Violence Against Men – a Place on the Development Agenda

Worldwide, a huge number of men are victims of violence; in homes, during wars and on the street. Men and boys are fodder in battle, crime and corruption and...

Worldwide, a huge number of men are victims of violence; in homes, during wars and on the street. Men and boys are fodder in battle, crime and corruption and are brutalised during military service , police service and in prisons.

However, an online survey shows that those who talk about violence against men, who show support for male victims or discuss the need for efforts to end this violence are quite often denounced and called enemies of women and equality and accused of misunderstanding gender-based violence.

Moreover, in the global development context, combatting violence against men has been firmly  kept in the backseat compared to dealing with violence against women, to the point to which the phrase ‘gender based violence’ (GBV) is almost synonymous with that of ‘violence against women’.

The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) states on its page “Gender-based violence and violence against women are often used interchangeably as most gender-based violence is inflicted by men on women and girls.” Meanwhile, the UNFPA page on gender-based violence begins “Violence against women and girls is”, while UNOCHA’s page on sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) makes no mention of male victims. This immediate reference to women is followed on many key development agencies’ websites.

In the development sector, an emphasis is put on men as perpetrators of violence. Men are portrayed as a homogenous and powerful group. It is rarely acknowledged that all forms of violence, physical, emotional, sexual and financial, against men are real. The suffering of men and boys is belittled, or even ridiculed, and quite often ignored. Resultantly, there are currently very few significant interventions dealing with violence against men.

Societies justify raising boys and men to be violent based on the assumption that men are aggressive by nature – thus constructions of masculinity value violence as a natural part of being a man.  Moreover, this violence is seen as a mean of attaining power, when in actuality many men find themselves powerless and voiceless. For example, in the situation of child soldiers in West Africa, much more attention was paid to the boys’ actions against women and not on the situation of kidnap, brainwashing and abuse that the boys themselves endured.

Though the situation of child soldiers and male victims of SGBV has at least been acknowledged at a high level within the UN – in 2013, men and boys were named as victims of sexual violence in a UN Security Council Resolution – domestic violence against men barely receives a mention. This lack of attention continues through national, local and grassroots organisations where countless organisations focus on violence against women and almost none on men.

Ending violence against men should be as much a priority as ending violence against women. We cannot expect a man or a boy whose dreams, ideals and life have been shattered by rape, brutality, coerced military service or incarceration, to treat the women and men in his life any better than he has been treated. Furthermore, we must see the individual human, male or female, victim of violence as worthy of care and not to tend towards on the basis of gender. Human suffering is neither measurable nor comparable – we cannot assume that men feel pain less than women, nor that they can take care of themselves.

This is an extremely unpopular argument. Statistics and colloquial evidences show that women suffer violence in greater numbers than men. Women at household, community, national and global level wield less power than men and many societies still use harmful traditional practices that are physically and emotionally detrimental to women.  Thus the needs of women have been prioritised in terms of resources and attention and, considering that women do suffer violence in greater numbers than men, this focus is justified.

Nonetheless, a recent research has shown that men and boys experience violence at a much higher rate then previously anticipated; for instance among a group of DRC refugees in Congo nearly 40 per cent of men reported having experienced sexual violence in their lifetime, two out of five British victims of domestic abuse are male and the majority of deaths in war are of men and boys.

As a result, men have been marginalised to a point that male victims of violence receive negligible support, resources or even recognition both in the global south and industrialised nations. For example, though SGBV against men in conflict situations was discussed during the height of the Congo conflict, very little has emerged in terms of policy or high-level action by key development and humanitarian actors. Additionally, the kidnap and execution of boys and men by Boko Haram and ISIS has only fleeting mention in the international news despite our knowledge of the experiences of kidnapped boy soldiers especially in places such as Liberia and Sierra Leone.

It is key to remember that working to end violence against men in no way diminishes the fight against violence on women. The human rights and development community have to see men as more than a factor in improving the lives of women and expand their definitions and interventions to provide men who experience violence the same care, support and resources as are advocated for women.

For more information on this topic please visit:

http://www.warchild.org.uk/sites/default/files/Into-the-Mainstream.pdf

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2010/sep/05/men-victims-domestic-violence

Violence Against Men – a Place on the Development Agenda
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Gender
Mwila Agatha Zaza

Mwila Agatha Zaza is a writer, editor and development specialist with nearly 15 years experience. A gender and sexual rights activist, she currently resides in Helsinki and blogs at womanforhimself.blogspot.fi. Hailing from Zambia, Mwila Agatha has an MSc in Equality Studies from University College Dublin and postgraduate education from the Institute of Social Studies in the Hague and Stellenbosch University. She’s worked in Zambia, Uganda, Ireland and Finland and firmly believes that corruption, in its many forms, is the greatest enemy of global, national and community development.
    2 Comments on this post.
  • Besserwisser
    25 October 2015 at 11:45 am
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    “women do suffer violence in greater numbers than men”
    This is quite simply not true. Men and boys making up the the vast majority of victims of armed conflict was already mentioned, but the only types of violence which aren’t predominantly perpetrated against them is sexual and domestic violence. And even then, several studies by now have pointed to similar victimization rates for both genders, maybe even a surplus of male victims here as well. There are far fewer gender-neutral studies on rape and other sexual violence but those that do exist still show very similar numbers on male and female victims.

  • Roger Hawcroft
    Roger Hawcroft
    26 October 2015 at 1:31 am
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    Besserwisser
    25 October 2015 at 11:45 am
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    I accept some validity to the comment made by @Besserwisser but I also find the tone somewhat disingenuous.

    “’women do suffer violence in greater numbers than men’ This is quite simply not true.” There is nothing *simple* about this issue and to reduce it to gender defensive hyperbole is less than useful. Indeed, such rhetoric is more likely to increase misunderstanding and entrench flawed viewpoints than to challenge or eliminate them.

    It may be true that, if we include the victims of armed conflict, the total number of men who are subject to violence may be more than that of women but that inclusion, is problematic. War is an extreme situation in which combatants (mostly men) fight against other combatants and aim to kill or injure. The intent and action on each side is similar, irrespective of how the war commenced, their aim is to disable or kill the opponent.

    This is clearly not coincident with a situation of bullying where one party is usually substantially stronger than the other and where aggression and intent to commit violence usually exists on only one side.

    The essence of this article also clearly acknowledges the wide extent to which males are subject to violence. Indeed, her very thesis is that those who attempt to draw attention to the fact of men as victims of violence, are often mocked or berated and that “…combatting violence against men has been firmly kept in the backseat compared to dealing with violence against women, to the point to which the phrase ‘gender based violence’ (GBV) is almost synonymous with that of ‘violence against women’”. Those are hardly the words of someone intending to downplay violence against men. They are, in fact, as is the article, quite the contrary.

    If we leave aside the exception and different circumstance of war, most studies and research *do* support the contention that “women do suffer violence in greater numbers than men”. Most of us are aware of the aphorism that there are “lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics”. So, yes, we must be careful how we select and use statistical data and that both the methodology that has produced them and the way we use them is not tainted by bias, interest, poor methodology and such.

    Having said that, here are some numbers from reputable sources that are relevant to this issue:
    * 85% – 90% of convicted murderers are men

    * Over two thirds of murder victims are men
    * Male suicide is three times that of women
    * Twice as many men as women are victims of violence
    * Women victims of violence are 5 times as likely as men to need medical treatment
    * Women victims of violence are 4 times more likely to fear for their lives
    * Women are 3.5 times more likely to be murdered by a spouse than males
    * 1:3 women across the World will suffer physical or sexual violence in her lifetime

    As the author says: “Human suffering is neither measurable nor comparable – we cannot assume that men feel pain less than women, nor that they can take care of themselves.” (Research shows that women, in fact, have twice the toleration for pain than have men.)

    The point is, that we must attend to violence against *people* whether men or women and that currently, there has been greater focus on female than male victims. I believe that it is understandable why that is the case and the author deals with some of those reasons. I also agree with the author that: “The human rights and development community have to see men as more than a factor in improving the lives of women and expand their definitions and interventions to provide men who experience violence the same care, support and resources as are advocated for women.”

    In my view, this will only come about when concerned individuals, such as I believe would be most, if not all, readers of this site, are prepared to step back from entrenched or defensive and reactionary response and begin to actively listen to those who attempt to enlighten us in an objective, rational and well-reasoned way. We are all people and we need to work together, regardless of our biological, physiological, mental or philosophical differences if we are to bring about a better world for all.

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