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     Volume 4 Issue 40 | April 1, 2005 |

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Breaking Men's Silence
to End Men's Violence

On this year's International Women's day, CARE Bangladesh, along with several other NGOs, has launched a unique movement where men wear a white band to express their solidarity with women's rights.

Ahmede Hussain

“One of the greatest impediment to social and economic development in the Third World countries," Habibur Rahman, Gender expert, CARE Bangladesh says, "is gender based violence." Though not all men use violence against women, he continues, almost every man remains silent about it; and through their silence, they have allowed it to continue.

But the time has come for this to change. The White Ribbon Campaign (WRC) urges every man to wear a white ribbon or hang it from their house, their vehicle or at the workplace to express their solidarity with violence against women. "This campaign is unique because of men, who are blamed for most of the cases of domestic violence that take place, are uniting against repression of women," Habib says. Another major reason why the WRC is working with men and boys, Rahman says, is that women get the much-needed courage to fight back when they see men step up and take a stand against violence. "Decision makers and of leaders are mostly men. We need to work with them to get the political and moral support that are necessary to prevent gender- based violence," Rahman says.

Explaining the background the manifesto of the campaign, he says. "If it were between countries, we'd call it a war. If it were a disease, we'd call it an epidemic. If it were an oil spill, we'd call it a disaster. But it is happening to women, and it's just an everyday affair. It is violence against women. It is sexual harassment at work and sexual abuse of the young. It is the beating or the blow that millions of women suffer each and every day. It is rape at or home or on a date. It is murder."

"There's no secret enemy puling the trigger. No unseen virus that leads to death. It is only men. Not all men, but far too many men. In some countries most men will never be violent against a woman, in others, the majority of men take it as their birthright to do what they want."

The campaigners believe men's violence against women "is not aberrant behaviour." Habib agrees. The gender expert believes to keep their dominance on women, men create a climate of violence against women. "Men have created a culture of violence against fellow men too. These are the ultimate by-product of a system that teaches men to become macho," he continues.

"In most cases," he goes on, "men's violence is a pathetic attempt to assert control over women, children or the other men."

But, as Habib, too believes, men, who have been defined as the problem, should get united to solve it. "Confronting men's violence requires nothing less than a commitment to full equality for women and a redefinition of what it means to be men, to discover a meaning to manhood that does not require blood to be spilled," the manifesto says.

Rahman, too, believes men in this society artificially cultivate machoism. "Many men in our country believe that women, especially wives and daughters, can and should be beaten. These men also believe that they can even kill women with relative impunity because women are men's property. Now the problem of domestic violence is also coming to the fore, and men's roles are being re-examined along with the "culture of masculinity."

Habib thinks the WRC is a very big leap forwards towards women's liberation from the feudal remnants of the society. But the Gender expert believe, apart from wearing a white ribbon, men must lend their ears to women more-- to the problems women face in their everyday life.

Not only that, Habib says, "Men should learn the types of abuse women endure." Though the common myth is that most violence is committed by strangers, according to the manifesto, the fear is greatest in women's own homes. "In fact, women are most at risk from men they know--husbands, boyfriends, fathers, relatives, employers, and caregivers," it says.

But, the fact of the matter is, Habib says, that men are not born macho. It's either sheer insecurity or lack of self-esteem, coupled with a false sense of pride and superiority that lie behind men's violent behaviour. And now is the time to change this long-running trend. "Men can and must become a part of the solution, by showing their love, respect, strength and commitment towards women and girl child to end violence," Habibur Rahman concludes.

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