Why men are key in the war against Gender-Based Violence

By Liz Mbula.

For the war against Gender-Based Violence to succeed, both genders must be involved. This is not a women-only affair and that is where we all go wrong.

There is no way we will win the war against GBV if we cannot involve the key perpetrators. I say this because every time I see an article about GBV, women are portrayed as the victims and men and boys as perpetrators yet when it comes to the war against the vice, men and boys are hardly involved.

I feel this is where the problem lies. We need both genders to understand their role in this war for it to succeed.

Let’s uphold the White Ribbon Campaign, the world’s largest effort of men and boys working to end violence against women and girls. This campaign was started in Montreal, Canada in 1991 as a response to the December 6th Montreal Massacre that claimed the lives of 14 women.

This campaign is now the symbol of a man’s pledge to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and is active in over 60 countries working with the United Nations, governments and civil society around the world.

Although men too suffer the wrath of GBV, they are key in helping eliminate the vice in the society.

Equality between men and women is a fundamental principle of international law as established in the UN Charter and according to the charter, achieving gender equality is a societal responsibility that must fully engage both men and women yet the role of men and boys in promoting and realizing gender equality is often ignored.

Latest statistics from the police for six months at the beginning of 2020 show that 71 per cent of the cases reported on GBV in the country were perpetrated by men against women. This represents 2,416 cases involving men aged between 18 and 33.

This was the period when Kenya experienced the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic that started in March 2020 forcing a lockdown that had most families and couples confined to homes.

With the closure of schools, children were forced to stay home until January 2021 in what exposed them to high risks of rights violation, including from their parents and close relatives as outlined by a baseline survey commissioned by UNDP n the forms of sexual and gender-based violence that show that 72.5 per cent of cases are by people known to the victims. Which is the reason many go unreported.

Judy Kaberia of the Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) agrees that GBV is not only a women’s issue, explaining that “Women are the majority of the victims but that doesn’t mean men are not affected whether directly or indirectly. This therefore, means men too have a role to play to create awareness, educate and speak against GBV because it’s an issue that affects the entire society. Men can use their power of influence to demonize GBV.”

So let us not always portray men as perpetrators because they are the solution to the problem too. Let us involve men in condemning the vice and get them to understand why GBV is not for modern society.

Let us get men to understand that women and girls are not sex objects or people without a purpose in the society. That they have fundamental rights that need to be respected and protected.

By so doing, the government must initiate and implement programmes to accelerate socio-cultural change towards gender equality, particularly through upbringing and educational curriculum for it is difficult to change someone in adulthood. These programmes will only succeed if initiated and implemented at the earlier stages of one’s life.

This character development approach at a tender age is critical in ensuring boys grow to know and understand equality and the need to respect and uphold it throughout their lives. In Africa, most men have been seen to violate women’s rights due to poor upbringing and lack of understanding on the need to uphold gender equality in what poses a major challenge in its war.

We will succeed if we rally men to join in the fight against Sexual Gender-Based Violence in the society. Not just women.

We must change the attitude of men and boys on GBV for the war to succeed because this gender is clearly, in most cases, torn in between speaking against the vice or lacks the knowledge and skills to intervene appropriately whenever such cases arise at home or elsewhere.

It is time we start involving men in the war against GBV, but first, they must be sensitized on its values and why they matter in the society today.

It should worry us all that Kenya had a 36 per cent spike in GBV cases in 2020 when 5,009 cases were reported as documented in statistics available at the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs.

The author comments on topical issues on Gender and Human Rights.

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