Fo­rum; Agisanang (ADAPT); Khotla in Le­sotho; MenEn­gage in Malawi; and Sonke Gen­der Jus­tice.

Th­ese or­gan­i­sa­tions are all work­ing to ad­vance gen­der equal­ity and non-sex­ist mas­culin­i­ties by sen­si­tis­ing and re-ed­u­cat­ing men and boys.

Dur­ing and beyond Six­teen Days of Ac­tivism, gov­ern­ments and civil so­ci­ety across the globe must think more cre­atively about their strate­gies for tack­ling in­equal­ity and the GBV pan­demic.

We need ef­fec­tive, ev­i­dence-based pro­grammes and in­ter­ven­tions that tar­get and in­volve men, and that ad­dress the foun­da­tion of the scourge.

Most im­por­tantly, men must in­volve them­selves, not only for Six­teen Days, but ev­ery day of their lives!

Bar­bara Mhangami-Ruwende is a pub­lic Health scholar-prac­ti­tioner, ac­tivist, writer and founder of the Africa Re­search Foun­da­tion for the Safety of Women. This ar­ti­cle is part of the Gen­der Links News Ser­vice Six­teen Days of Ac­tivism spe­cial se­ries. The 16 Days of Ac­tivism Against Gen­der Vi­o­lence is an in­ter­na­tional cam­paign that starts on 25 Novem­ber, In­ter­na­tional Day for the Elim­i­na­tion of Vi­o­lence against Women and ends on 10 De­cem­ber, Hu­man Rights Day.

The cam­paign hopes to raise aware­ness about gen­der-based vi­o­lence as a hu­man rights is­sue at the lo­cal, na­tional, re­gional and in­ter­na­tional level. This year’s theme is ‘Let’s chal­lenge mil­i­tarism and end vi­o­lence against women’.

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