National laws and policies provide a foundation to address violence against women and girls. Whether national legislation, ministerial regulations, municipal by-laws, policy statements, strategic plans, protocols or other, these instruments can provide:
Guidelines for what is and is not acceptable in a society and the repercussions and entitlements that accompany those guidelines:
Articulation of the State’s position and plans to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls, including how men and boys will be explicitly incorporated.
Establishment of the roles and responsibilities of different actors within and outside of the government.
A mechanism for the allocation of funds to implement the outlined interventions.
A framework for monitoring the commitments made.
Laws and policies can be critical in determining the areas and levels of engagement that relate directly to working with men and boys in the context of violence against women, including for example, on perpetrator/batter intervention programmes; violence at schools and school-based prevention curricula; sexual harassment in workplaces; and on police, judicial and medical personnel obligations, among many other areas.
In addition to policies that are specifically related to violence against women and girls, others that relate to men and their roles in society are also important, especially policies that promote women’s human rights and gender equality across the spectrum of political, social, cultural and economic life, including shared rights and responsibilities in relation to men’s and women’s productive and reproductive roles.
Research shows that other factors can influence the perpetuation of violence against women. For example, since unemployment and underemployment are well-known triggers for violence and substance abuse, employment policy is an important entry point to address men in this context (Barker, Global Symposium 2009). Youth development policies and programmes are important for reaching young men and boys in efforts to challenge harmful gender stereotypes and values that legitimise violence against girls and women. Quality programmes to prevent and respond to child abuse (e.g. parental abuse, sexual abuse) are also important for prevention, given that boys who have been victims of violence have a higher propensity for becoming perpetrators of violence against women later in life.
To date, little has been done to incorporate men and boys in policies related to gender equality or violence against women and girls. Men have more often been considered in policies on sexual and reproductive health (e.g. family planning and HIV and AIDS in particular) and in their role as fathers, which are important components to engaging men in gender equality efforts, though they are not sufficient to address violence against women directly.
There is, however, growing recognition of this gap and promising initiatives are beginning to take root.
Examples of legal and public policy initiatives addressing men and violence against women:
Maria da Penha Law (Brazil)
As a result of discussions between women’s rights groups and groups working to engage men in violence prevention, the law includes language mandating the establishment of batterer intervention programmes with public funds from the Ministry of Justice, as well as violence prevention campaigns aimed at schools and the population at large. A user-friendly guidebook produced by the Centro Feminista de Estudos e Assessoria that includes the full text of the law is available in Portuguese.
Preventing Violence before it Occurs: A Framework and Background Paper to Guide the Primary Prevention of Violence against Women in Victoria (Australia )
The State Government of Victoria inAustralia developed a coordinated, multi-sector plan to guide evidence-informed primary prevention policy and interventions, outlining priority strategies, settings and population groups. “Promoting equal and respectful relations between men and women” is one of the three main action areas with men and boys as one of the main target groups. The Government of Australia, in its 2009 Women’s Budget Statement has committed USD 20 million for its implementation with an additional USD 3 million for research on male attitudes that perpetuate physical and sexual violence and for prevention activities carried out by the White Ribbon Campaign.
The Framework is available in English.
The Men and Gender Equality Policy Project (Brazil ,Chile ,India ,Mexico ,South Africa , and other countries)
The International Center for Research for Women (ICRW in theUS ) and Instituto Promundo (Brazil ) are currently implementing an initiative called the Men and Gender Equality Policy Project that will enhance the body of knowledge on how policies can encourage men and boy’s to participate in promoting gender equality and ending violence against women. The objectives of the project include:
More information is available in English.
“Men must teach each other that real men do not violate or oppress women – and that a woman’s place is not just in the home or the field, but in schools and offices and boardrooms.”
- Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, Global Symposium on Men and Boys
The Secretary-General’s Campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women
The United Nations Secretary-General launched the UNiTE to End Violence against Women Campaign on 25 February 2008, which will last through 2015, the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The overall objectives of the Campaign are to raise public awareness and promote social mobilization, and increase political will and resources for preventing and responding to all forms of violence against women and girls. A major theme and focus of the Campaign is on reaching out to men and boys, and a high-level Men Leaders Network is being put in place to serve as influential spokespersons. For more information about the Campaign, see its website (endviolence.un.org) and the Framework for Action, which details the overall efforts to be undertaken at global, regional, national and local levels, and identifies five key outcomes to be achieved in all countries by the 2015 deadline. One outcome is related to primary prevention, with explicit attention to working with men and young people. The Campaign includes a Network of Men Leaders.
Partners for Prevention: Working with Boys and Men to Prevent Gender-based Violence, A United Nations regional joint programme for Asia and the Pacific 2008-2011
Partners for Prevention is a UNDP, UNFPA, UNIFEM and UNV regional programme focused on primary prevention among boys and men through partnerships with policy makers, United Nations staff and civil society partners dedicated to women’s empowerment and ending violence against women and girls in the region. The initiative is based on the results of a two-year consultation process that focused on how a regional programme could leverage the existing work being undertaken at the local level on gender-based violence and women’s empowerment. The programme will work on:
Below are some relevant recommendations for addressing gender equality in youth educational and development policies:
Adapted in part from: United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women with The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS, The International Labour Organization, and The United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Commission on the Status of Women Expert Group Meeting on “The Role of Men and Boys in Achieving Gender Equality”, Brazil,12 January 2004.
For policies and programmes related to addressing gender-based violence in education systems, see the Education Sector module.
Why are policies that promote men’s greater involvement in the family and childcare important?
What are some of the caveats regarding promoting father’s involvement with children as a strategy for violence prevention?
An emphasis by family courts and others on the need for children to see their fathers may expose increased number of children (and women) to violence and abuse by fathers (Flood in press; Eriksson & Hester, 2001). Although encouraging greater involvement by fathers in childcare is important in general, it should be shaped by the specific context and done with caution.
How can public policies encourage greater father’s involvement in childcare?
Public policies and labour laws may achieve this by allowing men to take time off for parental leave after birth or for participating in parent-teacher meetings, doctor’s appointments and in caring for a sick child.
Below are some recommendations on men’s involvement in parenting and household labour from a United Nations Expert Group Meeting:
Source: United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women with The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS, The International Labour Organization, and The United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Commission on the Status of Women Expert Group Meeting on “The Role of Men and Boys in Achieving Gender Equality”, Brazil,12 January 2004.
Lessons learned regarding paternal leave policies
Examples of public policies that promote father’s greater involvement in childcare
Scandinavian countries’ progressive parental leave policies – in existence for nearly 20 years – provide important examples of encouraging father’s involvement in childcare: