Position Papers

The role of Men and Boys in Achieving Gender Equality (February 2004)

The increased focus on the role of men in relation to gender equality work reflects the move towards more ‘gender’ focused strategies, including gender mainstreaming strategies, and away from a focus on sex-based discrimination. ‘Gender equality’ as a concept identifies from the start that socially constructed gender roles play a crucial role in shaping women’s - and men’s - access to rights, resources, and opportunities. Abandoning essentialist notions of ‘sex’ in favour of a socially constructed ‘gender’ was seen as a step forward in feminist understanding.

Although this move can be seen as progress, there are some important questions that still need to be addressed in relation to ‘gender equality’ as a strategic concept. One of the problems with gender focused polices for achieving equality between women and men is that it has often meant excluding ‘sex’ as a concept, and the policy reaction has been to marginalize, or even make redundant women-centred equality policies . Although the original intention was not to abandon these policies, but to use a ‘dual strategy’ of specific measures/programmes and gender mainstreaming, recent shifts in policies show that women-centred policies are less accepted in the policy process. There is a tendency of policy-makers to decrease funding for women-centred projects and strategies, and transfer funding to male-centred actions – in the name of gender equality. It is important to keep in mind that in many EU countries, the lack of basic services for women and girls is still a reality, and that governments continuously fail to recognise the need for specific services and projects for women. Parallel investments in women and girls must therefore be ensured.

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