#StartWithTheBoys – a male perspective on gender based violence

By Milinda Gunawardena

“Project Wave” launched recently by the John Keells Foundation, aims to create awareness and prevent Gender Based Violence (GBV) especially in a corporate environment, before it is taken to the wider society. I volunteered to be part of the internal forum theatre team which enacts various scenes from the office and home environment as part of raising awareness of potential acts of GBV.

This project has made me look at life from a different perspective, and the following is an attempt to share my experience and thoughts on a challenging journey I have set myself to embark on.

Let me at the outset briefly describe the issue and define Gender Based Violence. GBV occurs as a result of normative gender based role expectations or inequality of power in relationships between the two genders, in a specific society or culture. However much we speak of “Gender Equality”, as far as history takes us, we have experienced a male dominated society where masculinity has prevailed over femininity. Women are widely discriminated and victimized, and this in most societies is normality and the statistics attest to it. Although violence against men cannot be forgotten and while the definition accommodates this, the project’s primary focus is on violence against “Women”, which is the larger issue at hand.

GBV is a social issue which has risen to alarming levels, a social issue which has been prevailing for a long time, and sadly a normalcy in some societies and cultures. Looking around, talking to people, observing behaviors and seeking opinions on GBV, you feel not many feel the gravity of the issue – it is indeed a normalcy!

When I was given the opportunity to pen down my thoughts of “Project Wave”, where we join hands to address the issue firstly in a corporate environment, I struggled to think of the best way to get the message across to my friends to come on board with me. I have now begun to believe it is my responsibility to persuade more “Men” to commit to a cause that attempts to change decades, centuries and a millennium of social norms of falsified, misdirected perceptions, cultural behavior, and to take up a real challenge. It is something more than a career objective or a sporting achievement – a chance to change societal norms and encourage gender equality, equal power distribution in relationships and to take on the biggest challenge of changing yourself! I hope this reaches all you fine men – lets step away from our high and mighty egos and so called masculine ways and give some thought to the following;

We were brought to this world by a woman – we call her mother, we will someday meet someone special and we will call her wife, and she will bare our kids, daughters, who we will treasure so dearly. Honestly, would any of you like if any of the above mentioned three people had to experience anything that falls under the definition of GBV? Take a few minutes, browse the internet, read a few articles, and the absurdity of incidents and occurrences of GBV will make you sick in the stomach. Believe it or not, most incidents are reported by wives or daughters who have been abused by their husbands and fathers. Across all walks of life in society, we, the so-called urbanized and modernized human beings aren’t any different to those described in the incidents reported in some rural village.

Give it some thought..

“Real Men”, “Gentlemen”, where do these phrases come from? Are real men sporty? Muscular? Intelligent? Good looking? Is a “Gentleman” defined by him opening a door for you? Offering you a seat? Our prime motive in life should be to be a good human being. A real man or a gentleman does not define a good human being. Before you set your career aspirations and goals in life to be the richest or the coolest in town, lay down your morals and principles and live by it!

This life which was gifted to you, this life which you dearly safeguard, is beautiful. You love your life…learn to let others experience it the same way you do. Another person’s life is not yours to control. You own your life but not your partner’s!

To our partner, we must give all the support, respect and love she deserves. Treat her like an individual not below you, not above you, but an equal; strong enough to live her own life.
Do it for the three most significant females who will have the biggest impact in your life – your mother, your wife and your daughter.

Join hands with us in embarking on a new journey alongside your career, for a cause that will help many live life just as we do.