Today, November 19, the global community will commemorate International Men’s Day. However, in many societies the issues affecting boys and men are not being addressed in a meaningful manner. This is usually so because males are viewed as the stronger sex and are expected to be tough and as such work through their problems in the private sphere.
According to Jerome Teelucksingh, who conceptualized the day
in 1999, International Men’s Day is about highlighting discrimination against
men and boys, promoting gender equality and celebrating the contributions of
men and boys to community and family.
The theme for this year’s IMD is “working to expand
reproductive options for men”. It is expected that this year’s theme will
encourage discussion on ways to enhance cooperation in addressing reproductive
issues that affect men such as, safe sexual practices, family planning and
According to the manual on Adolescent Reproductive Health
Issues (August 2004) the mean age at which boys in Jamaica have their first
sexual experience is 12.4 years. The same source added that by age eighteen
years over 60 per cent of young men have had sexual intercourse.
Early sexual activity often leads to reproductive and health
challenges in a significant number of males. Adolescence is a period of sexual exploration
and curiosity and in a number of instances (young) men enter sexual relations in
order to prove their manhood usually without the use of contraceptive methods
Boys for the most part are socialized to be rough and tough
and unfortunately this gender stereotype runs counter to the notion of men
seeking medical care and attention. As men we usually wait and
wait until the pain has become unbearable and intolerable before we seek out
medical care. This tendency certainly has negative implications for the quality
of life for our men. A male who readily seeks medical attention is not viewed
favourably by other males and indeed the wider society as this is not
considered as manly or macho. As a result many men suffer in silence from
various health issues, a significant part of this suffering also impacts the
mental status of our men. Men are always the last to go and talk with a
counsellor or psychiatrist because of pride and the male ego. The issue of positive role models for our
young men to emulate cannot be overstated. Positive male leadership is woefully
lacking across all sectors of the Jamaican society. Our institutions of
socialization, namely the school and church have failed our young men in terms
of providing positive role models for our boys to emulate.
Our female dominated schools
and classrooms provide very little avenue for our males to be mentored and or
emulate male leadership. With more and
more families being headed by females there has been and continues to be the
urgent need for men of good character and standing in the society to mentor our
boys. A mother cannot teach her son how to be a man.
Promoting gender equality must
include examining those specific issues affecting and impacting men separate
and apart from those of women. Our boys continue to under-perform and under
achieve at all levels of the education system in the society from the primary
to the tertiary level. Disturbingly this
trend will likely continue for some time if it is that as a society are boys do
not feel a sense of security and safety in the space they occupy and manoeuvre
on a daily basis.
We seriously need to revisit
our national gender policy with the aim of ensuring that neither sex is being
disadvantaged. On this very important day let us celebrate our collective
masculinity while at the same time recognizing our differences as men. Let us
recommit and regain our roles in our families as we work towards improving
gender relations and promote unity in the Jamaican society.
Wayne Campbell is an educator
and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect
culture and or gender issues.