Redefining Masculinity and Preventing Gender-Based Violence by Harish Sadani

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by kavita gonsalves (proposing) on Monday, March 11, 2013


Session type

Technical level

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Gender-Based Violence Against Women is currently a serious social issue in India. Efforts to tackle gender issues including gender-based violence have traditionally concentrated on empowering women to assert themselves. This approach insulates 'Men' from the process of transformation, keeps them embedded in their patriarchal mould, reinforcing masculine stereotype and furthering gender divide.

Through Men Against Violence and Abuse (MAVA)'s pioneering work since 1993, I have been shaping a movement that enables men in deconstructing masculinity and breaking out of their dominant masculine image and help form an equal society that promotes harmony, respects and empowers women and improves their quality of life.

Using innovative, out-of–the box ideas, MAVA's team engages young men in schools, colleges and communities in healthy conversations around sexual health and violence and through a gradual process of self-introspection, evolving positive models of masculinity that not only empower women but humanize men.


Using various innovative ways, I have been engaging men through MAVA, at a 'Curative' and 'Preventive' level.

At a Curative Level – Counseling and Guidance is being provided through trained communicators to needy Men and Women, Group Counseling and Workshops on Anger-Management, Self-Defense and Assertiveness trainings for women are periodically organized.

At a Preventive Level, various social communications media to engage Men are being used: Periodic Gender-Sensitization Workshops for adolescent boys and young men, Annual Magazine by and for Men, Observing International Women's Day (8th March) and Global Protest Fortnight (25 Nov to 10 Dec) by getting Men from diverse fields come together and collectively stand up for Women subjected to gender violence and through Special Campaigns with support of other civil society groups and the government.


An open and inquisitive mind.

Speaker bio

Harish was brought up in a community housing home where as a child he witnessed my neighbours’ lives up close, observing how women faced oppression and violence even at home. His home reversed the order of the world outside. His father’s sensitivity and willingness to share `women’s chores’ coupled with the influence of paternal aunts, left a strong imprint on his character. At an early age, he began to question gender stereotypes. Why was he teased as being a 'sissy’ when my friends found me helping my aunts with chores at home or when he refused to play with boisterous boys?

These questions plagued me throughout his adolescence. As a young adult, he started writing letters to editors of newspapers and magazines to bring attention to gender-related issues. Inspired by the film portrayals of actress late Smita Patil, he began to write to her -- as perhaps any fan would -- but specifically focusing on the roles played by her through the lens of gender. She responded to his letters and thus begun an unusual and brief pen-friendship where he analyzed her cinema roles and she offered her own views in return.

As a young man and a student of social work at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai,he began to feel that the exclusion and absence of men in movements to fight violence against women was a big gap that needed to be closed. Identifying men as perpetrators was not enough; the attempt to change their attitude was essential. Men have been seen as 'part of the problem' by all concerned, but unless they are seen as part of the solution', can we really address the root cause of the 'gender' problem? Men were not born violent, they were conditioned by the patriarchal society’s image of masculinity and were trapped in it -- it was time to question the image and break out of it. Men needed emancipation.

His thoughts found resonance in an advertisement that was brought out in Indian Express and sister publications in Mumbai in September 1991. It said: `WANTED: Men who believe wives are not for battering. If you are a man strongly opposed to violence towards wives from their husbands, and would like to help stop it, then send us your name, address and phone number, if you have one’. 205 men answered the advertisement, including me. From this, a group of 30 men interacted for a year during which a core group of members emerged with him taking the mantle and lead. Men Against Violence and Abuse (MAVA) was thus formed in March 1993 to engage men to stop and prevent gender-based violence against women.