Working with Men to End Gender-Based Violence: Lessons for the South Asian Context (2003)

Compared with women, men - especially young men - are overwhelmingly involved in all types of violence. Cultural ideas about what it means to be a man often support this violence. But that is not to say that violence is a natural condition for men, or a natural part of being a man. Men are taught to use violence and at times are encouraged to use it. This paper was prepared for a 2003 UNESCAP Sub-regional Training Workshop on the Elimination of Violence Against Women in Partnership with Men. It argues that rather than categorically blaming and shaming men, programmes should start with a recognition that not all men use violence. There are alternative versions of masculinity that are displayed by and open for men. Those men that stand up as advocates for women are at times ridiculed and are often lonely voices - more efforts should be made to support and connect them. Interventions that appear to be 'top down' or 'foreign' also have a high likelihood of failure. Instead, programmes should work from the ground up, identifying local traditions, norms and masculine characteristics that are conducive to ending violence - while at the same time not allowing for 'culture' to be an excuse for the violence of individuals.