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The word gender is a socially and culturally constructed term assigning distinctive roles, values, customs, practices and images to boys and girls, and men and women. The concept also includes certain characteristics, behaviour and aptitudes expected of both the sexes. Through the process of institutional evolution, men fought to establish themselves superior to their female counterpart. Male dominance led to continued deprivation, exploitation, discrimination against women, and of their marginalisation in economic, political, religious and cultural decision-making process. Not just women; children, youth, minority groups, physically and mentally challenged people fell prey to the sever stereo-typing and discrimination at the hands of patriarchy (the male domination).
The subordination that women experience daily, regardless of the class or race they might belong to, takes various forms- discrimination, disregard, insult, control, exploitation, oppression, violence- within the family, at work place, and in the society. This systemic violation of fundamental human rights is directed specifically towards girls and women, but also targeted towards non-stereotypical men and boys.
Despite dominant rhetoric about manhood, many men and boys suffer from socially constructed gender stereotypes. Such stereotypes put pressure on them to be tough, strong, ‘breadwinner’, resulting in hard conditions of labour. Homophobia and other forms of discrimination against men and boys because of their sexual orientation have emerged as forms of personal and institutional violence at the hands of other men. Moving towards gender equality would mean that both men and women will be able to share and be a part of a broader, healthier, safer and richer experience.
Men, especially youth, have realised that it is time that they engaged as partners in change in ending gender discrimination. Also important to note that the new framework of Gender and Development work clearly indicates that there is a need to work with both sexes to address the issues related to gender gaps and gender based violence. Men can de-align themselves from the perpetrator identity and re-look at themselves as “partners for change”. Men can not only stop being violators themselves but also be advocates for change, role models and sharers of responsibilities and spaces.
Youth is the present. They have the key to changes in the future. Youth engagement and participation in struggling out of peer pressure, social norms and available institutional power-holding, is essential in assuring gender-equality in the future. There is an urgent need to universally include boys and young men to promote and advocate gender equality and justice. The narrow path of traditional masculinities might provide young boys with a sense of entitlement to power, but it also chip away at the possibilities of building healthy and equitable relationships with women/girls/men/boys and traps them into a web of trauma and inadequacies. However, on the positive side, the fact that not all boys are socialized into being violent gives the hope for changing the present and the future. Most boys are socialized in ways that promote gender inequality and discrimination, but not all young men adopt these gendered patterns or act out these stereotyped roles. This experience could be the resource for building and strengthening intervention and partnerships with young people on gender based violence.