“Gender equality can only be reached by involving all genders. Patriarchy is also detrimental to men. Too often men think that gender-based violence is not about them,” said Petra Stienen (Netherlands, ALDE), PACE Rapporteur on “The role of men and boys in stopping gender-based violence” during a joint hearing organised by the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination and the Parliamentary Network Women Free from Violence yesterday in Strasbourg. She underlined the need for men to set norms for masculinity and to look at good practices, such as worldwide movements showing how to engage men and boys.
“Gender equality is good for men themselves. Working with both boys and men is important. The transition to fatherhood is a crucial moment to work on equality. We need to promote a more equitable approach to parenting,” underlined Giovanna Lauro PhD, Vice-President of Programs and Research at Promundo-US. She highlighted the importance of involving men from an early age: men who have witnessed violence against their own mothers when children are 2.5 times more likely to become perpetrators later, and one in three men has witnessed such violence.
“When it comes to working with boys on combating gender-based violence, we should not put them in a box. We need them to be aware of power structures. Stereotypes about ‘real men’ expressed in sayings like ‘boys don’t cry’ are some of the biggest barriers to equality,” recalled Teresa Schweiger, Austrian member and Co-Coordinator of MenEngage Europe, stressing the need for men to refuse to accept gender-based violence when witnessing it and to act as role models.
For Ivan Jablonka, Professor of History at Sorbonne Paris Nord and member of the University Institute of France, “men have been at the forefront of every battle, except for the battle of gender equality”. He called for “gender justice”: “We can have a gender new deal, a capacity of inventing a new division of powers. We must escape the gender prison and accept our vulnerability. We do not have to be archaic men shaped by patriarchy,” he said. He underlined the need for men to question relations of power, the importance of experiencing equality in practice by sharing power and of inventing “new solidarities” by taking the side of women’s rights.
Zita Gurmai (Hungary, SOC), PACE General Rapporteur on violence against women and Co-ordinator of the Parliamentary Network Women Free from Violence, chaired the meeting. Participants also took the floor to share good practices and experiences, in particular at national level.