Opening a conference co-organised by the Council of Europe and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iceland, Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić stressed the need for men and boys to stop violence against women by breaking barriers to gender equality. She spoke against gender stereotypes that can do “terrible harm to men and women alike”.
While human rights are universal, she acclaimed, “so too are human wrongs – like sexism and stereotyping.” She emphasized that just as it is wrong to expect women and girls to behave in certain ways, “the same is true for men and boys.”
Because violence against women is often rooted in gender stereotypes, the Secretary General welcomed campaigns in member states to break such stereotypes, including Iceland’s plan of action for gender equality, which promotes the idea of “positive masculinity”.
For his part, Iceland's President H. E. Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson affirmed: "I call on my fellow national leaders. I call on all men and boys to look critically at their own attitudes and hold each other accountable. It's on us to fight against gender-based violence. We must fight for full gender equality."
From mental health and well-being, achievement, and education to equal participation in the family and gendered segregation in the labour market, the role of men and boys in issues relating to gender equality has long been a subject for debate. The conference provides an opportunity to discuss and promote the need for strategies on the role and place of men and boys in gender equality policies and in policies to combat violence against women.
Violence against women is one of the most widespread human rights violations in Europe. Questioning harmful aspects of traditional norms of masculinity, while recognising that masculinity takes many forms, offers an opportunity to implement sustainable violence prevention initiatives.
The conference focuses on the following themes:
- Men and boys as agents of change
- Negative impacts of social norms and gender stereotypes
- Men and gender equality in care
- Role of men and boys in combating violence