Gender based violence is one of the prevalent human rights violations in the world. It knows no economic, social and national boundaries. Globally, an estimated 1 in 3 women will experience a form of abuse in her lifetime.
The number one question remains. Who are these perpetrators? Who do we blame? Do we blame “gender roles”? Do we blame our cultural beliefs? Do we blame our societal standards that classify GBV as normal and acceptable? Or do we blame our family elders who always insist on talking and working things out?
UNFPA, USAID, CARE are some of the agencies that promote the right of all women and girls to live free of violence and abuse. But is empowering these GBV victims enough? Can’t we change the perception of the perpetrators?
Almost 30% of all women who have been in a relationship have experienced physical and or sexual violence by their intimate male partner. The prevalence estimates of intimate partner violence range from 23.2% in high-income countries and 24.6% in the WHO Western Pacific region to 37% in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean region, and 37.7% in the WHO South-East Asia region.
Likewise, approximately 38% of all murders of women are committed by intimate male partners. In 2012, women and girls represented 55% of the estimated 20.9 victims of forced labour worldwide, and 98 percent of the estimated 4.5 million forced into sexual exploitation. The perpetrators most times go unpunished because of the ideology “male sexual entitlement”.
The society is not helping matters as they have made these males believe that they are “stronger” as compared to their female counterpart. This however does not come without its own adverse effect.
Lower life expectancy, homicides and suicides; higher level of substance abuse, unwillingness to seek healthcare when needed are some of the problems that are, in part, as a result of male’s adherence to gender norms that equate masculinity with toughness and invulnerability.
I have also come to realize that men themselves are struggling with the consequences and requirements of their own socialization and that they often do not even realize it. A male friend of mine Kachi, lost his dear one and refused to let out his sorrows. Rather he took to alcohol to relief himself. I saw what was going on and asked him but his reply shocked me “I don’t know how I will be taken If I should cry in front of these people, is better I drown my sorrow with this bottle of beer”
How can we change this?
Engage boys and men in advancing work towards gender justice and reduction and elimination of gender based violence. The results of many researches show that working with men and boys has a positive impact in challenging their perceptions of masculinity and their desire to speak up on the pressure they endure as a result of normative discourses and performances of masculinity as well as incidents of violence they might be subjected to. Integrated approaches in comparison to women-centered approaches make men feel engaged rather than silenced, alienated or threatened. Also, working with boys and men to challenge prevailing norms of masculinity and promote concepts of gender equality will contribute to the prevention of violence.
Most importantly, the society has conditioned us to believe that “real” men are not supposed to cry because they are supposed to be stoic, bereft of emotions and feelings. For them crying becomes the ultimate signifier of weakness, attributed only “for the girls.”
Other than the misogynistic view that “weakness” is relegated only “for the girls,” teaching males to suppress their emotions is in no way promoting healthy masculinity. We’ve seen how suppressing emotions ultimately chokes male culture, creating a vicious cycle of guys who repress their emotions.
What if we began viewing men’s tears as a signifies of strength? What if men could freely show how they really feel? What if they didn’t need to apologize for having emotions? The society will be a better place for all.
…….Always make an informed healthy decisions.