Archive for the ‘Men Against VAW’ Category

Hundreds of people stood shoulder to shoulder in Beirut, demonstrating their support for a women’s rights campaign that has swept the city earlier this month.

It’s called a human chain, and activists say it visually represents their cause: Men and women standing together against domestic violence. Most of the 200 people lining the streets of Beirut are wearing white banners, or white scarves saying, “Be a real man: United in ending violence against women.”

Anthony Keedi, one of the organizers, says that the ribbons are a part of a worldwide campaign designed to get men to speak out against domestic violence. And, although White Ribbon Campaigns, have been going on around the world for many years, this is the first time it has been introduced in the Middle East. He says Lebanese men often support the cause once they understand it to be a human rights issue, rather than exclusively a women’s issue.

“They realize that, yeah, they might have stood for this all along,” said Keedi. “They just haven’t spoken about it. And now they’re realizing that it is their job. It’s a sense of ownership. It is my obligation to speak about it because these are my principles.”

This demonstration was one of many in Beirut over the past two weeks and part of a global campaign against domestic violence called: “16 Days of Activism Against Violence Against Women.” In Beirut, the campaign also included the presentation of a pilot study by activist organizations, Kafa (Enough) Violence and Exploitation and Oxfam.

The study indicates that most men in Lebanon grow up as either witnesses or victims of violence and that domestic violence is found equally in Lebanese families, regardless of socio-economic status or religion. It also shows that Lebanese men generally define violence only in terms of beatings or rape- not psychological or verbal abuse. And the men in Lebanon are, as one activist put it, bombarded with norms of masculinity.

Kafa has also focused the local anti-domestic violence campaign on gathering support for a change in the Lebanese law. Currently, there are no laws in Lebanon designed to protect women from violence inside their homes. If adopted by Parliament, activists say the law will protect women by allowing them to report abuses confidentially, seek protection orders against their husbands, and create private family courts. During the campaign, organizers passed out a petition supporting the law that now, after two years of campaigning, has about 10,000 signatures.

Activist Marita Kassis says that although many governments in the Middle East, like Lebanon, have signed international human rights agreements, treaties have done little for the women here. She says women in Lebanon need new local laws, and to change the way society views violence against women.

16 Days 2010 Theme Announcement

This year marks the 20th 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign, and with this important landmark, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) is considering new ways to utilize the campaign for transformative change. Year after year, new partners join the 16 Days Campaign to bring local, national, and global attention to the various forms of violence that women face. The attention that gender-based violence has received in international forums is a testimony to the powerful actions of women’s rights activists around the world. Yet, despite this increased awareness, women continue to experience violations in alarming numbers and new forms of violence are emerging. We, as defenders of women’s human rights, have a responsibility to look more closely at the structures in place that permit gender-based violence to exist and persist. After much consultation with activists, organizations, and experts from around the world, militarism has emerged as one of the key structures that perpetuates violence.

While there are many different ways to define militarism, our working definition outlines militarism as an ideology that creates a culture of fear and supports the use of violence, aggression, or military interventions for settling disputes and enforcing economic and political interests. It is a psychology that often has grave consequences for the true safety and security of women and of society as a whole. Militarism is a distinctive way of looking at the world; it influences how we see our neighbors, our families, our public life, and other people in the world. To embrace militarism is to presume that everyone has enemies and that violence is an effective way to solve problems. To leave militaristic ways of thinking unchallenged is to leave certain forms of masculinity privileged, to leave global hierarchies of power firmly in place, to grant impunity to wartime perpetrators of violence against women. To roll back militarism is to inspire more expansive ideas about genuine security, to bring more women into public life, to create a world built not on the competitive sale of weapons, but on authentic relations of trust and cooperation.

There is a need to address militaristic beliefs in all of our societies. Militarism has material and institutional, as well as cultural and psychological consequences that are more difficult to measure. Wars, internal conflicts, and violent repressions of political and social justice movements – all of which are a result of a culture of militarism – have a particular and often disproportionate impact on women. Rape is used as a tactic of war to drive fear and to humiliate women and their communities. But sexual violence is just one form of violence that women and girls suffer throughout the continuum of violence before, during and after conflict has ostensibly ended. Militarism neither ends nor begins in warzones, nor does it confine itself to the public sphere. The families of militarized men and women may experience violence in their homes where ‘war crimes’ and armed domestic violence are hidden from public view, and women who serve in the military are just as easily victims of sexual assault by their fellow soldiers. Even places that are not experiencing conflict directly are not exempt from militarism: they send troops, produce and sell weapons, and invest in the militaries of foreign governments rather than supporting development efforts. These governments have skewed priorities, spending huge percentages of their budgets on the military and arms rather than on social services, such as education, health care, job security, and development that would yield real security for women.

For these reasons, the international theme for the 2010 16 Days Campaign will be:
Structures of Violence: Defining the Intersections of Militarism and Violence Against Women

Continues at

Women from a dozen countries convened in New York last week to share their struggles to implement state legislation and empower women at the grassroots level to put an end to gender- based violence (GBV) worldwide.

Hosted by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Nov. 4-5 high-level consultation entitled ‘Delivering as One on Violence Against Women: From Intent to Action’ addressed the triumphs and tribulations of the Inter-Agency Task Force’s pilot programme on GBV.

Since Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched ‘UNiTE to End Violence Against Women’ in 2006, various U.N. agencies, civil society organisations and national coalitions have taken up the struggle, with renewed vigour.

The pilot programme, launched in Burkina Faso, Rwanda, Jamaica, Paraguay, Chile, Fiji, Jordan, Yemen, Kyrgyzstan and the Philippines, was based on the supposition that greater cohesion across regions and between organisations was needed to yield the greatest benefits for women’s security. The pilot sought to connect multiple stakeholders through joint programming in the 10 countries.

“We have to first turn victims into survivors and then into activists and advocates. … You have to put the issue of VAW [violence against women] within the context of women’s low status in the world and of women being treated like disposable commodities. To challenge that perception, you have to challenge the very foundation of patriarchy.”

“The joint programme allows stakeholders to jointly assess progress and decide what has worked and what has not. They allow multi-sectoral approaches to addressing issues that are often dealt with by a single entity”.

Virtually every participant echoed this sentiment and expressed dissatisfaction with the bureaucratic nature of competing U.N. agencies that often replicate each other’s work and fail to pool their efforts effectively.

The two-day consultation covered a lot of ground, touching on everything from Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C) to the engagement of men and boys in ending GBV, and ended with several positive conclusions.

Representatives from each of the pilot countries discussed experiences across a range of regional, religious and cultural realms, highlighting the successes of the programme.

In Rwanda, this initiative led to the creation of the ‘Isange One-Stop Center’ based at the Police Hospital in Kigali, a shelter-cum-rehabilitation center for abused, battered women.

In Paraguay, several leaps were taken towards bringing issues of GBV and VAW into the mainstream, including a manual for journalists, round-table discussions at the national level on trafficking of women and children, and workshops for media personnel involved in TV and radio programming.

In Jamaica, an after-school programme focused on educating young men on the importance of working in solidarity with women towards ending violence. Boys came up with slogans like “Abusers are losers” and “Don’t fight it out, talk it out.”

This is a tremendous step for youth in a country that is saturated in the culture of ‘dance hall’ music, which posits women as sex objects and binds male identity to images of aggression, violence and masculinity.

Tom Minerson, executive director of the Toronto-based White Ribbon campaign, referred to the “disadvantages of the advantages of being a man.” According to Minerson, educating young men on the harmful effects of the system of male power and privilege can transform gender identities and generate compassion and an enlightened sense of self for men.

But despite a few victories dotting the battlefield on which women wage a daily struggle for respect, equality and survival, the overall picture is still extremely grim.

Every single country reported a host of barriers to broader implementation of the pilot programme, including consistent lack of funds, disorganisation within U.N. agencies, cultural and governmental blockades – particularly in Asia, Africa and the Middle East – and low awareness on a national level.

Pamela Averion, the national programme officer for UNFPA in the Philippines, discussed the disconnect between legislation and reality on the ground. Although the Gender Development Index in the Philippines for 2010 was 99.6 percent of the Human Development Index, 90 percent of reported pregnancies were unwanted and ended in abortion.

And although the Philippines ranks 59th out of 108 countries on the gender empowerment measure, men dominate 90 percent of all political positions in the country.

The Philippines emerged 9th out of 134 countries in a study on the global gender gap, but one out of every five women experienced gender-related domestic violence and almost half of those women believed that husbands were justified in abusing their wives. These are only a few of countless disheartening yet unavoidable statistics. In Yemen, for example, a marriage bill was passed in 2008 making it illegal for girls under the age of 18 to be married. Imams across the country quickly collected over five million signatures of citizens opposed to such a constitutional change and the bill was quickly overturned.

Despite ongoing efforts by activists and ordinary women around the world, the road towards women’s equality looms interminably ahead. Women, and their male allies all over the world, are weary from the march, but cannot afford to drag their feet.

Part of a longer article at

See also: Encouraging police to tackle violence against women in Rwanda

Women can’t stop rape. We’ve been trying for decades.

From the early days of the women’s movement in the late 1960s and 1970s, feminists have launched anti-rape campaigns. But, while rape crisis centres continue to promote the message that rape is not a women’s issue – rather it’s a social problem that can only be rectified by a change in the male mentality into one that acknowledges men’s power to stop rape – few people seem to be listening.

In Australia, we’ve seen evidence of male sexual violence inherent in Rugby League and several elite boys colleges, while in Canada, photos of the gang rape of a teenage girl were posted to Facebook.

According to the NSW Rape Crisis Centre, one in five women in Australia will experience sexual assault at some time in their life. Seventy per cent of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows, such as a family member, friend or workmate. Of the remaining 30 per cent of sexual assaults most are committed by a person the victim meets socially or goes out on a date with. For one in 10 adult women who are sexually assaulted the perpetrator will be their current or past intimate partner.

Why these men believe it’s ok to rape or sexually assault a woman or girl is bound up in conceptions of gender normativity and the imbalance of power between men and women that flows from such assumptions: Masculinity is associated with dominance and virility while femininity is deemed passive. Men’s sexual prowess is regarded as something ‘natural’, while women’s sexuality must be controlled.

One of the negative outcomes of the current obsession with ‘raunch culture’ is the slut-shaming of women and girls who dare to be sexual – sometimes with many different partners; who dare to explore their sexuality and desires – sometimes in public.

A recent example is the ThinkUKnow campaign created by the UK Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre and developed by the Australian Federal Police and Microsoft Australia. While its motives may be honourable – protecting young people from unwanted images of themselves being distributed without their consent – the delivery is not. A short video, ‘Megans Story’ shows a teenage girl walking into class happy and confident after ‘sexting’ her boyfriend. Her confidence turns to shame and humiliation as the sext is forwarded to her classmates and teacher, and she runs out of the room in tears. The message is clear: If a boy behaves inappropriately (by forwarding a private sext of his girlfriend), the girl is to blame, not him.

This is a spin-off of the victim-blaming mentality that says a woman was ‘asking’ to be raped because of what she was wearing, or because she left a party with a group of men.

When are we going to see a prolific national campaign to educate boys and men that it’s their responsibility for not raping or sexually assaulting girls or women? When is it going to become a mandatory part of the school curriculum to teach boys from a young age that it’s not ok grab a girl’s breasts or genitals unless she explicitly gives permission? When are we as a society going to redefine what ‘makes a man’ and reject the hyper-masculine qualities that see women violated sexually as an activity that bonds ‘real’ men together?

Let’s be clear: The rape of women by men is not about men’s uncontrolled lust – it’s about power and domination that stems from fear and hatred of the female and the feminine.

On 29 October national Reclaim the Night rallies will be held across Australia and other parts of the world in which women march through the streets to protest against men’s sexual violence. These events first took place internationally in 1976 and the fact they still need to happen today is a sad indictment of men’s refusal to acknowledge and use their power to stop rape.

Some men have made an effort in this area, such as Men Can Stop Rape, an international organisation that aims to redefine masculinity by mobilising men to use their strength for creating cultures free from violence, especially men’s violence against women, but they are few and far between.

By and large, preventing rape is still put on women’s shoulders. Well-meaning college campuses distribute advice to female students on how to avoid being sexually assaulted: don’t get drunk or stoned, don’t leave a party with a group of guys or alone, carry a whistle. The problem is, it’s all about controlling women’s behaviours, not those of men.

A Facebook friend recently circulated a document that turns the tables and offers “100 per cent foolproof tips to prevent rape/sexual assault”. It includes helpful suggestions to potential rapists such as: “Use the buddy system: if you are not able to stop yourself assaulting someone, ask a friend to stay with you when you are in public” or “When you see someone walking by themselves, leave them alone!”

Facetious as some of the advice may be, it’s a stark reminder that there is only one way to stop rape: Don’t do it.

Katrina Fox is a freelance writer and editor-in-chief of The Scavenger

A total of 2,753 women were victims of violence in the decade 2000-09, according to Tonga Police statistics that show on average 23 women per month come to police to report an incident of physical or sexual violence; and last year four women died in domestic incidents.

“The majority of these victims were assaulted in the domestic environment – ‘the home or safe environment!’ and without doubt nearly all the attackers, the offenders were known to the victims,” said Tonga’s Police Commander Chris Kelley today, in opening the National Consultation Process on “Advocacy Strategies for Advancing Legislative Change to address Violence against women”.

Commander Kelley said that, perhaps, an anti-violence curriculum is just as important as reading, writing and arithmetic in schools and that Tonga Police are looking to introduce a schools programme over the next two years.

“My point is that look to the starting point, look at when, how, where it might begin, in the sons of today are the traits of the men tomorrow,” he said.

“If you are to review the concepts of violence against women, endorse findings in local research, develop strategies, introduce new laws, initiatives, you need to identify at least one important point. Where does it begin? What stimulates the act of violence against women here in Tonga?” he said.

“In my opinion it’s a learned behaviour perpetrated in peer pressure. Yes, it’s a power thing, a control mechanism but I don’t think you are born with a gene labeled ‘domestic violence’ – you learn from others, regrettably.

“If your son sees his father assaulting his mother and getting away with it, is it OK?

“If your son is encouraged to indulge in school fighting because of some misguided honour, or his father and grandfather did it, is it OK?

“If the availability and consumption rate of alcohol plays a major part in domestic violence, is it OK?

“If you have a wife and family but little or no relationship skills then is it OK?

“If it’s not appropriate to assault your mother and sister but it is alright to assault your wife or other women, then is it OK?

“We all know it’s never OK!” he said.

Commander Kelly said that the ten years of statistics referred to grievous bodily harm, to rape, indecent assault, injury and wounding, but these statistics did not include intimidation, threats or psychological and emotional abuse.

“The reported rate of violence against women has climbed from 113 in the year 2000 to 404 in 2009. Now, well over one report each day of a serious assault incident against women is made by women.”

He said that the courts have entered convictions in 1304 of those 2,753 cases, or 47%. Other cases were withdrawn, acquitted or still under investigation and pending trial..

These statistics don’t include murder and manslaughter, which reached a peak in 2009 when four women died in separate domestic incidents.

“Remember I am quoting you reported crime. What about the unreported figure and %. I don’t know what that figure is – who does?

“Don’t fall into the trap of changing the law for change sake but I strongly believe the law needs to reflect the rights of women and children and recognize their special place in society,” he said.

“If we are to introduce new laws we must look at ways that will benefit women and children, protect women and children – not just punish men, because that hasn’t been too successful if you accept the reported statistics,” he said.

Tonga Police are introducing a domestic violence response policy in July this year and a draft will be discussed in the seminar. A feature of the police Domestic Violence Response Guidelines is the ‘No Drop Policy’ for reported physical assaults.

“Police will seek feedback on the draft policy before introduction – that process will help contribute to positive outcomes for this consultation,” Commander Kelley said.

He added that these issues are not peculiar to Tonga, not indigenous to this country, not a reflection of every male in Tonga today. “Acknowledgment is one thing, acceptance is another, acceptance that change is required will be the key to progress.”

The consultation was organised by the Pacific Regional Rights Resource Team of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SCP) in partnership with the Women’s Affairs and Culture with the aim to improve legislation to protect women and to develop appropriate policy and legislation in Tonga. Over four days this week the participants will review existing general assault laws, discriminatory provisions and practices in the areas of violence against women and develop practical strategies for legislative change in the area of violence against women.

Hundreds of people participated on Saturday in Luanda in a march against domestic violence, which was dubbed “Zero Tolerance”.

The march was held in the ambit of the commemorations of the African Women Day, to be marked on July 31.

During the event, which took place under the theme “Impact of the financial crisis in the life of families”, the participants walked past the Deolinda Rodrigues Avenue, the Independence Square, Ho Chi Min Avenue, Hoji-ya-Henda Avenue, culminating in Cidadela sports complex.

The march aimed to sensitise citizens about the various forms of violence, consequences, the advantages of being tolerant at home, in school, at work, and in the street, as well as the need to denounce all types of aggression.

The march, which was organised by the provincial department of family issues and promotion of women, was attended by the minister with this portfolio, Genoveva Lino, the Luanda governor, Francisca do Espírito Santo, and the vice-president of the ruling MPLA party, Roberto de Almeida, among other officials.,10c23959-2e0f-4786-be36-4e5a9b5de204.html

Since January, over twenty women have been murdered at the hands of men they knew, the most recent and horrific crimes involving a son allegedly locking his mother in a room and beating her to death and a spurned ex-lover allegedly setting in wait and killing the mother of the woman he wanted to marry. This week’s column comes from Guyanese Luke Daniels, a UK based social activist and domestic violence counsellor, whose work with men at London’s Everyman Centre received recognition in a 1995 television documentary “Pulling the Punches”. He is completing a book by the same title (see Next week’s column will continue this discussion by expanding on a point hinted at below, namely that we cannot abstract the brutality that is being manifested against women from the wider brutality and indifference that have come to characterise so many dimensions of contemporary Guyanese life. It is symptomatic of a profound disconnection that combines with underlying power differentials to result in women being regularly targeted for assault and murder. Without ever losing sight of the women, in fact because we must not lose sight of the women, it is important that we not reduce these horrific accounts simply to a private matter, a man-woman dynamic. In short, we need to ensure that we do not domesticate our discussions of domestic violence.

Stop This Slaughter
By Luke Daniels

Guyana must now be one of the most dangerous places for a woman to live with regular newspaper reports of women brutally murdered by their partners. It is time to put a stop to this senseless slaughter of women. Growing up in Guyana my father always cautioned me and my brothers not to hit girls as it was cowards who hit women. What has happened to our men that we think it is ok to abuse and even kill women?

For too long we have been encouraged to believe that what happens between a husband and wife is not our business. This attitude has left our sisters, aunts, mothers, daughters and friends vulnerable to abuse with no one to come to their rescue. It is time for a change in attitude, for all of us are affected when a life is destroyed by domestic violence.

Men have to learn that it is acceptable to intervene to stop the violence as when some men abuse it is all men that are tainted by their actions. If we feel unable to intervene alone we must get the support of family members and friends. We cannot afford to wait on the police to protect women, direct action is necessary to save lives.

The government has a responsibility to protect all of its citizens and ensure that they live lives free from fear of violence. The law has an important role to play in protecting women and the police force must be made accountable for its failings in upholding the law.

What is happening in Guyana? Why is the police force failing to protect women? Is it because too many of them are abusers themselves that they treat domestic violence as less serious a crime? The government has a responsibility to not only see that there are adequate laws to protect but that the police force is adequately trained and are accountable for their actions or inaction as the case might be.

The message has to be loud and clear that if anyone is abused the police will make an arrest. Instead of this we see the force failing to take action, often despite repeated desperate complaints. Too often even if action is taken the abuser is let off lightly. When we have government officials and members of the police force abusing women behind closed doors it will take a great deal of effort to bring about change in attitude and behaviour.

In the meantime women have to learn to protect themselves. For those not already trapped in a violent relationship having some sense of the type of man who will pose a future threat to their safety is important for their survival. From my experience of working with perpetrators of domestic violence I have observed that men who are extremely jealous, controlling and possessive are more likely to perpetrate. Of course at the beginning of a relationship these attributes can make a woman feel very special, but it is not long before the controlling behaviour creeps in –who were they talking to and what about? They are discouraged from having friends. This is especially dangerous as friends and family are cut off, leaving the victim dependent only on the partner. Woman need to check out the man’s attitude to women generally; is he disrespectful and abusive in his language to women? And of course in the early days of courting it is important to ask their opinion of domestic violence. Many perpetrators believe that women like men who beat them and some women have internalised the notion that ‘if my man don’ beat me he don’ love me’. Women must make it clear that they detest men who abuse women and taking action at the first instance of any violence is important or the violence can only get worse.

We must also teach our children that abuse of any kind is unacceptable. From my work I have learnt that hitting children is one of the root causes of domestic violence. When children are hit and told that ‘it is because we love them’, we confuse them about what loving is. It is not surprising that many grow up believing that abuse is a sign of love. We must teach our children that using violence is unacceptable, but we cannot do this if we continue to beat them as parents. Some argue that they have to ‘teach them a lesson’; the only lesson we teach is that violence is an acceptable way to control behaviour. These same boys grow up to be men who feel they can use violence to control their women.

If beating children did any good, as many believe, the Caribbean should have the most peaceful societies when you consider how much violence is done to children. Instead violence abounds, with shockingly high murder rates per capita in several countries in the region.

Women have to be aware that the most dangerous time for them is when they decide to leave a violent man. This is where state intervention is absolutely necessary. There are organisations like Red Thread that help women negotiate this difficult period and getting professional help is important. Providing protection for women escaping abusive situations – like enough safe houses and adequate resettlement arrangements – is an absolute responsibility and necessity of the government if women are to be protected.

Nothing will change until we get men to realise that hitting women is never acceptable. If a relationship is not working out it is time to move on –not abuse or kill.

(This is one of a series of fortnightly columns from Guyanese in the diaspora and others with an interest in issues related to Guyana and the Caribbean)

The recent Gender Festival in Kenya has underlined the important role that male activism can play in achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment.

“Men have a role to play when it comes to ensuring gender equity. It is not just a women’s affair. Gender equality does not mean women are ruling over men. It only ensures a level playing field for both men and women, removing all forms of discrimination that prevail against women,” Kennedy Otina, the regional programme coordinator of Men for Gender Equality Now (MEGEN) said.

MEGEN is a regional organisation that recognises the need for men to participate in the fight for gender equality.

The festival, an open forum bringing together gender rights advocates, featured plays, lectures, poetry, and theatre skits. Participants created songs and dance in support of gender equity, as well as t-shirts, placards and flyers with the basic message: yes to gender equality, no to gender discrimination.

Previous efforts to reduce gender inequality have largely targeted women, something analysts say has left gaps in the fight for gender equality. “We are talking about changing societal attitudes that have brought about discrimination against women. This change cannot be brought by one group alone, especially when it involves a change in all people and societies,” Otina noted.

One of the questions tackled by the festival was how to transform deeply-ingrained societal attitudes. For example, from early childhood, boys are socialised into gender roles fashioned to keep them in power and control, and as a result grow up believing that dominant behaviour towards girls and women is acceptable.

“We can reverse this by promoting new values that encourage communication, cooperation and equality between boys and girls before they become men and women,” Jonah Gokova, chair of the Padare/Enkundleni Men’s Forum on Gender, based in Zimbabwe, told IPS at the festival.

His colleague Otina noted that culture was dynamic and changes from time to time. “We tell people that long ago there were no clothes, people wore skin. Times have changed; today people wear clothes. One of the things that have also changed is the exposure of women. They go to school, and are leaders. This was not possible before,” he observed.

MEGEN’S work to promote gender equality from a young age also includes an outreach programme which targets young boys and girls in schools across Kenya, informing them of the need to respect each other, and that men and women are equal. The programme also targets teachers and parents to help them instil such virtues among their pupils and children respectively.

The Men’s Travelling Conference is another initiative of the group, taking these messages to men and women across the country. With the use of skits, the conference reaches communities wherever they are including churches and markets.

The response has been positive, with reports of changed attitudes even in some of the most patriarchal settings, according to Otina.

While targeting attitude change may be critical, working with legislators to urge them to pass legislation supporting gender equality is equally important. “We have been working with members of parliament because we realise they have the power to reject or pass laws. In particular, we are targeting male politicians because they are the most in parliament,” Nelson Banda, coordinator of the Men’s Network in Zambia said.

Already, his organisation is in the process of initiating a Male Parliamentary Network to provide support to women legislators when discussing gender equality issues in the House. So far four MPs have shown willingness to join the forum to back the women MPs who comprise just 14.7 percent of parliament.

“This figure is so low and makes it hard for the women legislators to form the necessary quorum to pass gender-friendly legislation alone. We expect that with the Male Parliamentary Network, things will be much easier,” Banda told IPS from Mongu town, about 600 kilometres from Lusaka, the capital.

However, political will is necessary for gender equality laws to be implemented lest they become just writings on paper.

“Uganda has done it and Rwanda too, through quota systems which have seen an increase of women in parliament. This shows that political will can enhance gender equality,” Norah Matovu-Winyi, executive director of the African Women’s Development and Communication Network, said.

Rwanda’s constitution provides for a quota system that reserves special seats for women in the Upper and Lower Houses, something that has seen the country record 56.3 percent of women in parliament, the highest in the world. With a similar system, neighbouring Uganda has increased the number of women legislators to 25 percent. The same system spells out 30 percent of women representation in the public service.

No such progress is yet visible in Zimbabwe, despite the country having signed to a Southern African Gender Protocol requiring 50 percent representation of women in government, Gokova said.

“The coalition government [formed earlier this year] has not made emphasis in getting women involved. It calls itself all-inclusive, but it has excluded a key group – women,” he stated. Out of the 69 ministers and deputy ministers, only 10 are women, translating to 14 percent, which is even below the 30 percent Southern African Development Community quota on gender equality.

Gokova’s organisation and others present at the Jun. 3-5 festival pledged to continue campaigning against this kind of disparity.

Men enjoy power, privilege and status at the expense of women, a fact that contributes to persistent and widespread gender-based violence.

Stephen Fisher, an Australian trainer on masculinities at the Chisholm Institute, Melbourne, was speaking at the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre’s (FWCC) Pacific Regional Meeting on Violence Against Women at the Naviti Resort on the Coral Coast in Fiji.

Fisher said the concept of masculinities was a major factor that reinforced male behaviour normalising demeaning and violent treatment of women.

Many men enjoy maintaining their dominance role in their personal relationships and in and this is expressed through their masculinity, Fisher said.

“For many men masculinity is an identity to be proven to others or defended from challenge,” Fisher said.

Objectification of women, treating them as goods by men, is also at the core of gender-based violence.

“Too often men treat women as objects to sexually conquer,” said Fisher.

Fisher challenged men to abrogate their desire for control and instead embrace “pro-feminist” in supporting women to eliminate gender-based violence.

Pro-feminism, he said, involves listening to women’s experiences and being informed by feminist analysis of issues that affect women.

The pro-feminist perspective also recognises that men as a group actually benefit from women’s domination. And even the gentlest of men enjoy privileges that stem from women’s oppression.

Another important aspect of pro-feminism, Fisher said, is being “gay-affirmative” and rejecting discrimination homosexuals, as gay-hating is very close to woman-hating.

“Some men fear homosexuality because it implies the possibility of vulnerability and intimacy between men, which challenges the competitive code and results in superficiality between men,” said Fisher.

“Many men may experience the traumatic psychological challenge of feeling attraction to other men and believe such feelings must be denied,” Fisher says. Being gay is often “hated” as it is perceived as being “feminine”.

See also:
* Fiji hosts regional meeting focusing on domestic violence against women
* Harmful practises against women in the Pacific and globally
* Violence against women raises HIV and STI risks in Fiji

March 8 is known globally as International Women’s Day, and it’s a day that is fast approaching. That name, “Women’s Day,” may offend some people and lead some men to ask – either seriously or in jest – “when’s ‘International Men’s Day?’” Don’t let the name fool you, I would reply. Men play a part in this very important day, too. This year’s theme, in fact, is “Women and men united to end violence against women and girls.” Did you catch that? “Women and men.” But a lot of men don’t want to recognize that they play a role in women’s issues as well. They would rather just blame the victims of violence against women and pretend they have no stake and no influence in the matter. I don’t beat my girlfriend so I’m doing my part – right? Wrong.

There are a number of things men can do to prevent violence against women. Robert Jensen – in his latest book, Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity – encourages men to join a pro-feminism organization if they want to help on a grassroots level. A simple request, yes, but one that fails to recognize men’s tenuous relationship with feminism. A lot of men are afraid of being labelled “feminists”: this is a problem. They incorrectly figure that only women can be feminists, that only victims can stand up for their own rights. While men may not be able to sympathize with the problems women face, they can still act as allies; there is nothing contradictory in a man embracing feminist ideology. In order for feminism to work, men must embrace it – the movement won’t fully accomplish its goals if half the population is fighting against, or is acting indifferent to, what the other half is trying to achieve.

Men generally figure that a man who accepts his femininity in any degree is a “queer” or a “pussy.” The very fact that many men consider these terms derogatory is a symptom of the problem: it shows that the emphasis on masculinity is overblown. Men generally believe that they have to act manly – for many this means being dominant, assertive and violent. But why? I think the thing most men fear is not what will happen if they act in not-so-manly ways; they fear what other men will think of them if they do. On the flip side, we have to acknowledge the fact that a small number of men will gladly label themselves “feminists”: this, too, is a problem. These men incorrectly figure that they should join the feminist crusade because women are weak or powerless and require a man’s help – and perhaps leadership – in the fight for their rights. Jensen refers to this as “white knight syndrome.” While it may sound innocent enough, this kind of mentality also works against real feminism.

Men have to learn to be unafraid of the feminist label without getting it in their heads that they’re somehow saving the day. They have to recognize women for who they really are: individuals equal to but different from men; individuals who, because of a number of factors, have to face a number of social challenges men don’t have to face; and individuals who are independent from men. While it looks like I may have painted all men with the same brush, I realize that all men are different and that not all men are bad, but the generalizations I’ve employed are for the most part accurate. While men may not be to blame for the condition they’re in, they do have some responsibility to change it. Furthermore, while they may not be directly or totally to blame for the condition women are in, they have some responsibility to change it, too. Face it – it’s true. And I believe there is no better time to embrace these two truths than on March 8, “International Women’s Day.”

Interview with Ruth Anne Koenick director of Rutgers’ Department of Sexual Assault Services and Crime Victim Assistance by Robert Jensen

I met Ruth Anne Koenick at a dinner before my talk on the feminist critique of pornography at Rutgers University in 1997. I had been doing public presentations on that issue for several years, but that was the first time an institution had paid my plane fare to give a lecture. As a young professor, I was a bit nervous but also was feeling pretty self-important.

Koenick was seated next to me, and when I introduced myself she said, “I’ve seen a lot of men who’ve figured out how to make money off of women’s pain. Are you one of them?”

I admit that I was taken aback, but the question was important and appropriate. I was getting a modest honorarium for the talk, but as a full-time academic who is paid a reasonable salary by my university, I could live without it. Independent writers and artists typically need the support that comes from speaking fees to survive, but I can easily donate that money to activist groups. So, I asked if she thought it would be appropriate for me to sign over the speaking fee to her center, and Koenick accepted.

I will forever be indebted to her for that in-your-face comment. In my first attempt at being an “expert,” Koenick reminded me of all the wrong ways I could use my privilege as a white guy with a university position to put myself above the feminist anti-violence movement, from which I had learned most of what I knew. Koenick later told me she regretted being inappropriately rude, but I suggested it wasn’t necessary to apologize for asking the right question.

Ever since that night I have stayed in touch with Koenick, continuing to be impressed by (1) the great work she and her staff were doing, and (2) how little she seemed to recognize her own accomplishments. As we have talked about her experience in the feminist anti-violence movement — and as the dominant culture increasingly has pretended to be “post-feminist” — I began to nag her about putting her insights down on paper. Each time she insisted that her life wasn’t interesting enough and that she didn’t have anything insightful to say. Eventually I wore her down, persuading her that women like her from the “second wave” of feminism should not stay silent, and we finally conducted an interview.

The term second-wave feminism is used to mark the U.S. women’s movement that emerged in the 1960s, distinct from the women’s suffrage movement — the first wave — that won the vote in 1920. In the 1990s, the idea of third-wave feminism became popular, though it has never been clear why the crucial insights of the second wave had become irrelevant or why the political work that second-wavers had initiated was somehow magically over. Nowhere is this clearer than in the public-health crisis of epidemic levels of men’s violence against women, where the brutality of patriarchy is so obvious and the analysis and activism of second-wave feminists remains more needed than ever.

The stories of women such as Koenick are more important than ever for all of us — women and men — to hear.


Robert Jensen: Can you recall the first time you understood what feminism meant and identified as a feminist yourself?

Ruth Anne Koenick: I am not sure I can define a specific time and, in truth, I am not sure that I totally understand it now. I am the youngest of four children and I was lucky to be raised to be an independent thinker by both my parents. They taught me to question things and that I could be anything I wanted to be, that there were no barriers — I was as good as anyone else, male or female. Although there were some specific expectations — go to college, get married and have children — I was encouraged to have a career and to make decisions for myself; I never really felt constricted. My mother was an independent woman and, although she did some very traditional things, she also clearly had a mind of her own and was in control of her life in a way that was unique for someone born at the turn of the 20th century. I think some of this came from my father, an immigrant from Russia in 1920 who lived through the revolution, WWI, the pogroms — he really was a hippie before there were hippies. He had overcome a lot to make it in this country, and nothing was going to keep him or his family second class.

RJ: Was there a defining moment as you got older?

RAK: When I was actively involved in the anti-war movement of the 1960s, I had an awakening, almost like the old “click” that feminists talk about, when it became clear to me that issues pertaining to women were so intricately intertwined in what we were doing. It was also clear that the men “in charge” gave only lip service to anything that was of importance to women, that we were always at the bottom of the food chain. Like others, I got tired of “making coffee and not policy” and began to look at that movement, my surroundings, and my life in a very different way.

There were other things, such as hassles my husband and I faced because I didn’t take his last name. A married couple with different names is not unusual today, but in 1973 it presented real challenges — banks not giving us credit or not printing both names on a card, a newspaper printing only his name and not mine in my father-in-law’s obituary. That was all part of a process that got me to look at the broader picture of how our culture encourages and rewards the subordination of women.

RJ: So, in 1970 you were a student at the University of Maryland with this emerging feminist worldview, and you helped start a rape crisis center on campus. How did that come about?

RAK: I was an undergraduate working for residence life, on the cusp of trying to decide what I wanted to do when I grew up. I was living on campus when a student on my floor was abducted and raped. I went to meet her at the police station and then to the hospital, and I felt totally inept, but I knew enough to know that she wasn’t getting what she needed. I wasn’t allowed to talk to her, and we were kept in separate rooms. She was all alone and no matter what I did, I couldn’t talk to her. I realized the system wasn’t working for victims.

Sometime later, there was a series of abductions and rapes that overwhelmed the university, not because people didn’t want to help but because we didn’t know how. It hit the front pages of the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post, and it became an even bigger issue. I teamed up with two friends who also worked for residence life and were in grad school, Chris Courtois and Debby Watts, and worked with folks in student affairs to open a campus rape crisis center. It operated on the beg-borrow-and-steal budget, but we got support from Dan Bratton, the Vice President for Student Affairs, and others in leadership positions, partially because he made them do this and partially because some of them knew it was the right thing to do.

We really didn’t know much but quickly discovered that we knew more than others, and when we started to talk about this publicly, women came out from the woodwork to tell us what had happened to them. Eventually we got space in the health center, developed training, took overnight shifts, and responded to crisis calls. We developed a really good relationship with the university police and, in retrospect, worked as a team. This was 1973-74, just before the first Burgess and Holmstrom book (Rape: Victims of Crisis) came out in 1975 and people began to use the term rape-trauma syndrome.

RJ: Can you remember how you came to a feminist consciousness about the gender politics of this specific issue, of rape? What was that process by which you and your colleagues deepened your understanding of sexual assault?

RAK: I am one of those people teaching in women and gender studies who has never taken a women’s studies course, and I’m still not all that well-read in academic feminist theory. When I was in college, there weren’t any women’s studies courses, although I do vividly remember demonstrating on campus to get them. Most of my knowledge is rooted in experience. In the beginning almost everything I learned came from survivors — their feelings, thoughts, beliefs.

Once we started looking at the issue, it was clear most men don’t rape but, of course, almost all rapists are men. As we started to understand sexism throughout society, we couldn’t help but see the reality of rape and sexism. Over the years I have learned a lot from colleagues and some key writers — (Andrea) Dworkin, (Susan) Brownmiller, (Ann Wolbert) Holmstrom and (Lynda Lytle) Burgess — but really it has been mostly my clients who have helped me understand what they need. When I don’t have a clue, they have helped me help them.

RJ: You pretty consistently underplay what you know and what you’ve done. It doesn’t strike me as just false modesty. Why do you do that?

RAK: As I look back over 38 years, probably like most people in my age group who do this work, we went on our instincts and learned by trial and error, and the research and writings confirmed our inner feelings. My dear friend Chris Courtois was just honored as a distinguished alumni from the University of Maryland, and I just received the Wynona M. Lipman Leadership Award for the state of New Jersey. Chris and I recognized that what we’ve accomplished was born of our passion long before we had any technical knowledge. I like what Drew Gilpin Faust, the president of Harvard University, said: “One of the things that I think characterizes my generation…is that I’ve always been surprised by how my life turned out.” I am continuously surprised that I do what I do and that people see me as having done something special. I think what is special is the people who taught me what to do and how to be helpful, and that has been a process, not a moment in time. I also need to credit my parents who taught me that with privilege comes obligation and that I had an obligation to help “repair the world” and to be actively engaged in my community.

RJ: What have been the costs and rewards for you in this work?

RAK: In retrospect, the rewards have been far more than can fit in this interview — my experiences have helped shape me as a person, a woman, a wife and mother, and a friend. It has shaped how I see the world and how I see myself, and most of the time I feel really good about who I am. But the sacrifices have been many. A crisis isn’t scheduled, and being on call, running a one-person office in the early years, having a commitment to help survivors begin their recovery no matter when that happens — all affected my ability to have more time with my children and husband, led to shorter (if any) vacations, and were a general interruption into my daily life. I remember moving in with my mother during the last days of her life and taking phone calls from work about people in need. It may have been the first time I told people that I had no more to give, that I couldn’t help them while I was experiencing this excruciatingly raw and tragic loss.

At another level, hearing so many painful stories helps me keep my life in perspective, to see my own problems in the bigger scheme of things. But some days, I must admit that I think I can’t bear to hear one more story about abuse and violence without breaking. Many years ago I worked with a young woman who had AIDS and was then raped. Everything I knew about helping someone recover went out the window because she had no sense of future. She was saying, “All I want to do is live to be 25.” Every time she would leave I would close the door and cry. I have moments when I say I can’t do this one more minute, and I weep.

RJ: As you look back at where the feminist movement to confront men’s violence started, and then reflect on where we are today, are you optimistic? Hopeful? Have we made progress or lost ground?

RAK: Answering this almost depends on the day, perhaps hour or even minute that you catch me. I have such mixed feelings about where we are, have been, and need to go. Most days I feel like we are fighting many of the same battles we fought almost 40 years ago: no dependable funding, poorly paid advocates, a culture that is judgmental and victim blaming, a profound fear of the dreaded “f” word as a descriptive term of our values, and an increasing — yes, increasing — acceptability of the desecration and degradation of people in general and women in particular. For example, people who willingly expose their vulnerabilities for a few moments of canned fame, and those who exploit those people for a few dollars, send a clear message about how little we value each other. The increased degradation of women and overt racism in pornography in the past couple of decades is another example.

I think there are some things that are better, but only at a certain level. Yes, there are rape care programs, and there is state and federal funding for a small piece of those programs. Maybe the prosecutor and I know each other well enough to chat and have lunch, but does that mean that the criminal-justice system is any more likely to treat a survivor well, to take her seriously today than years ago? The language has changed — we can say “rape” out loud and teach about it in courses — but has that changed the underlying belief system? People don’t come out of the womb wanting to be rapists nor believing that they are to blame when they are victims, but that’s where so many end up. What does that say about the culture’s belief systems?

Here’s just one example: I watched a youtube piece about the sexism directed at Hillary Clinton, click here and no matter who a person supports for president, this is a reminder of how far we haven’t come. I have to say that, in those moments, I don’t feel very hopeful. I still care about the work, which motivates me to sit through countless boring meetings that come with that work. I also am surrounded by wonderful colleagues, friends and family who make it easier to get through the day. I’m grateful for what I get to do, and at the same time I’m counting the days until retirement.

RJ: Is it possible that all these things are true? We have made enormous strides in forcing the culture to recognize that, after thousands of years of patriarchy, contempt for women is woven deeply into the fabric of the society and that violence against women is a huge public-health problem. And, at the same time, large segments of the population don’t want to face that and so minimize or deny the problem. In that sense, is it the case that the women of your generation pushed the society forward and as a result we see how far we have to go? Could we say the same about racism? Is that just our fate at this point in history?

RAK: One of my favorite people once said, “Rape is illegal, but the sexual ethic that underlies rape is woven into the fabric of our culture.” I just re-read the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions written in 1848, and I think that great strides have been made, that women have a greater control over their lives and their bodies. When I really think about it, at least at an intellectual level, I know life has changed in countless ways. But in my heart and perhaps in my daily life, I don’t see much progress. Maybe it is because of the world I work in or because I’m so aware of how contempt for women infiltrates so much that we do in this culture. When I was once accused of not having a sense of humor, I responded that I have a great sense of humor about things that are funny. But when people in public life laugh at comedians who refer to women in degrading terms, it demonstrates how little women are valued. When men in leadership positions say they are concerned about equality for women because they have daughters, I say shame on you — how could you be so selfish? Why aren’t you concerned because it is just wrong? The same thing applies to issues of race and sexual orientation — discrimination and degradation are wrong no matter who is in your family, no matter how it affects you personally.

Believing that this is all just our fate and can’t really be changed is a bit on the depressing side. So, I have to find ways to feel good about getting out of bed in the morning, and I do. I find ways to not be brought down by how our culture devalues a majority of the population. It’s a struggle, but I find ways.

RJ’s last word: Koenick’s first reaction to my interest in writing about her work had been disbelief. She asked, “What’s so special about me?” My answer was, “Nothing, and everything.” Koenick is one of thousands of women who have built and sustained the anti-rape movement, which has helped millions of victims and tried to educate the culture. In a time of backlash, when even some women mock feminism, understanding the lives of women such as like Koenick — remembering the history and not turning away from the present struggle — is crucial. Her story reminds us that change is possible, even against deeply rooted systems of oppression, and that the people who propel forward progressive social change are profoundly ordinary and extraordinarily remarkable, all at the same time.


Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center. His latest book, All My Bones Shake: Radical Politics in the Prophetic Voice, will be published in 2009 by Soft Skull Press. He also is the author of Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity (South End Press, 2007); The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege (City Lights, 2005); Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (City Lights, 2004); and Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream (Peter Lang, 2002). Jensen’s articles can be found online at

Related Pornography contributing to atrocities against women in the Congo say GAD

The Federal Government has given $1 million to the White Ribbon Foundation to help raise awareness of domestic violence in rural and regional Australia.

The funding will go towards education programs that promote culture change among men to reduce violence against women.

The Minister for the Status of Women, Tanya Plibersek, says raising the profile of the White Ribbon cause will help in the fight against domestic violence.

“We estimate that it costs about $8 billion a year and that’s just a small indication of the human cost of domestic violence,” she said.

“Being able to help out with a campaign like White Ribbon Day that is focused on preventing violence in the first place is very rewarding.”

Look after the women in your lives and protect them from being abused, the MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison, Bheki Cele, urged men around the world on Wednesday.

“When young men die, they are buried. But young women die alive. They are raped, forced to become the victims of HIV and Aids and they are trained to use drugs by their boyfriends who abuse them,” he told the International Youth Crime Prevention and Cities Summit at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban.

His call to all the men at the four-day conference to “rise up and save the young women they know” (their sisters and their girlfriends) from abuse, was met with thunderous applause. Charging them to be the “front-line protectors,” he said that when women saw them, they would feel safe.

The conference is being attended by hundreds of delegates from around the globe.

“Don’t force them to have any unwanted sexual activity, don’t give them drugs or alcohol, don’t make them slaves and dependent on you because you economically abuse them,” Cele said.

A background paper given to delegates told that “302 000 rapes were endured by young girls under the age of 18 in South Africa in the 2005/2006 reporting year – or rather of those reported to the police. That statistic can be added to the 1 075 reports of murder of children, 20 879 reports of assault and 4 725 reports of indecent assaults against children that the South African Police Service received”.

Yasmin Bacus, the head of the department of community safety and liaison, told delegates that Cele’s ideal South Africa was where a young woman could walk alone at 2am after coming out of a nightclub without fear of being attacked by criminals.

Cele, whose department is hosting the conference that is supported by the United Nations, also said it was a “scary” known fact that young black men were dying as a result of crime.

“There are two places where young black men can be found: in prison and in cemeteries.”

Westville Prison, which was supposed to house 6 000 prisoners, had 12 000 “and I can assure you that 11 000 of them are males and young”, he said.

“This is a war against ourselves. People are being killed, not by lions, but by other young black males. And there are better wars that we should be fighting,” he said, citing HIV and Aids, global warming, poverty and hunger.

He agreed with other speakers that young people were often victims of crime.

“Let’s save the youth, let’s find the answers,” he said, hoping that the summit would come up with solutions. Delegates plan to come up with a youth protocol on crime prevention by the end of the week.

A men’s group which has successfully reduced the incidence of domestic violence in the South West has won a government health award.

Based in Busselton, MATES picked the Healthier WA Award for its work counselling men who are violent towards their partners or family.

Rob Keelie is the founder of the group and he says that the $10,000 award will come in “very handy.”

As a self funded group, the fact that MATES has lasted five years is testament to the power of self respect and equality, says Rob.

MATES began out of “purely selfish reasons,” he says. Before moving to Busselton, Rob had attended anger management groups in Brisbane and wanted to retain those skills. “I set it up just to help a few guys out of my lounge at home and the moment I started, we had opened this big can of worms.”

Having been a perpetrator himself gives him an edge, says Rob. “I know all the excuses that guys use because I used them myself.” Part of his own problem was not understanding what he was doing was wrong, he says. “I was guilty of verbal and emotional abuse.”

Unable to control what he was thinking and feeling, Rob says he “just shot my mouth off at the wrong time.” There was no consideration for others.

Now he has all those excuses written down and in their place, something to combat them. Knowing what someone is going to say means that he’s able to confront someone, to have them dig a little deeper, says Rob. “I’m very good at body language and being able to read between the lines.”

As well anger management programs, MATES runs a 24-hour crisis phone line, emergency counselling and a cooling off house. Men can be fed, have a cup of tea or coffee and get some good advice, Rob explains.

That’s much better than going down to the pub, sitting on a stool in an alcoholic haze, listening to “some other idiot giving relationship advice”.

Talking to friends and relatives is not a good strategy either, he says. “They say what it is you need to hear to make you fee better.” The other person is often made out the villain. “In a lot of cases, that does a lot of harm.”

“Fantastic” is how Rob describes the assistance MATES receives from the police in Busselton and Dunsborough. “We are so lucky to have officers of their calibre,” he says. “Officers who want to help rather than lock up and throw away the key.”

Working together, MATES and the local police have been able to greatly reduce the number of revisits to domestic violence situations in the district, he notes.

The money will be great, laughs Rob, and if anyone wants to remember MATES in their will…