“How can you be a marda if you beat your wife?”

Notions of masculinities and violence in Eastern Nepal

Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) remains one of the biggest safety and security challenges in Nepal. Many programmes and policies seeking to reduce and prevent SGBV focus on the needs and rights of girls and women. However, there is a very limited understanding of the role of masculinities in the contexts, and whether and how they link to violence, particularly SGBV.

Saferworld, in collaboration with The Society Touch and Youth Development Centre, with funding from the Foundation to Promote Open Society, has carried out participatory learning research in selected districts in Eastern Nepal, exploring notions of masculinities among young men and boys, how these notions shape their relationships towards others, and young men’s experiences and attitudes towards violence, including SGBV. The research process had a strong focus on allowing learning and reflection among the participants. Our findings show that young men feel huge pressures and frustrations negotiating their positions in society. The tension between expectations and what is achievable give rise to complicated responses in young men as they live lives in an uncertain and changing context. The research also shows that the association of violence, including SGBV, with masculinities needs to be approached with great care. Most respondents did not see violence, including SGBV, as a part of the masculinity they would aspire to. However, they did see various forms of violence as a consequence of certain situations, pressures and expectations from society, which are themselves in part created by ideas of masculinity.

Our research findings led to several recommendations, including:

  • Men are part of the gender equation, and young men can and should be effectively involved in efforts to address gender inequality and SGBV. Effectiveness might increase by bringing men, women and sexual and gender minorities (SGM) together, rather than working with one gender group in isolation.
  • Further efforts are required to reduce social stigmatisation of survivors of sexual violence, who are often blamed for inviting sexual violence upon themselves, and to address their needs. All forms of SGBV, including against SGM, need to be challenged, including ‘eve-teasing’ and sexual harassment through mobile phones and social media.
  • Security provision and implementation of legislation that prohibits sexual harassment and other forms of SGBV should be strengthened, and security providers and other agencies should be enabled to address SGBV in a more proactive and gender-sensitive way.

Read more about our gender work.

Read more about our work in Nepal.