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ICRW Says to Stop Violence against Women, Aim National Policies at Men

ICRW Gender Expert Gary Barker to Testify on U.S. Capitol Hill

Washington, DC (Vocus) April 14, 2010 -- Global research shows that one in three women are expected to experience physical or sexual violence from a man at least once in their lifetime. What can we do to end this violence? One key strategy is to involve men and boys in prevention efforts and to design public policies, and evidence-based programs that seek to change societal beliefs about manhood, said Gary Barker, director of gender, violence and rights at International Center for Research on Women (ICRW). Barker will testify on the topic before the U.S. House of Representatives Human Rights Commission at 2 p.m. Thursday, April 15.

Evidence shows that enacting and enforcing laws against violence alone, while important, is insufficient. Legal sanctions must be coupled with efforts to address underlying societal expectations about what it means to be men and women, Barker said. Preliminary findings from an ongoing multi-country survey of men’s attitudes and behaviors conducted in part by ICRW speak to that notion. Results reveal that a significant number of men – a majority in some countries – believe that being violent towards women is acceptable and that there are times “when a woman deserves to be beaten.” This research has found that men’s use of violence against women is more likely if they experienced violence themselves while growing up, are under economic stress, hold beliefs in rigid norms about manhood and abuse alcohol.

“Prevailing male attitudes such as beliefs that women deserve to be beaten can be tackled through changing what, in many societies, is considered normal about being a man,” said Barker.

He added that the most effective violence prevention programs are those that seek to change traditional ideas about the roles of men and women and that promote more equitable relationships. Equally important are programs that engage men who already condemn violence against women to reach out to other men and boys. Programs like these must be complemented by an integrated policy response that encourages, for example, paid paternity leave or engaging men in care giving as well as violence prevention lessons in school curricula.

“Public policy also has a role to play in changing social norms about what it means to be men – particularly in institutions where men often are present, like the workplace, sporting facilities, the school and the military,” Barker said. “Changing the way men think about themselves and women is an essential part of the strategy to ensure women’s right to lives free of violence. We have evidence of what works but we need to scale it up and sustain it.”

Note to Editors:
1. ICRW and partners recently released “What Men Have to Do with It,” a global, comparative policy analysis report that examines how changes in national policies could help achieve gender equality and reduce violence against women. The report answers whether changes in men’s attitudes and behaviors about health, violence and parenting benefit women, children and men. It also explores whether national policies influence men’s behaviors in relation to child rearing, employment and gender-based violence. To download a copy of the report and Gary Barker’s testimony, please visit

About International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)

ICRW is a leading international research organization that works to empower women, advance gender equality and fight poverty in the developing world. To accomplish this, ICRW works with partners in the public and private sectors and civil society to conduct empirical research, build capacity and advocate for evidence-based practical ways to change policies and programs. ICRW has a Regional Asia Office in New Delhi, India, and project offices in Hyderabad and Mumbai in India. Learn more about ICRW and its work at


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