Challenging the Taboo: Child Forced Marriage

Patriarchal control of adolescent girls’ sexuality is a key driver in a horrific ongoing assault on girls: Child/Early and Forced Marriages/Unions (CEFMU). A new report presents findings from a review of 23 organizations working at the intersection of child marriage and sexuality.
The report, “Tackling the Taboo: Sexuality and Gender-Transformative Programs to End Child, Early and Forced Marriage and Unions,” is intended as a learning tool for practitioners, a guide for future research opportunities, a call to action for funders, and an advocacy tool for engaging in dialogue with policymakers and other leaders. It includes three case studies, featuring the work of grassroots organizations working in politically and culturally conservative context s : Trust for Indig enou s Culture and Health in Kenya, International Centre for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights in Nigeria, and The YP Foundation in India.
In places where patriarchal gender norms are strictly enforced, people, especially girls and women, are constrained in their freedom to express their sexuality, according to the working group that produced the report. Control of the female body is an important focal point of patriarchy, they said—both contributing to and reinforced within CEFMUs. Child marriage is an example of how women’s and girls’ life choices—down to the most intimate: if, whom, and when to marry—are taken from them and controlled by others. For the full report go to

“Mansplaining” Hotline for Women (Really!)

Women who have things mansplained to them in the workplace can now report it to a dedicated hotline. Unionen, Sweden’s largest union, began encouraging members to call it back in 2016 when male colleagues were giving women unsolicited lectures on things they already understand. Unionen, which represents 600,000 private sector workers, said it launched the hotline as part of a campaign to highlight and stamp out the insidious and damaging practice.

Cartoon of man on scale outweighing a woman and three children.

Invisibility of Male Privilege

It wasn’t until 1965 that married women in France no longer had to obtain their husband’s consent to work.
In Australia, married women could not apply for passports without their husband’s permission until 1983. In Britain, marital rape was not illegal until 1991.

A study by the American Psychological Association said mansplaining happens when men “tend to overestimate their intelligence to a much greater extent than women.” The union defined it as when “a man explains something to a woman without being asked, particularly something which she might already know more about than the man.”
The hotline advises upset and frustrated callers on what action they could take, including to help them move on. Since there are no set answers, the people staffing the line each employ their own best thinking based on their own experiences. Unsurprisingly, the initiative unleashed a flood of negative comments on Unionen’s Facebook page, particularly from men.

HIV Statistics High for Men of Color

Since the AIDS epidemic exploded three decades ago, new HIV infection rates have fallen across the U.S. Yet for African American men, infection rates remain stubbornly high—and, among Latino men, the rates are nudging upward. In a new paper released in July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pinpoints an important factor: Minority men are far less likely than whites to know about or use a powerful drug combination that can keep them from getting infected. That’s despite research that shows from 2014 to 2017, awareness of the drug combination, pre-exposure prophylaxis, also known as PrEP, increased in 20 urban areas, from 60 percent to 90 percent. At the same time, the percentage of people taking the drug combination increased from 6 to 35 percent, according to the paper. “Despite this progress, PrEP use among (men who have sex with other men), especially among black and Hispanic MSM, remains low,” according to the paper. “Continued efforts to improve (PrEP) coverage are needed to reach the goal of 90 percent reduction in HIV incidence by 2030.” Moreover, while overall infection rates have plunged since the 1980s, and steadily decreased among whites since 2010, progress has stalled among black men, while among Latinos “new infections (are) beginning to rise, particularly among … gay and bisexual men,” according to the CDC.

Traumatized Boys and Gender Equality

Boys in poor urban areas around the world are suffering even more than girls from violence, abuse and neglect, groundbreaking international recently published research suggests. The studies suggest an adequate focus on helping boys is critical to achieving gender equality in the longer term. “This is the first global study to investigate how a cluster of traumatic childhood experiences—‘Adverse Childhood Experiences’ (ACE), work together to cause specific health issues in early adolescence, with terrible lifelong consequences,” said Dr. Robert Blum, lead researcher for the global study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Boy facing camera with the word 'stop' written on his hand.“While we found young girls often suffer significantly, contrary to common belief, boys reported even greater exposure to violence and neglect, which makes them more likely to be violent in return,” Dr. Blum said. A study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health looked at childhood traumas suffered by 1,284 adolescents ages 10 to 14 in more than a dozen low-income urban settings in the U.S., China, the U.K., Egypt and Bolivia. Overall, 46 percent of young adolescents reported experiencing violence; 38 percent said they suffered emotional neglect and 29 percent experienced physical neglect. Girls tend to show higher levels of depression than boys. However, boys were more likely to report being victims of physical neglect, sexual abuse and violence. While higher levels of trauma lead both boys and girls to engage in more violent behaviors, boys are more likely to become violent.

Young Men at Highest Homicide Risk

Three boys facing the camera, one holding a gunA new United Nations study reports that young men account for more than half of all homicide victims in scores of countries; globally those aged 15 and 29 are at the highest risk. The study by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) revealed that some 464,000 people across the world were victims of homicidal violence in 2017— more than five times the number killed in armed conflict over the same period. The study found that while girls and boys aged nine and under are more or less equally represented in homicide victim numbers, in all other age groups, males make up more than 50 percent of the toll, according to data from 41 countries. In all regions, the likelihood of boys becoming victims of homicide increases with age; globally those between 15 and 29 are at the highest risk of homicide. In the Americas, the victim rate among 18-and 19-year-olds is estimated at 46 per 100,000, far higher than for their peers in other regions. Firearms are also involved “far more often” in homicides in the Americas than elsewhere, another report, the Global Study on Homicide 2019, maintained. “High levels of violence are strongly associated with young males, both as perpetrators and victims,” the report said. “So violence prevention programs should focus on providing support to young men to prevent them from being lured into a subculture of… gangs (and) drug dealing.”

African American Men Mistrust Medical World

Black man wearing hospital gown indoors, looking out window.Mistrust of health care providers, fueled by painful experiences with racism, makes African American men more likely to delay routine screenings and doctor’s appointments, according to a new study in the journal Behavioral Medicine by the Health Disparities Institute (HDI) at the University of Connecticut. The result has potentially serious implications for their overall health.
“Medical mistrust is significantly contributing to delays in African American men utilizing the health care system,” says Dr. Wizdom Powell, the study’s lead author, who is HDI director and associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the UConn School of Medicine. The new study reports that “medical mistrust”— defined as a suspicion or lack of trust in medical organizations—is associated with delays in African American men’s routine health visits, blood pressure, and cholesterol screenings. It also found that men who report experiencing frequent everyday racism had higher odds of delaying screenings and routine health care visits. Also, those who perceived racism in health care had more medical mistrust with significantly reduced rates of preventive health care utilization. “We must address medical mistrust and racism in and outside of health care institutions to increase lifesaving preventive health screenings among the high-risk population of African American men,” says Powell.

Weight Loss Improves Men’s Mental Health

The Australian-based internationally renowned research program SHEDIT (Self-Help, Exercise and Diet using Information Technology) has been redesigned with a renewed focus on helping men lift their mood, not just lose weight.

Man in a suit, bottle-feeding a baby at a microphone.

Fatherhood is not a partisan issue.

In August, Trevor Mallard, Speaker of the House of Representatives in New Zealand’s Parliament, cradled and fed the one-month old son of fellow lawmaker Tamati Coffey and his husband, Tim Smith, while presiding over a legislative debate. No word yet on the political leanings of the infant.

Previous study outcomes showed that men shed an average of 10 to 20 pounds during the program while also decreasing their waist size and improving blood pressure, body fat percentage and quality of life. The program is based at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia.
Follow-up investigations also revealed a crucial outcome: benefits were maintained long-term. Now called SHED-IT Recharge, the new trial planned to recruit 120 men to receive new strategies to feel mentally well along with employing existing resources to teach men how to lose weight, become more active and improve their diet.
“SHED-IT was designed from the outset to engage and appeal to blokes, who are far outnumbered by women in weight loss,” said lead researcher Dr. Myles Young of the Hunter Medical Research Institute’s Cardiovascular Research Program, adding that it was important to create a program specifically targeted at men.
“While SHED-IT doesn’t include any face-to-face contact, our three-year results are comparable to studies where men attended up to 30 sessions with a trained health professional,” according to Dr. Young.
Of 200 participants in the previous SHED-IT trial, 20 per cent reported worrying levels of depressive symptoms before the program. Afterward, the men lost weight, improved their lifestyle behaviors, and symptoms had substantially reduced, Dr. Young reported.
To contact the program, write

Canada Funding to Engage Men and Boys

Three men indoors wearing white t-shirts which read 'Next Gen Men'The Canadian government is providing more than half a million dollars to encourage men and boys to advocate for gender equality.
Minister of Gender Equality Maryam Monsef announced the new funding in Calgary at the end of August, where she also released a report intended to develop a gender equality strategy that includes men and boys in the conversation.
The report, based on roundtable discussions across the country, resulted in funding four projects

  • Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters will receive $212,000 to promote sports figures as role models to increase awareness of gender-based violence. That organization will work with the Canadian Football League leading up to the Grey Cup.
  • Catalyst Canada, a non-profit that helps support women in the workplace, will receive $100,000 to promote workplace inclusion and support men as disruptors of workplace sexism.
  • FOXY, a non-profit that focuses on sexual health and empowered decision making, will receive $125,000 to engage young Indigenous men and boys on gender equality in the Northwest Territories.
  • Next Gen Men at the University of Calgary will receive $125,000 to build networks for profeminist male leaders to engage on gender equality issues. Michael Kehler, a professor of masculinities studies at the University of Calgary, says gender equality needs to be an ongoing initiative that involves everyone. The Canadian government committed $1.8 million over two years in 2018 to engage men and boys in addressing inequality.