The benefits of engaging men to eliminate GBV and the importance of their advocacy

In 1993, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly defined violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women” (United Nations, 1993). In real terms this includes violence in domestic and inter-personal relationships; many forms of sexual violence including rape and sexual assault; systemic, institutional and culture based forms of violence; and new emerging forms of harassment and stalking based in modern technology.

In this context, experience has demonstrated that women are significantly more likely to experience GBV than men. It has also shown that working with men, as partners, is critical to the prevention of and response to GBV.

But why is important to work with men to address GBV? Work with men and boys can have a positive, transformative impact for the lives of women and girls, but also for the lives of men and boys. There is a much broader spectrum of positive roles for men and boys to play than perpetrator or potential perpetrator of gender-based violence. These roles not only prevent and reduce violence against women, but also improve the lives of men and boys by freeing them from these harmful and limiting aspects of masculinities. As a result, we can eliminate gender inequalities that hold back the development of our communities and nation, and ensure that women and girls that men care about do not have to live a life in fear of violence.

And what are some benefits for men of getting engage in elimination of GBV? Better relationships, better health; Not being lumped into a stereotypical group of "men", not having to conform to negative aspects of masculinity; More freedom to pursue any activities in which they are interested; People men care about (mothers, sisters, girlfriends, aunts, etc) have a lesser chance of being harmed by violence and other gender inequities; Not bullied by other men for stepping outside the gender “box”; Less pressure to be the sole provider and protector, more economic prosperity for all.

Achieving gender equality is a societal responsibility that must fully engage both men and women. Men need to be addressed as part of the solution, not just part of the problem. They need to be invited and challenged to critically reflect on the existence of patriarchy, male power and privilege; to analyze the costs to women and girls, but also the costs to men and boys. Finally, men and boys also need to be shown the benefits of gender equality, to women, girls, and all of humanity.