Gender equality: why we need to involve men

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The National Commission for Women registered 19,953 complaints of abuse of women from January to August 2021, up from 13,618 for the same period last year. Among other factors, the reasons cited for this spike include frustration with unemployment among men, food insecurity and marital drug addiction. This shows that violence against women can only be tackled if men are involved in the effort.

Men’s organizations in India are working to change the behavior and perception of boys and men. Some of them are under the umbrella of the Forum to Engage Men (FEM), and include Men’s Action for Stopping Violence against Women, Bapanchi Shala, Men’s Action for Equity and FEM-Jharkhand.

This is a platform where men can discuss ways in which we as a society can usher in more equitable gender relations. There are many other organizations working across India but they hardly ever get the publicity or recognition they deserve.

It is important to present and promote the work of these organizations, and much can be learned from their experiences. Ravi Verma, director of the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), says engaging men will make a significant difference in preventing violence against women, and men’s groups working in this area could provide information that could help shape policies.

“It is often peer pressure that forces men to engage in violence against women. I have noticed that when girls go to school in rural areas, they are often heckled and harassed by young men. Some of these men have confessed that they don’t want to be a part of this, but are kind of forced to prove their masculinity, ”says Verma.

We often hear about the need to change mentalities. But this tends to put the blame on individuals as equal pressure needs to be exerted on transforming institutions and structures that weigh against women’s rights. Rahul Roy, who has made several documentaries on masculinities in South Asia, says: “Conversations with men through groups of men or even groups of women should be continuous, not sporadic.

Discussions about gender equality and violence against women should start at home within families and then at school level. Teachers should be trained to discuss these issues with students, without distinguishing between boys and girls. While many institutions, including educational institutions, invite women’s groups to organize workshops on women’s empowerment and rights, isn’t it time that men’s groups also benefited from? a bigger platform?

In addition to men’s groups, various experts in this field believe that men should also be partners at the local level.

This involvement could be done through men’s groups and the Panchayati Raj system. Rahul Roy argues that there needs to be more political pressure to get the message out to men that they are equal partners in gender equality and that it cannot be built on aggression and violence. Panchayats, by making the issue a priority, could keep records of cases of violence that could then be used to frame interventions and policies.

We need to open up more channels of communication for boys and men if they are to become true allies in ending violence against women. The efforts of the EMF and other men’s organizations have helped change attitudes, albeit in limited areas. However, this is encouraging and needs to be replicated on a much larger scale.

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Opinions expressed are personal


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