Violence Against Women is a Men’s Issue

The sixteen days of activism to eradicate violence against women in Indonesia ended a few weeks ago and there were many activities focussed on raising public awareness of the seriousness of the problem in the lives of Indonesian women and girls. Although the activism had been conducted annually, involved many sectors, and employed many strategies, the problem of violence against women seems far from ended and the number of cases remains high.
Recently the Indonesian media took up the issue of a prominent male writer raping a female university student in Jakarta. The case, once again, has triggered a debate among activists, advocates and scholars on the issue of rape and consent. The debates emerged as the perpetrator claimed that his action based on mutual consent and he denied raping the victim. The supporters of the victim opposed the claim and argued that consent is impossible to be obtained when an imbalance of power relations favouring the perpetrator.
In a similar situation, Indonesian parliamentary members were accused of harassing a female candidate of the Komisi Penyiaran Indonesia (Indonesian Broadcasting Commission) during a fit and proper test in the parliament house. What made women rights activists angry was that the parliamentary members said that there was no intention to harass the candidate. According to them that was only a joke and they did it due to being close friends of the candidate. From any viewpoint, the comments are not acceptable and there is no justified reason for allowing sexist comment directed to women especially in the parliament house where the rights of every citizen regardless their gender and identities must be respected and protected.
Both of those cases were perpetrated by men and this supports the global finding that most perpetrators of violence against women are men. The current United Nations survey on men’s violence against women in Asia and the Pacific (including Indonesia) revealed that among 10,000 men interviewed, 10% to 62% of them admitted perpetrating rape against women and girls in their lifetime. The survey also found that from 26% to 82% of men interviewed have ever perpetrated physical and sexual intimate partner violence in their lifetime.
The tendency of men to be violent has also been studied and the studies found that the traditional notion of manhood which is characterized by physical strength, superiority, and domination is potential predictor of men’s violence against women. This idea of manhood is produced by social structure which gives men more privileges and power over women. Furthermore, this idea is maintained and sustained in many ways by many agencies such as family, schools, religious institutions, media, and state. As a consequence, men do violence against women because they believe that it is a way of performing their masculinities.
When men are the main perpetrators of violence against women and when the tendency of men being violent is related to the notion of manhood, why are men missing from violence against women prevention programs?  For so long time, violence against women is considered as merely a women’s issue and most resources and strategies to cease the problem are directed to women and girls. Meanwhile, little attention is given to men and boys and the issue tends to be ignored. This is not to undervalue the women empowerment programs, but to emphasize that addressing men and boys must be integral part of violence against women prevention programs.
Engaging men in prevention of violence against women is crucial due to solely addressing women and girls is inadequate since the violence occurs in a relationship context. Letting men and boys remain untouchable will prevent them from being criticized and allows them to avoid taking responsibility for their violence behaviours.  In addition, perceiving violence against women as only a women’s issue will confine non-violent men to participate and take a stand against men’s violence, considering the opposition of men against violence against women is important to show men’s solidarity over women and to point out their disagreement instead of supporting and colluding with violent men.
When the rationale of engaging men in anti violence against women activism is obvious, there is no more reason to let alone women and girls fighting the violence. Men should take a stand and consider violence against women as their issue. There are many options for men and boys to participate in the anti-violence against women movement, first and the most important is transforming the concept of manhood. Being a man is not must be physically strong, superior, dominant, or violent but being a man is being yourself. There is no single concept of manhood that fits to every man as men are diverse and individually different; therefore, they have freedom to be themselves. The mainstream idea of manhood, in fact, makes many men suffer from anxiety due to fear of being incapable to perform the concept of ideal men.
Second, respect women’s rights. As men, women are human beings and they entitled to the same rights as men such as the rights of bodily integrity, sexual and reproductive rights, and the rights to be free from violence. There is no reason to violate women’s rights including how they behave and how they dress. Wearing a mini skirt or being out side the home late at night cannot deprive women’s rights to be free from any forms of sexual violence.
Third, taking a stand and getting involved in the anti-violence against women movement. Now, it is time for Indonesian men to speak up, stop being silent over men’s violence against women, because silence means supporting perpetrators and therefore sustaining the violence in society. The action that was taken by the Alinasi Laki-Laki Baru  (new men alliance) in Jakarta currently to condemn sexual violence is one example of men’s engagement in ending violence against women in Indonesia.

About Nur Hasyim

peminat kajian maskulinitas, trainer dan fasilitator tentang gender, maskulinitas dan kekerasan serta ayah dari dua anak perempuan. Saat ini menjadi pengajar di Universitas Islam Negeri Walisongo, Semarang

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