What is the role of men in combating SGBV

I have never been sexually abused. Nobody has ever made unwelcome sexual advances towards me. I have never been catcalled. My dress code has never been used to discuss my sexual morality, or lack thereof. This is the case for many menfolk. For women, however, the case is very different. Men and women experience sexual-based gender violence (SGBV) in contrasting ways. It is, however, saddening that the same men who have never experienced any aspect of SGBV are the perpetrators of SGBV towards women. What, then, is the role of men in combating this tragedy?

Strike the hammer while the iron is still hot.

Our behavior as adults is a reflection of how we were raised. In many developing countries like Kenya, traditional culture, which is strongly patriarchal, is still prevalent. Boys are raised to look at girls and women as inferior beings who need to be shepherded and chaperoned by the males in society.

A story hit the headlines a few years ago of primary school boys who walked out of school and almost burned the classrooms down. The reason? A new female teacher who had just joined the school was caning the boys. In their culture, women never spoke down on men, let alone punish them, regardless of their age. This may be an isolated and unique case, but such cultures exist all over the country. Boys who are raised in such environments are bound to grow into men who perpetrate SGBV towards women.

Society in general and parents in particular need to start raising boys differently. Parents need to let their sons know that they are no better than their daughters. Chores done by girls need to be the same ones done by boys. The expectations that parents put on daughters need to be no different than those put on sons. As parents strive to raise their daughters to be better mothers and wives in future, they also need to instill the same discipline in their sons to be better husbands and fathers when their time comes.

Name them. Shame them.

Men need to shame fellow men who are SGBV perpetrators. It is strange how many women know a fellow woman who has been raped but not as many men know a fellow man who is a rapist. So who, then, are these rapists? Men need to be educated on how to identify rapists in their midst and then go ahead to report to the authorities when they believe that a man they know has committed the act.

A woman in an abusive household may find it hard to speak out about it due to cultural and societal norms. However, observant neighbours are best place to pick out any abnormal behavior and alert the police. Such neighbours could be men who are not afraid to take the bull by the horns and confront the violent neighbour.

The author is Iddi Ganguma. He is a Mombasa-based banker. When he is not working, he spends time writing fiction and human-interest stories. You will occasionally find him tutoring primary school children.

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