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The topic of Men and Gender Equality is seen within the gender equality discourse as somewhat ambiguous. On one hand, gender equality policies have traditionally been contextualised mainly as a “women’s issue” – as women have been the driving force behind gender equality strategies and have been seen as the only ones who benefit from a more equal society (European Commission:2013). On the other hand, rather too often, men are seen as a monolithic group who benefit from inequality and therefore are reluctant to change the status quo.  

However, in the last decade there has been increasing debate on how to engage more men into gender equality initiatives and how gender inequality affects different groups of men. Numerous men’s initiatives (mostly co-ordinated by civil society organisations) that support gender equality have been set up in Europe and beyond. Some European countries have also incorporated men’s policies into wider gender equality policy frameworks as it is in the case of Austria and Germany. These developments have also taken place on the EU level.

The European Commission’s Roadmap for Equality between Women and Men 2006-2010 specifically stressed the need for men to be more involved in care activities. It stresses that Men should be encouraged to take up family responsibilities, in particular through incentives to avail of parental and paternity leaves and to share leave entitlements with women.   

The European Commission’s Strategy for Equality Between Women and Men 2010-2015 looks at men and gender equality from a horizontal perspective. It states that gender equality needs the active contribution, support and participation of men and policies should also address gender-related inequalities that affect boys/men such as literacy rates, early school-leaving and occupational health.

The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) touched on the issue of men and gender equality in 2010 when an expert meeting on men and gender equality took place in Vilnius. Following the meeting a study was launched to identify men’s involvement in gender equality in the European Union. As part of the study information on those organizations working in the field of men and gender equality was gathered. This information was made available via a web based database. Concurrently, the European Commission launched the study The Role of Men in Gender Equality – European Strategies and Insights. The aim of the study is to provide better knowledge of the role and positioning of men in gender equality issues. The study stresses the need for balanced approach to men and gender equality by addressing both genders in order to sustainably change gender imbalances and inequalities in European society.

On 30 May 2013 EIGE organized a meeting on men and gender equality which took place in Zagreb. The main discussions at the meeting were around the possible focus of a debate on men and gender equality on EIGE’s on-line discussion forum EuroGender. The experts from the member states as well with EIGE identified three possible topics for further debate: (a) men’s policies as part of gender equality policies; (b) intersectional issues; (c) men and their roles in contemporary societies. These three areas will form the basis of the on-line discussion which will take place on 22 October 2013. 

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