Limitations to engaging men in Anti-FGM Campaigns
While engaging men in the work to end FGM has been put forward as an important step in eradicating the practice, it is not a silver bullet. Several shortcomings and critiques of this strategy have been developed by experts.
“An approach that uses the power of men in patriarchal societies also risks confirming the assumption that women should not take decisions, because they apparently take decisions that cause harm, unless a man stops them. Men’s expectations and attitudes towards women and particularly women’s sexuality create the social context in which the practice can thrive. Their role is more than allowing it to happen by remaining silent about it.”
Julia Lehmann, SRHR Programme Manager for Plan International Denmark
Thirdly, men who work against FGM may not always consider FGM as part of a continuum of violence and within the broader patriarchal society. They may not consider their own role in upholding patriarchy, or the privileges they hold within this system. FGM may be addressed only as a stand-alone topic. Such programmes will not be gender-transformative i.e. will not contribute to ending men’s domination over women including all types of GBV.
In fact, another CoP member, Maria Väkiparta, the Adviser on Gender Equality for the International Solidarity Foundation, stressed that discourses around the engagement of men and boys in the fight against FGM are often based on the valorisation of hegemonic masculinity. In her argument, she highlighted that « heroic discourses in relation to men discourages critical self-examination and portraits male anti-FGM activists as virtuous (strong, or courageous, or bold) and as ‘good men’”. She stressed that this view on male anti-FGM activists may place them and their own relationships with women beyond critical assessments and neglect the privileges that they and other men in general have in patriarchal contexts.
Finally, by framing FGM in terms of sexual problems and inviting men to take a stand against it, FGM programs face the risk of focusing on men’ psychosexual problems and attributing women’s sexual health and pleasure an instrumental value. Thus further reinforcing gender inequality.
Samantha Royle and Frank Ouedraogo, from Tackle Africa, stressed the importance that anti-FGM programming seizes the opportunity of engaging men and boys, because of their relative power in the society, while at the same time working towards the long-term goal of gender equality by addressing the underlying gender norms and empowering women.
- How do we ensure that anti-FGM campaigns are truly gender transformative and that male allies have the capacities to challenge patriarchal structures that uphold gender-based violence and men’s domination over women?
- Which challenges or limits of working with male allies when tackling a violence against women such as FGM have you seen in your work? How can they be overcome?
“The Community of Practice on Female Genital Mutilation” is part of the “Building Bridges between Africa and Europe to tackle FGM” project, supported by the “UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on the Elimination of FGM”.
The project is coordinated by AIDOS in partnership with GAMS Belgium.
The views expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the UNFPA, UNICEF or any other agency or organization.
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