Highlighting the link between gender-based violence and masculinity, speakers at a webinar have stressed the necessity of ensuring everyone's involvement in eliminating toxic masculinity.
They were speaking at an online discussion titled "Masculinity and Gender-Based Violence: Connecting the dots," jointly organised by the EMK Center and The Business Standard on Wednesday.
"We need to go many more miles to understand the challenges that hinder development, and toxic masculinity is one of such challenges. Masculinity becomes toxic the moment it creates a barrier to equality," said Palash Das, programme specialist at the UN Women Bangladesh.
He said, "Masculinity comes with the power of violence."
Masculinity is linked to domestic violence that has increased during the pandemic globally, Palash said.
"Sometimes to convince individuals, you need certain laws and rules in place. Institutions need to make commitments to citizens and take up responsibilities, and the state needs to define what gender-based violence actually encompasses. If it is not done, taking actions will not be possible," he said.
The UN official also put emphasis on instilling the sense of equity into men at an early stage of their life.
"If you do not provide appropriate knowledge to boys, you cannot make them understand what the negativities of toxic masculinity are," Palash said.
Tasaffy Hossain, founder and coordinator of Bonhishikha, a non-profit organisation advocating women's rights and gender equality, said to break the barrier of toxic masculinity, people must learn to unlearn what they had been taught by the society in favour of masculinity.
She said the characteristics that apparently identify somebody as masculine or feminine are often valued by society. "And it (society) considers masculine attributes more valuable," she added.
She also noted that this trend in social behaviour creates a disparity between men and women.
"It is easy to say that just because one man has treated you badly does not mean that all will behave this way. It is rarely one man. By the time a girl gets to puberty, she experiences enough discrimination," said the Bonhishikha founder.
She urged the youths to listen to the discriminations and try to be empathetic.
The gender rights activist, however, predicted that this situation would eventually end and said in future gender as a social construct would become more fluid.
"We must know that gender is a socially constructed idea to distinguish between a boy and a girl," said Tasaffy.
While exchanging her views on transforming masculinity, she said it is necessary to create space to communicate between different genders with the goal to discuss and resolve the issues linked with masculinity and gender-based violence.
Palash Das also said the prevention of gender-based violence is possible through effective communication.
Covid-19 has posed challenges to those who advocate for equity, he added.
A recent study shows that at least 235 women have been murdered by their husbands or in-laws during the first nine months of 2020 in Bangladesh.
It has also revealed that rape, cyber harassment, molestations and other gender-based violence have increased during the pandemic.
Asif Uddin Ahmed, assistant professor at ULAB and acting director of the EMK Center, moderated the programme.