Research shows: Men need to commit to men's violence against women
Men’s violence against women is a widespread, worldwide societal challenge. Studies show that men need to get involved in the problem in order for it to end. Researchers from MDH, through an international research project, are investigating why some men get involved in the problem, and why others are silent.
Men's violence against women is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a widespread, public health problem and a violation of human rights. An increasing number of studies, conducted by the WHO and the World Bank for instance, confirm that physical, sexual and psychological violence against women and girls is one of the major global health risks for women with consequences such as depression and increased mortality. When women are subjected to violence, it is common that the perpetrator is someone close to them, such as a current or former partner. According to statistics from the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention, 23,200 cases of abuse of women over the age of 18 were reported to the police in 2020. In 80 per cent of cases, the woman was familiar with the perpetrator. In addition, 1,530 cases of gross violation of women's rights were reported.
Anna-Lena Almqvist is a Senior Lecturer and Associate Professor of Social Work at Mälardalen University. She is part of an international research project group about men who get involved in men's violence against women.
“Many people have argued about how important it is for men to commit to ending men's violence against women. The aim of the project is to find out which structural and individual factors support this commitment and make it possible,” she says.
Factors why men get involved
In the project, researchers from Spain, the UK and Sweden have interviewed men who are active in various non-governmental organisations or who work professionally with these issues. The results of the project highlight some distinct factors why some men are committed to stopping violence against women, and why others remain silent.
“The importance of women's influence in men's lives cannot be underestimated. Men who get involved have often been inspired and influenced by women close to them, such as mothers, grandmothers, partners and other women in the family or in the local community. They may have direct or indirect personal experience of various forms of family violence perpetrated by relatives or friends of the family.”
Inspiration from different expressions of masculinity when they were growing up can be another reason, according to Anna-Lena Almqvist.
“Becoming a father was important to these men. Violence of men and boys against other men and boys has affected their commitment. It can also be specific events such as men in public who have used violence against women or that the men themselves have been thrown into a commitment because of a personal tragedy. – Why men are silent may be because it could be seen as unmanly. It reflects men's reluctance to talk to one another about sensitive issues such as violence. Obstacles or resistance in your personal life, such as tensions in the family, can be other reasons,” says Anna-Lena Almqvist.
Values and attitudes are important
She also believes that values and attitudes are important in the work environments where men are found and the professions they have.
“This applies both if the realisation of the significance of anti-violence efforts has led to a profession in which the man can work with this, or the reverse, that the profession has led to an understanding of the importance of anti-violence efforts. The commitment may have come about in two ways in particular; the men may have been committed gradually or hastily influenced in their commitment. The importance of men supporting one another is also important. However, the "manosphere", which can be described as a stream of ideas what are known as “men's rights activists" who distance themselves from feminism, can have a negative influence.”
Differences between countries
When it comes to differences between countries, Spain is closest to a pro-feminist, anti-violence movement among men, with regular demonstrations and marches, particularly when compared with the United Kingdom. Once men have got involved, there is stronger support from other men in Spain and Sweden, compared with the UK. As a possible consequence of this support, Spanish and Swedish men expressed a backlash from men’s rights activists, who were hostile to the anti-violence efforts.
“In Sweden, the strong gender equality discourse can put a spanner in the works because many men view Sweden as country of gender equality, with parental insurance, etc. This can make you not want to see the problem of men's violence against women,” says Anna-Lena.
Participants from all three countries stressed the importance of educating both children and young people regarding gender equality from an early age.
“There is also a need for more programmes, more training regarding anti-violence efforts and more discussions in the workplace to prevent violence against women. Several participants implied that men do not consider men's violence against women to be a specific problem,” concludes Anna-Lena Almqvist.
Book to download on the subject
Would you like to know more? Via this link you can download a free Open Access version of the book "Men’s Activism to End Violence Against Women – Voices from Spain, Sweden and the UK" (Link to another website, opens in a new window) External link, opens in new window. published by Policy Press written by the international project group during 2021.
Global sustainable development goals
MDH is conducting research in all of the UN’s global goals for sustainability. This research is linked to Goal Number 3, Good Health and Well-being.