Breakthrough Report from Asia-Pacific Shows Staggering Levels of Men’s Violence … and Hope for Change

September 11, 2013 Guestblogger

I’m pleased to publish this important post from my friend and colleague James Lang, from the UN’s Partner for Prevention program based in Bangkok.

Throughout this past year, violence against women and girls has dominated the news starting with the horrifying story of the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old on a Delhi bus. Stories surrounding gang rapes in India, Brazil or Ohio may be sensational, but they are by no means either new or extraordinary. Rape and physical violence occurs every day, in every part of the world, to a huge proportion of the population.

In June, a report from the World Health Organisation confirmed that 1 in 3 women around the world have been raped or physically abused in their lifetime. 80% of these cases occurred at home at the hands of a male intimate partner.

Cambodia boy talks to street vendor about problem of violence against women. White Ribbon Campaign, Cambodia

But do we know what percentage of men commit such violence? And why do some men use such violence, while others do not and, most importantly, what can be done to stop it?

I am pleased to be part of the team behind the new ‘The UN Multi-country Study on Men and Violence in Asia and the Pacific,” carried out by UNDP, UNFPA, UN Women and UN Volunteers across nine sites in six countries in the Asia-Pacific region. We did in-depth interviews with 10,000 men and 3,000 women in diverse communities

The results, published this week, are startling, but do offer hope.

Nearly half of those men reported using physical or sexual violence against a female partner, ranging from 26% to 80% across the sites.  Nearly a quarter of men reported perpetrating rape against a woman or girl, ranging from 10% to 62% across the sites.  Half of the men who had raped a girl or a woman did so for the first time when they were just teenagers, and the vast majority never faced any legal consequences.

The majority of men who reported having raped said they felt entitled to sex regardless of consent. Others felt it was entertaining or saw it as deserved punishment for women. All these show that sexual violence is grounded in gender inequality.

Our study showed that the men who use violence against women believe manhood is defined by being tough, they tend to control their partner’s behaviour and appearance, they argue frequently, and many have had multiple sexual partners and/or paid for sex.  Many of these men also experienced violence as a child – such as being neglected, abused or witnessing their mother being beaten.

The study also tells us this violence is preventable.  There are interconnected factors that drive men’s violence – from gender inequality, oppressive norms and legal impunity at the macro level to micro level issues like relations between partners and life histories of violence – but these are things that can be changed.  Our survey gives us hope because not all men use violence and many men oppose it, and in some places the rates of violence are much lower than others.

Along with the work to empower women, protect children, and ensure access to justice and rights, one sure way to address violence against women is to change the ways our societies define manhood and accept men’s use of violence.

What should be a new norm for men around the world? It is a man who would never use violence against women, children or other men, and who would do his utmost to stop other men from doing so.  It is a man who respects women and their rights and freedoms; a man who promotes gender equality and social justice and peace; and who teaches the next generation to hold these ideals.

These ideas are gaining ground globally, including In the Asia and Pacific region with grassroots initiatives like the Must Bol Campaign and Men’s Action for Stopping Violence Against Women in India, Aliansi Laki-Laki Baru (New Men’s Alliance) in Indonesia, the Cambodian Men’s Network, the South Asian Network to Address Masculinities (SANAM) and many others.

Download the study at:

James Lang is the Programme Coordinator for Partners for Prevention, a UNDP, UNFPA, UN Women and UNV regional joint programme for gender-based violence prevention in Asia and the Pacific. He has published numerous articles and edited books on gender, masculinities and violence prevention and is an active trainer on these topics.