Violence Against Women

Examining Men’s Attitudes toward Son Preference

Son preference is well-documented in many countries of the Asia-Pacific region. Sons are seen as essential for the survival of the family and are given greater value than daughters, resulting in skewed sex ratios, female feticide and higher child mortality.

Previous ICRW research has shown that solutions to limit son preference must address the underlying parental motivations for son preference and sex selection. Men can play lead roles in transforming harmful cultural and traditional norms and practices, and it is critical to better understand their unique role in sex selection in order to form effective policies and programs to reduce this practice.

ICRW partnered with the United Nations Population Fund's (UNFPA) Asia and the Pacific Regional Office (APRO) to conduct a quantitative survey in Nepal and Vietnam of men’s attitudes towards gender equity, gender-based violence and son preference. The study adapted the International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES), a comprehensive survey designed to measure men’s attitudes and behavior on gender, health, violence, family dynamics, fatherhood and other issues. The survey results were widely disseminated to guide policies and programs that aim to reduce son preference practices.

2011 – 2012

Panel: Women Integral to Ending Violence

View Women as Change Agents, not Victims
Wed, 06/15/2011

Experts discuss challenges to and solutions for ending violence against women during second installment of ICRW’s Passports to Progress discussion series.

To successfully prevent – and ultimately eliminate – violence against women in all its forms requires sustained investments, enforcing anti-violence laws and addressing the social norms that fuel violence, a panel convened by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) said June 13.

And, they said, it calls for a collective mind-shift, one where women are viewed not as victims, but contributors, change-makers and agents of stability.

“(Women) don’t actually need someone coming from the outside telling them how to organize themselves or what a safe community looks like,” said ICRW’s Mary Ellsberg. “They know.”

Ellsberg, ICRW’s vice president of research and programs, was one of three panelists for “When She is Safe…” a discussion on challenges to and solutions for ending violence against women. The event, held at The National Press Club in Washington, D.C., was the second in ICRW’s Passports to Progress year-long discussion series.

Ellsberg was joined by filmmaker and philanthropist, Abigail Disney, and the deputy director for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Donald Steinberg. The discussion was moderated by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, deputy director of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Women and Foreign Policy Program, ICRW board member and author of “The Dressmaker of Khair Khana.”

The panel covered a variety of topics, from peace agreements to HIV to ongoing conflicts. Each panelist drew from experience to illustrate that violence was a symptom of underlying gender disparities, and effective solutions would require the full participation of women and men.

“The key is to follow (women’s) lead,” said Steinberg, who praised the Obama administration and U.S. State Department for their commitment to gender and women’s issues. “If you’re going to have sustainability, you’ve got to incorporate ground troops of women from the beginning.”

Women also must be “reinserted into the landscape” of how the world traditionally views conflict, said Disney, whose upcoming series, “Women, War & Peace,” which airs on PBS this fall, was previewed at the event. Women always have been a part of war throughout history, she said, but their role often is underestimated.

Disney added that the world needs to change its view of women and war – to see women not as collateral damage, but as integral to discussions about the causes and consequences of war as well as building peace.

Such a collective mind-shift may take time. Ellsberg said that despite increased awareness of violence against women and more anti-violence laws globally, the world still has “a long way to go” in combating violence.

Despite increasing calls to end violence against women, Ellsberg said that in most parts of the world, “women are just as likely to be beaten or raped as they were 15 to 20 years ago.” Anti-violence laws often are not implemented. And although there have been successful efforts to address violence against women, she said they’ve been small in scale and last a short time. Ellsberg suggested that much of this is generally due to a lack of political will and broad, sustained investments – throughout development assistance, not just for specific anti-violence projects – to expand successful programs.

“And I think the most important thing we’re not addressing are the social norms – (where) people think it’s okay to use violence if your wife doesn’t get food ready on time,” Ellsberg said. “Until we start addressing that, we’re not going to make more progress.”

Gillian Gaynair is ICRW’s writer and editor.

Q&A with USAID Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg

Elevating Gender Equality within USAID
Wed, 05/18/2011

USAID Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg explains why women and girls are critical to the agency’s efforts to foster peace after conflict.

Donald Steinberg deputy administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)Donald Steinberg is the deputy administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), where he serves as the agency’s second-in-command. Steinberg will participate in ICRW’s Passports to Progress event on June 13 to discuss the challenges to and opportunities for ending violence against women in all its forms.

As deputy administrator, Steinberg oversees efforts to ensure that gender equality remains a priority within all of USAID’s programming and policy. Steinberg administers the recently established Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment and will participate in discussions to update USAID’s official policy on gender equality.

Steinberg recently spoke to USAID’s news publication, FrontLines, to discuss the role of gender in development. Here are excerpts from that interview, originally published in the February/March 2011 issue:

FrontLines: The issue of women and girls is near and dear to your heart. Can you talk a little bit about your personal experiences that have led you to be such a champion of women's issues and women's empowerment?

Donald Steinberg: It began with my very first assignment with the Foreign Service. I was 22 years old and was sent to the Central African Republic. One of my first tasks was to help put together a rural health project in the Ouham region.

We started out by going to the region and talking to the health providers, who were nearly all women, and to average citizens. After a lengthy process of drawing on their wisdom, we put together a project that focused on mother-child health care, immunization, and water and sanitation.

By the time I left the Central African Republic two years later, we could already see declines in infant and maternal mortality, as well as a new sense of empowerment for women who were at the center of this project. And realizing that my contributions in part had helped spark that change and had helped women and kids thrive, I was hooked.

FL: In your experience, what is the benefit of involving women in post-conflict resolution? And where has this been done particularly well?

DS: The systematic exclusion of women from the negotiation of peace agreements and implementing bodies is one of the key reasons why so many of these agreements ultimately fail and countries return to conflict. Involving women means that a broad range of issues that are important to the population are addressed, such as accountability for past abuses, psycho-social support for victims of violence, restoration of health and educational systems, reintegration of displaced persons and refugees and trafficking in persons …

Secondly, women bring ground truth to a process. The men involved in the armed conflict don't have the same sense as to the social and reconstruction needs as women who have remained in their societies [and] who have seen the impact of conflict…

Perhaps most importantly, involving women builds public and civil-society support for a peace process. In too many peace processes, once the momentum for political unification or military disengagement starts to wane, popular support is insufficient to see it through to the end.

The men with the guns have to end the war, but society as a whole — and, in particular, women — must build the peace.

FL: In your three decades of development work, do you have a project or achievement that you are most proud of?

DS: I was quite honored to serve over the past year or so, on the U.N. Secretary General's Civil Society Advisory Group for Women, Peace and Security … Basically, the group was asked by the secretary general to come up with concrete, time-bound and measurable actions to reinvigorate global efforts to implement U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325. This resolution, passed in October 2000, identified dozens of steps that the international community should take to empower and protect women and girls in the context of armed [conflict], and [to] ensure their full participation in peace negotiations and post conflict reconstruction and governance.

Our advisory group put together practical actions, supported by financial resources, to address sexual violence against women displaced by war, to expand livelihood and educational opportunities for women and girls, to train peacekeepers and military forces on gender issues and hold them accountable for abuses, to enhance reproductive health care for women in emergency situations, to bring more women to the peace table, and so on. We also highlighted the need to assist the new agency, U.N. Women, to provide global leadership in these areas under the guidance of the talented Michelle Bachelet…

FL: What do you see as the greatest challenge facing women in the developing world today?

DS: The toughest challenge is to overcome the stigma of victimization that bedevils this whole field. Too many programs and projects in this arena categorize women as victims, rather than the key actors in addressing conflict and development challenges … To address this, we are establishing a four-pillar approach to gender considerations at USAID.

The first pillar is ensuring that gender is mainstreamed and integrated in all our development work, and in particular, food security, global health and global climate change.

Second, we are focusing on women's empowerment in political, economic and social terms … This involves a focus on partnerships where we can be working with private companies, international NGOs, host governments, international organizations and, most importantly, women themselves in developing countries to take good projects at the grassroots level and bring them to scale on a global basis.

A third area is protection and participation. This effort involves prioritizing issues related to women's participation in peace processes, preventing and responding to sexual violence in armed conflict situations, implementing U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325, and engaging in anti-trafficking programs.

The fourth pillar is walking the walk in-house, ensuring that USAID is a leader in women's empowerment in our system. We need to make sure that women are recruited for entry into the Civil and Foreign Service, empowered to fully contribute to our development mission, given opportunities through mentorships, treated fairly in the promotion/evaluation/assignment processes and challenged to lead our agency.

Purchase tickets »

Indian Men Lead in Sexual Violence, Worst on Gender Equality: Study

Mon, 03/07/2011
Times of India

The Times of India reports on initial findings from ICRW's recent IMAGES study (International Men and Gender Equality Survey), which included data that showed a high prevalence of sexual violence among Indian men when compared to men in other countries. Ravi Verma, director of ICRW's Asia Regional Office, is quoted in the article. 

Women Rally Against ‘Eve Teasing’ in S Asia

Wed, 03/02/2011
The Daily Times

Agence France Presse reports on South Asian activists rising up against “eve-teasing” – a term used to refer to the sexual harassment of women. ICRW’s Madhumita Das is quoted in the story, which appeared in several South Asian publications, including Pakistan's The Daily Times.

Parivartan Launches New Campaign

Interactive Campaign Reaches Wider Audience
Tue, 02/01/2011

ICRW’s Parivartan program begins an interactive, mobile campaign to spread messages about non-violence and gender equality to youth in Mumbai.

ICRW’s Parivartan program begins an interactive, mobile campaign to spread messages about non-violence and gender equality to youth in Mumbai.

Mumbai students show off a comic book they received after participating in Parivartan’s mobile van campaign.

MUMBAI, India – The International Center for Research on Women’s (ICRW) Parivartan program – which works with young cricket players in India to reduce violence against women – this month launched a mobile, interactive campaign to further promote the core principles of Parivartan.

Led by ICRW partner organization Breakthrough, and done in collaboration with the U.S.-based Futures Without Violence, formerly Family Violence Prevention Fund, the campaign uses sports, dance, skits, trivia and video to educate youth how to stop and prevent “eve teasing” of women and girls. Eve teasing refers to when men and boys sexually harass women and girls in public places – either with words or inappropriate touching. The main messages of the campaign are that eve teasing is wrong, it must stop and that respecting women and girls “is the mark of a true star.”

The new initiative runs through Feb. 13, and features a van that travels to several neighborhoods and schools throughout Mumbai to hold 30 to 45 minute shows. Specifically, the campaign features a short street play on the ill effects of eve teasing, a cricket trivia quiz, interactive games with prizes and discussions. Participants also view a video about the Parivartan program.

An emcee talks to students about why it’s wrong to harass girls.

“A mobile van is a fun and very powerful way to convey Parivartan’s messages to a wider audience within our target population,” said ICRW’s Madhumita Das, a senior technical specialist who manages Parivartan. “The campaign also gives us an opportunity to showcase the coaches and athletes who have been a part of the initiative since the beginning.”

So far, about 3,000 boys and girls as well as principals and teachers in 15 schools have participated in the van's interactive sessions, Das said. 

ICRW and its partners conceptualized Parivartan in 2008 and launched the intervention portion of the program last year. The effort uses cricket, India’s most popular sport, to teach boys to respect women and girls and help reduce abusive relationships. Modeled in part after the Futures Without Violence's "Coaching Boys into Men" program, Parivartan works with cricket coaches and community mentors to push messages against violence and for gender equality. The program is being implemented in 25 schools by the Mumbai School Sports Association and in community-based cricket programs by Apnalaya, an organization in Mumbai’s Shivaji Nagar community.

ICRW researchers are currently analyzing data gathered halfway through Parivartan to assess the program’s effectiveness. An evaluation of the campaign will begin in May, Das said.

“We have joined hands with Parivartan for a good cause,” said Iqbal Thakur, a Parivartan coach from Anjuman I- Islam English High school in south Mumbai, who attended the campaign launch. “Eve teasing happens, but if children are exposed to the correct messages at an early age, they are more likely to grow up into dignified, responsible citizens, who not only stay away from such behavior, but also become role models who raise their voice against injustice.”

Chandni Malik is the communications manager in ICRW’s Asia Regional Office.

Related Multimedia:

Sachin Endorses Campaign Against Eve Teasing

Fri, 01/28/2011
Hindustan Times

The Hindustan Times reports on ICRW’s Parivartan program, which focuses on reducing violence against women and is championed by Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar.

Wife-beating Diplomat Shames Nation

The Anil Verma Case Exposes the Extent to which India Condones Domestic Abuse
Wed, 01/26/2011

GlobalPost examines India’s complicated relationship with and often tolerance for domestic violence, and quotes ICRW’s Madhumita Das, senior technical specialist in the Asia Regional Office.

Men and Violence: Risk Factors Vary

Survey Highlights Risks Tied to Men’s Use of Violence Against Women
Tue, 01/25/2011

ICRW study provides insight into men’s use of violence against women and factors associated with it.

An analysis of new findings from the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) affirms that an integrated approach – one that experts say should aim to prevent violence by addressing men's risk factors – is key to reducing men's use of violence against women.

Initial findings from the International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES) – to be released today – illustrate the varied experiences that lead some men to physically or sexually abuse an intimate female partner. The three-year study consisted of nearly 12,000 interviews with men and women ages 18 to 59 in Brazil, Chile, Croatia, India, Mexico and Rwanda about their health practices, parenting, relationship dynamics, sexual behavior and use of violence.

Researchers crafted the questions about violence based on existing data on the correlation between men’s use of violence, their experiences with it during childhood and social norms that dictate how they should act. While there have been numerous studies on men and violence, IMAGES provides a deeper look at factors associated with why some men are violent against women. Researchers asked men detailed questions about their experiences with violence as an observer and perpetrator. Women were interviewed on the matter, too.

“There are numerous social and cultural factors that contribute to men’s use of violence,” said ICRW’s Gary Barker, lead researcher on IMAGES. “Our methodology on IMAGES allowed us to explore a broad range of these with men and compare men’s responses with women’s from the same settings. This gave us a more accurate assessment of the factors and extent of violence.”

Experts say programs and policies that work to end violence against women could be more effective by understanding how some men view violence and the sometimes invisible social factors that drive their behavior.

“To truly reduce violence, program designers and policy makers should consider how to create more comprehensive interventions that take into account such things as men’s attitudes about gender, their childhood experiences of violence, their work-related stress and their use of alcohol,” said Barker, who in February will become international director of Instituto Promundo, a Brazilian nongovernmental organization that coordinates the Men and Gender Equality Policy Project with ICRW. IMAGES is a component of this project.

Contributing factors

To measure men’s use of violence against a partner, IMAGES applied a slightly modified version of the approach used in a pioneering 2005 World Health Organization (WHO) study on domestic violence. The 10-country study yielded some of the first comprehensive, multi-site data on the various forms of violence women experience at the hands of a male partner and its consequences. Ten to 70 percent of women surveyed said they had been physically abused by an intimate partner at some point in their lives.

For IMAGES, researchers asked men about specific types of violence, such as slapping, against their female partners. Women also were asked about their experiences with the same forms of violence. Between 25 to nearly 40 percent of the men surveyed said they had been violent with an intimate partner. Meanwhile, 27 to 41 percent of women said they had been abused by a man at least once in their lives, suggesting that in most cases, men’s reports of the violence they used were fairly accurate.

IMAGES results across all countries also showed that men who generally view themselves as superior to women are more likely to report physical and sexual violence against an intimate partner. The same was true for men who abused alcohol, witnessed violence in their childhood home and, except for Mexicans surveyed, those who felt stressed about work or income. Rwandan men were not asked about work stress.

“The IMAGES findings make an important contribution to existing knowledge about gender-based violence by bringing in men's perspectives about their experiences of violence in diverse settings, as well as their attitudes about women’s rights and roles within the household," said ICRW's Mary Ellsberg, vice president of research and programs and co-author of the WHO domestic violence study. "We hope to do additional analysis of the data in the future, to compare the experiences and attitudes of both men and women around these issues."

Laws about violence

Many governments worldwide are increasingly adopting legislation to combat violence against women. It’s the policy issue that has received the most attention in efforts, including by ICRW, to involve men in creating more equitable societies. And, IMAGES found it’s the issue most men have heard about, either through an advertisement or campaign.

Between 88 and 96 percent of men surveyed said they knew about laws related to violence against women in their countries, however this does not correlate with a decrease in their use of violence against their wives or girlfriends. IMAGES also shows the contradictory attitudes men have about existing laws related to violence: Despite their knowledge of the laws, the vast majority of men also thinks the laws make it too easy to bring charges against them.

“Given the relatively small number of men actually charged under those laws in all the countries, this opinion is a misperception,” Barker said. He added that IMAGES results suggest that some men don’t understand anti-violence policies and may see the laws as being against them. “We may need more long-term, nuanced public education targeting men about the laws."

Far fewer men surveyed for IMAGES reported hearing messages about other themes that might interest them, or that they might perceive as positive, such as promoting that men participate in care giving and be more involved fathers.

“While we can’t let men off the hook in terms of violence, we also need to consider the source of men’s violence,” Barker said. “Our policies need to understand these factors and design prevention strategies accordingly.”

Gillian Gaynair is ICRW’s writer/editor.

International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES)

International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES)

International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and Instituto Promundo

The International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES) is a comprehensive household questionnaire on men’s attitudes and practices – along with women’s opinions and reports of men’s practices – on a wide variety of topics related to gender equality.

Topics include: gender-based violence; health and health-related practices; household division of labor; men’s participation in caregiving and as fathers; men’s and women’s attitudes about gender and gender-related policies; transactional sex; men’s reports of criminal behavior; and quality of life.

From 2009 to 2010, household surveys were administered to more than 8,000 men and 3,500 women ages 18-59 in Brazil, Chile, Croatia, India, Mexico and Rwanda. The report, Evolving Men: Initial Results of the International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES), summarizes these initial multi-country comparative findings.

IMAGES is a component of the Men and Gender Equality Policy Project coordinated by ICRW and Instituto Promundo.

(932.99 KB)

We encourage the use and dissemination of our publications for non-commercial, educational purposes. Portions may be reproduced with acknowledgment to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW). For questions, please contact; or (202) 797-0007.

Terms and Conditions »

Syndicate content