Asia: Changing Concept of Masculinity Aimed At Reducing Violence
Thursday, November 29, 2012 10:35 AM

Some Asian nations are fighting gender based violence by changing the way society thinks about “being a man.” According to activists and researchers, “Across Asia, as elsewhere in the world, notions of masculinity are infused with power, control and entitlement, the source of much brutality against women and children.” Partners for Prevention, a United Nations interagency program aimed at ending gender-based violence, is attempting to shift that dynamic in the hope of achieving more effective prevention.

Partners for Prevention sponsored a recent training workshop in Bangkok that was attended by about 30 civil society participants from eight Asian and Pacific countries. Although the program began in 2008 it is now gaining attention with the results of surveys of 15,000 men and women across Asia. The surveys “aim to mirror and deepen earlier studies, carried out by the World Health Organization, which focused on female victims of violence.” Men who responded to the surveys tended to admit to a high rate of committing crimes like rape. The surveys also show that perpetrators are often young and that alcohol plays less of a role in violence against women than previously thought. According to one of the surveys, 86% of men in China who reported having raped a woman, cited “sexual entitlement” as their motivation. In Bangladesh this motive was also one of the most common cited. Other indicated motives were “fun,” “anger,” and “punishment.”

Somsouk Sananikone, an activist from Laos, noted that all activities used to focus only on women. “It’s only now we are starting to talk about masculinity.” Mongolian activists say there are huge cultural differences between countries and measures that work in other countries might not be adaptable in Mongolia. James Lang, coordinator of Partners for Prevention believes “the time is right to push for change.” He stated that “There are great new opportunities for education, for economic advancement, for being engaged in society, in new media, on working with government and young people in new ways.”

Compiled from: Didi Kristen Tatlow, Changing the Notion of Masculinity, The New York Times, Nov 25, 2012.