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.
Gender equality has long been synonymous with women and their struggle for economic independence, equal pay, and equal power. It has also been a key principle in eliminating oppression and violence.
However, gender equality is about both men and women. Men spend less time together with their own children, are more prone to accidents, are over-represented in crime statistics, and drop out more often from upper secondary education. These examples indicate that men would have much to gain from true gender equality. Men are under-represented in the teaching professions in preschools and schools, in nursing and children's social services. At the same time, men still sit in the majority of positions of power in society and they still make more money than women. It is mainly men who are the perpetrators of domestic violence.
In recent years there have been positive changes in the role of males in society. It has been almost 20 years since the Committee on Male Roles in 1991 presented its recommendations. The Committee on Male Roles pointed out the following goals: the reallocation of power between women and men, more time for fathers to care for their own children both before and after a family breakup, reduced gender differences in choice of education and training and the prevention of men's violence against women; all of these were to be central goals for the future work towards gender equality. In several areas the development in the period has been positive. In particular, there is reason to look at the development in the home, and the increased contact between fathers and their children. In other areas, however, the development has been stagnant or negative. While women have entered previous male arenas in the working life, there has not been any increase in employment of men in the health and care giving sectors. In the education sector men constitute a smaller group today than 15 years ago. Consequently, there is reason to reiterate the goals stated by the committee.
A new study says that parenthood pushes men and women in opposite political directions: