This is James Lang. A strong advocate of engaging men for prevention of domestic violence. He is leading "Partners for Prevention," a joint programme on working with boys and men to prevent gende-based violence initiated by four United Nations organizations namely the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and United Nations Volunteers (UNV).
Recently during a South Asian regional consultation in Dhaka, Bangladesh, I got the opportunity to throw a few questions to him. I was one of the participants of this consultation on Engaging men and boys for gender equality and violence prevention.
"Gender relations involve both men and women. Generally this relationship is unequal. Structural dynamics are also against women. This inequality leads to gender based violence", he summarizes the issue in these words.
However both James and Satish quickly add, violence is not natural to boys and men. They learn this behavior during their lifetime. It is part of their socialization processes. Therefore, according to James, "a non-violent masculinity image can be promoted as an alternative to the macho man image. So, it is very necessary to work with men for an alternative idea of masculinity." Satish elaborates, "if all the men of world are not perpetrators of violence, then rest of the men also can become non-violent."
"This is necessary for peaceful, harmonious and caring relationship. There is an urgent need to see men not only as a perpetrator but also as a human being", James points out. Whereas Satish opines, "violence also affects men. Therefore they have to learn how to respect human rights of others."
"Was Gandhi not a man", asks James. He elaborates on his idea, "all religions advocate for peace and caring relationships. Why not people see the Buddhist monk of Bhutan? There are people like political leaders, film stars, sports persons, who are men of caring and non-violence. They talk about love, affection and peace. Why not we look at masculinity from this angle? They are indeed a positive example of masculinity."
Because, according to James, "whether it is Hollywood or Bollywood, their films depict a male hero with muscle power and gun fights with another male to get the girl. These male hero with chiseled body and armed with weapons create the image of "real man". This image gets ingrained in the boys. They imitate and try to replicate this image in real life."
"But can anybody get the love of a girl by violent means?" James threw the question.
No.. not at all... What he gives and gets is violence and only violence.
South Asian countries will work together
South Asian countries will work together to engage men for gender equality and violence prevention. Their special focus will be on boys. Not only that, effort will be made to put forward the concept of alternative masculinity. These have been decided in a consultation in Dhaka, Bangladesh last month. This consultation is organised under the banner of "Partners for Prevention", which is an umbrella programme jointly initiated by UNFPA, UNDP, UNIFEM, UNV. Among the participants were representatives of different networks, civil society organizations, teachers, journalists of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and UN organizations.
Nasiruddin Haider Khan
[The author is a senior Hindi journalist based in Lucknow and a noted researcher on gender issues. His website is Gender Jihad (www.genderjihad.in) and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org ]