Discussion Topic: Is equality for women the end point?
Our societies are largely driven by gender stereotypes and roles delineated for their gender by their cultures. This has suppressed the rights of all, both men and women, to pursue opportunities of their choice, making them victims of a gender biased society. The statistics support the fact that girls and women make up the majority of victims of gender-based violence and discrimination. Therefore, women have been fighting for equality for decades, in an attempt to make society better for them and the future generations. However, on the other side, our society hardly encourages men to speak up against any form of discrimination and violence against them. We barely support men to change their attitudes and behaviour towards women and the society. On the contrary, we are more focused on encouraging men to display specific behaviours as proof of their masculinity. From an early age, they are being taught that a “real man” must be powerful, dominant and independent. They must not be swayed by emotions and must become the breadwinners and decision makers of the family.
Many research studies have shown that men are less likely to report to police when they are physically assaulted by women. Men also go through domestic violence, sexual exploitation, depression, economic pressure, societal expectations, abandonment of families, and many other tragic moments; but these issues faced by men are more likely to be hidden because of the dignity we expect from men and the theory of masculinity that makes it hard for them to raise their voices for any kind of emotional and other external support. Research has shown that in most cases, men are readily assumed to be the perpetrator and women the victim and that society is less likely to respond compassionately to men’s suffering. Men are expected to endure their pain and problems in solitude. According to the American Psychological Association, “Dozens of studies and surveys over the past several decades have shown that men of all ages and ethnicities are less likely than women to seek help for all sorts of problems--including depression, substance abuse and stressful life events--even though they encounter those problems at the same or greater rates as women.” Studies have also claimed that men with a higher level of traditional masculinity ideology have a more negative view of seeking help from others. The conservative gender stereotypes have forced men to suffer silently which is a serious problem in our society.
In today’s world, while fully supporting and encouraging ‘females’ to obtain equal rights and gender equality, we must also pay attention to redefine masculine identities at the community and household level so that boys and men can also speak out for solutions to their problems. Over the years, men and women have been engaging in dialogues and demonstrating examples that show the benefits of women’s empowerment and ending violence and discrimination against women. But we also need to understand that the traditional masculine identities are highly toxic and support gender inequality in the society; this is harming both men and women in various ways. Therefore, it is high time we redefine masculine identities to play a key role in helping challenge gender inequality, gender stereotypes, gender roles and all sorts of gender traits and bias in order to build a healthy and gender-neutral society for all.
Over the years, various liberation movements have recognised the plights of women. To challenge gender discrimination, we must also recognise the role of men in creating a supporting environment. The movements that benefit women must not leave men silenced; gender equality does not mean turning the tables and suppressing men, it means giving a voice to all irrespective of their gender. Therefore, we must go hand in hand in recognising contributions of each gender and work together to solve issues created by the prevailing stereotypes of our society.
The above is one view of GBV, presented to promote thought and discussion around the topic. The views expressed in the discussion topic does not necessarily reflect the views of the project or its team members.
In RAP3 MHLR, we celebrate International Men’s day on 19th November to acknowledge the values and achievements of the men in the project. We recognise their contributions and responsibilities for their family, community and the nation as a whole. Like the International Women’s day, it is good to have a day that celebrates male diversity so that we can support men and also challenge gender stereotype that affect young boys and men.
Furthermore, the Safeguarding Guidelines and Best Practices of the RAP3 MHLR e-learning training course encourage everyone to seek support and complain if they have been subjected to any form of abuse or discrimination. The training materials also include various scenarios to highlight that perpetrators aren’t always defined just by their gender. We have trained our staff to treat and sympathise with all victims equally irrespective of their gender, race, and religion They are also responsible for informing the authorized team who will take the case forward in a lawful manner.
To conclude, we thank the men of Karnali Province, who broke gender stereotypes and allowed the women of their household to step outside of the house and access paid work. This has not only helped the women to become empowered in the process, but has supported the empowerment of other male workers to break some of their masculine ideologies. We are proud of all our male workers who have come forward acknowledging that not all the old notions that are followed in society are good.
Globally, the cases of female victims of violence are disproportionately larger than males. Nevertheless, elimination of violence against men is also important. Therefore, to make the world an equal place for men and women, men should also have space to speak up against violence. How can we encourage boys and men to report any form of violence and discrimination against them?