Recent press reports indicate the Government of India is planning to develop programmes to change the attitude of men and boys towards women in a bid to tackle the endemic violence and discrimination that women face across India, and most recently highlighted in the tragic rape case in Delhi on Sunday night.

India sits at the top table for most unsafe countries to be a woman, rated fourth after DRC, Pakistan and Afghanistan by an international panel of 213 gender experts. 35% of women in India face gender violence at the hands of men and 37% of men report perpetrating violence against women, (ICRW 2011). These statistics are unacceptable and we need to question if the promoted solutions are tackling the problem as fast as sector professionals seek, the public demand and women deserve.

Two popular solutions developed to end this continued abuse include the development of laws protecting women’s rights, and the women’s empowerment movement. Although both these approaches are essential to ending this abuse and both contributed significantly to achieving the goal, as stand alone solutions they are not securing women’s rights.

Current laws are largely comprehensive in their coverage of issues of violence and discrimination against women, however the same laws are not implemented effectively on the ground. Furthermore, a lack of civil participation means that the implementation of these laws is not being demanded, and is still not a priority for government.

The women’s empowerment approach, in its traditional and predominant form, mobilises resources to provide women with more equitable access to basic services and rights. This approach has been effective in empowering women, but it fails to protect women from the discrimination they face from men, because it typically does not engage the men who control resources and make decisions that discriminate or perpetrate violence against women.

One of the approaches that has taken shape globally over the previous decades, but which remains nascent both in policy and practice, is that concept that men must change and become an integral part of the community development process, and that such an approach can enhance and accelerate the women’s empowerment process by ending the discrimination and violence they face. This approach recognises that not all men are part of the problem, but all men can be part of the solution.

There is a growing movement in India consisting of individuals and organisations that accept and promote the role that men must play in solving these issues. These organisations seek to inform policy and make changes on the ground by developing an in-depth body of knowledge from research and grass roots experience. These individuals and organisations will welcome this decision by the Government of India, and will no doubt be seeking the opportunity to collaborate with the relevant departments, ministers and civil servants to develop the most meaningful and practical solutions.

Equal Community Foundation believes that in the future, every organisation that seeks gender equality will engage men in a positive manner to change their attitudes and behaviour towards women. It is only a matter of time before this happens, and news like this suggests that this time may be sooner rather than later.

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