From Perpetrators of Violence to Agents of Change: Men and Boys in Times of Conflict

28 November 2012
Author: UNFPA
<p>Amidst the generalized violence found in conflict and post-conflict situations, violence against women may spiral out of control<i>,</i> as it has in the Democratic Republic of Congo.&nbsp; <i>Photo: Lynsey Addario</i> </p>

New briefing note

Men and boys are the main perpetrators of violence against women and girls in conflict situations. This being so, it is clear that any solution to the problem must engage men and boys.

A recently published briefing note by UNFPA and its partner, the MenEngage Alliance, untangles some of the thorny issues regarding the participation of men and boys in ending violence against women. The issue is complicated, because men and boys may be perpetrators, victims, witnesses and agents of change.

As described in the briefing note, which synthesizes many recent studies, sexual violence in conflict is used in multiple ways to dehumanize, terrorize and subjugate populations. The conditions of conflict and the associated social breakdown create a lethal environment where long established patterns of men’s violence and the social acceptance of violence against women and girls can become greatly amplified and spin out of control.

Part one of the briefing note discusses the context of sexual violence in conflict, and in both war and peace. The second talks about the varied roles of men and boys as perpetrators, survivors, witnesses, peacekeepers, police and soldiers, service providers and change makers. Part three outlines a range of policy and programmatic proposals focused on engaging men.

The intention of the MenEngage Alliance, UNFPA and its partners in their interventions in these settings is helping to ensure that men play a positive role in changing attitudes towards female and male survivors of sexual violence, in advocating for perpetrators to be held responsible for their crimes, and in transforming the norms of their respective societies so that sexual violence, both in and out of war, becomes a thing of the past. Fortunately, men in many countries are already playing this role; the goal is to greatly increase their numbers.

The briefing notes that every man in each community has a critical role to play in examining his own beliefs and actions in relation to sexual violence and in his relationships with women and other men, in setting an example for his sons, and in speaking out in his community.

Programmes that engage men in this area provide education, awareness-raising, and practical tools and skills for men to be active participants in preventing sexual violence and empowering women and girls. They also create spaces and opportunities for men who are already supportive of gender equality to be more effective agents of change.

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