Monday, 7 December 2015

Where men stand: the role of men in preventing violence against women (7 December 2016)

Parveen Ali

Since 25 November 2015, in JAN interactive, we have explored various forms of violence against women (VAW). Diverse perspectives from people from various disciplines are presented. A common theme among all these perspective was that VAW is a significant social and public health problem and that it is often perpetrated by men against women, though not all men are violent (United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women 2003). The question is why some men use VAW? How can we stop VAW? What is the role of men in preventing VAW?

Well, over the centuries, various explanations have been proposed to explain why some perpetrate violence and other don’t. The ideology of patriarchy, culture and society, religion and the role of media have been explored. Biological (structural and chemical changes in the brain due, for example, to trauma or head injury) and psychopathological (psychopathology, mental illness, attachment problems, inability to manage anger and hostility, deficiency in various skills and abilities, such as management of anger and hostility, lack of assertiveness, low self-esteem and communication skills) explanation have been proposed (Ali & Naylor 2013). Power and control issues, violence in the family of origin, differences in the possession of tangible and intangible resources of men and women in the intimate relationship (Ali & Naylor 2013) have been discussed. Available evidence suggests that men who use violence against other men are more likely to perpetrate VAW. There is also an association between experiencing abuse and perpetrating abuse against women (Jewkes et al. 2013). All in all, it appears that no single factor can fully explain the phenomenon of VAW, though every perspective contributes to the explanation of VAW. Thus, an ecological approach considering various relationship, family, community and society related factors deems appropriate to address VAW (Jewkes et al. 2015). Such exploratory efforts, however, have helped unearth the need to involve men, as ‘ally’, is vital (Jewkes et al. 2015).

Since the 1990s, there has been an increasing acknowledgement that men and boys can play a very positive role in promoting gender equality and preventing VAW. Therefore, many interventions aiming to help men understand and change their behaviour were developed and promoted. Domestic violence perpetrators programme are one such important example. However, there is a need to involve men generally and to challenge forms of masculinities condoning violence, prevalent in cultures and societies (Lorentzen 2005). The first step in engagement of men is to understand why VAW should concern men and why should the get engaged? Campaigns, such as White Ribbons, have been instrumental in developing such understating; however, much more needs to be done. There are some important reasons for VAW should concern men. VAW should concern men as it impacts the lives of important women (mother, sisters, wife/partner, daughters and/or friends) in their life. VAW should concern men as violence perpetrated by a minority creates a negative image of all men. VAW is a men’s issue as, by virtue of their social position, men can speak out and step up against VAW (Flood 2010) in societies and cultures. There are various ways through which men can contribute to the development of a culture and environment that condones VAW. For instance, by not engaging in VAW, intervening against VAW perpetrated by other men, refusing to be bystanders to other’s violent behaviour, and contributing to VAW preventive programmes such as awareness sessions, exploring gender identities and attitudes about VAW (Berkowitz 2004).

As engagement of men is an important aspect of VAW prevention, much needs to be done to explore strategies fostering engagement opportunities. Appropriate opportunities need to be created for men to discuss their feelings. Men’s perspective about VAW men’s contribution to VAW preventive efforts need to investigated. Space and opportunities need to be created for both men and women to share their views and concerns with each other in an open, honest, structured and non-confrontational way. More programmes, strategies involving men, women, boys and girls need to be done to limit gender stereotyping and promote gender transformation.


Ali, P. A., & Naylor, P. B. (2013). Intimate partner violence: A narrative review of the biological and psychological explanations for its causation. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 18(3), 373-382.

Ali, P. A., & Naylor, P. B. (2013a). Intimate partner violence: A narrative review of the feminist, social and ecological explanations for its causation. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 18(6), 611-619.

Berkowitz, A. (2004, October). Working With Men to Prevent Violence: An Overview (Part One). Harrisburg, PA: VAWnet, a project of the National Resource Centre on Domestic Violence/Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence Accessed 4 December 2015.

Flood (2010). Where Men Stand: Men’s roles in ending violence against women. Accessed 4 December 2015

Jewkes, R., Fulu, E., Roselli, T., & Garcia-Moreno, C. (2013). Prevalence of and factors associated with non-partner rape perpetration: findings from the UN Multi-country Cross-sectional Study on Men and Violence in Asia and the Pacific. The Lancet Global Health, 1(4), e208-e218.

Jewkes, R., Flood, M., & Lang, J. (2015). From work with men and boys to changes of social norms and reduction of inequities in gender relations: a conceptual shift in prevention of violence against women and girls. The Lancet, 385, 1580-1589.

Lorentzen, J. (2005). The role of men in combating violence against women. UNDAW background paper in print. Accessed 4 December 2015.

United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (2003). The Role of Men and Boys in Achieving Gender Equality. Division for the Advancement of Women. Accessed 4 December 2015

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