On 22 June 2013, the Attorney-General’s Department asked the Australian Human Rights Commission to conduct a national review on the prevalence, nature and consequences of discrimination in relation to pregnancy at work and return to work after parental leave.
This review assesses the effectiveness of programme interventions seeking to engage men and boys in achieving gender equality and equity in health. Research with men and boys has shown how inequitable gender norms - social expectations of what men and boys should and should not do - influence how men interact with their partners, families and children on a wide range of issues. These include preventing the transmission of HIV and sexually transmitted infections, contraceptive use, physical violence, household tasks, parenting and their health-seeking behaviour.
Separated fathers often feel profound grief, distress, and anger at the end of their relationships with their partners and their children. Some participate in ‘fathers’ rights’ groups, a movement which claims to advocate on behalf of men and fathers who are the victims of discrimination and injustice in the Family Court and elsewhere. Yet such groups may do little to help fathers heal or to build or maintain ongoing and positive relationships with their children. Some men do find support in these groups, but they also may be incited into anger, blame, and destructive strategies of litigation. The fathers’ rights movement prioritises formal principles of equality over positive parenting and the well-being of women and children. Some groups seem more concerned with re-establishing paternal authority and fathers’ decision-making related to their children’s and ex-partners’ lives than with actual involvements with children. However, other responses to separated fathers are more constructive.
‘Fathers’ rights’ refers to organized groups or networks of fathers who act in support of the collective interests of fathers, especially separated fathers whose children do not reside with them. Fathers’ rights (hereafter ‘FR’) groups are active particularly in lobbying for changes in *family law.
FR is defined by the claim that fathers are deprived of their ‘rights’ and subjected to systematic discrimination as men and fathers, in a system biased towards women and dominated by feminists. FR groups overlap with *men’s rights groups and both represent an organised backlash to feminism. While other networks also promote fathers’ involvement in families, the FR movement is distinguished by its *anti-feminist discourse of men or fathers as victims. At the same time, FR perspectives do have a wide currency across the political spectrum.
In South Africa, men are increasingly rejecting widespread stereotypes of manhood by stepping forward to challenge gender roles that compromise their well-being and the health of their partners and their families. This case study documents the Sonke Gender Justice Network’s Fatherhood project, which was designed to reduce HIV transmission and address related problems, such as gender-based violence, women’s overwhelming burden of care, and the preponderance of children in need of care and support.
See http://www.icrw.org/publications/allowing-men-care for the report regarding this work.
Feminism’s achievements regarding violence against women are a key target for the fathers’ rights movement. This article provides an overview of the impact of the fathers’ rights movement on men’s violence against women. It documents the ways in which fathers’ rights groups in Australia have influenced changes in family law, which privilege parental contact over safety, particularly through moves toward a presumption of children’s joint residence. They have attempted to discredit female victims of violence, to wind back the legal protections available to victims and the sanctions imposed on perpetrators, and to undermine services for the victims of men’s violence.
Male supremacist groups (“Father’s Rights”) have caused unspeakable harm to our country and to our children by encouraging abusive fathers, often with little past involvement with their children, to seek custody as a tactic to pressure a mother to return or to punish her for leaving. The following call for support comes from the US-based National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS).
For further discussions of 'fathers' rights' groups, see some of the pieces in XY's collection on 'men's and fathers' rights'.
Steve Biddulph’s bestseller on bringing up boys takes us on a trip back to the 19th century.
Indeed, the rights and well-being of the child are best served when relations between men and women in the household are based on mutual respect, equal rights and shared responsibilities. In line with this reflection and taking into account its past experience, UNICEF must broaden its research and programme focus to include men and boys as important actors in programmes of cooperation.
This background paper is part of an ongoing effort to better understand the role that men can play in the lives of children and women. Arguments for UNICEF’s support to activities focused on men and boys are discussed. This is supported by UNICEF’s previous and ongoing initiatives to involve men in development programmes for children and women as well as a general review of current literature.