I found myself to be the only male Tory MP at the flashmob dance held in Parliament Square today by the One Billion Rising campaign about violence against women. I was only too happy to be there. I am sure there would have been more if they had known about it.
Most violence against women is done by men. That sounds like an understatement. This is not just something that happens in war-torn foreign countries. This happens in our own towns, cities and villages.
Only recently, Essex MPs (mostly Tories) had an urgent meeting with Essex police about the handling - mishandling - of cases of violence against women. Gone are the days (I am pleased to say) that the police will report that "it was only a domestic".
Most women who are raped, beaten up or murdered are victims of someone they say they know, or even someone that they love.
Violence against women is endemic in every constituency. It is classless. It happens to rich women as well as to poor women, regardless of education, age, religion or none.
Why did I go? Violence against women affects men. These women are our mothers, sisters, partners, daughters. No man would dismiss this campaign whose life has been touched by violence against someone he loves. But I went because men have to be part of this campaign. We cannot leave women to try fix this problem on their own. Men commit most of the violence. Men still run so many of the institutions - the police, the judges, the courts system - which historically were poor at addressing the causes of violence against women - or dealing humanely with the victims.
Men should be passionate about this campaign, because we can help stop it, and by caring about it we are merely demonstrating that we are human beings with feelings. We men are brutalised if we regard this as purely a women's issue. This is not disempowering of men. It is liberating for men as well as for women.
There are some men (and women it must be said!) who feel threatened by women's campaigns like this - as though International Women's Day is conceding to women something we men are not able to have for ourselves. It has been International Men's Day in most of the world for most of the time (another understatement?) .
I am happy to confront women who feel that women's rights should be about reining in the men, but there are not many of them. This is about curtailing criminality to towards which there has been turned a historically cultural blind eye. I would urge men to join with the women who are fighting this campaign, because it will make for a world which is safer and more human for all of us.
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