Strong evidence exists to suggest that norms (held by both women and men) related to male authority, male sexual entitlement, acceptance of wife beating and female obedience increase the likelihood that individual men will engage in violence – and not just violence against women and girls. Recent findings by a UN multi-country study led by Partners4Prevention found that most men who had raped another man, or men, had also raped a female non-partner. Recent findings also show a culture of violence increases the likelihood of violence against women. This is particularly meaningful when we consider how sexualised violence against males during conflict, whilst increasingly being reported, is likely to be much higher than is generally assumed or publicly admitted. The same UN study confirmed the inter-generational effects of violence: that witnessing or experiencing domestic violence in childhood increases the likelihood of violence perpetration in later life, as individuals learn to use violence to exert influence and control. As such, working with families to tackle harmful gender norms, habits and behaviours to reduce sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls may offer an entry point to reduce violence more broadly. Much can be learned from the best practice of programmes that have successfully worked with communities to change harmful gender norms within communities, such as Promundo’s Programme H, research into young men showing genderequitable attitudes; Raising Voices’ SASA!, a programme designed to address the core driver of violence against women and Stepping Stones’ resources to raise awareness of gender issues. The promotion of women and girls’ rights in situations of conflict and fragility is a moral imperative that is all too relevant in the ongoing conflicts of today. Yet, women, peace and security’ is so much more than just a ’women’s issue.’ Analysing indices of gender equality in a particular context can give us vital clues about the general level of inequality, intolerance and exclusion within a society.
Collecting data on gender norms can also help us assess the acceptability of violence and domination over others. From such data, we can programme for change towards more stable and peaceful societies.