Volume 15, Number 5
October 21, 2008

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This Week

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Men against Violence against Women:
Michael Kaufman and White Ribbons

kaufmanLast Monday, Dr. Michael Kaufman gave a passionate and entertaining talk to a sizable Bilkent audience on a very serious issue that should concern us all: Violence against women. While such violence occurs daily on a large scale in Turkey and elsewhere, with "at least one out of every three women around the world [having] been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime," according to the United Nations Development Fund of Women (UNIFEM), the number of people who seem to care remains shamefully low.

While women have long campaigned for more action in relation to this issue, Kaufman's main contribution is stressing the need to actively involve men in efforts to combat violence against women. The reason for this is not merely that the violence occurs at the hands of men, but that men play a role as gatekeepers in male-dominated societies, that general silence on the issue by men is part of what allows the violence to continue, and that men also suffer from a dominant concept of masculinity that underscores the problem. In consequence, significant hope for ending violence against women lies in a combination of engaging men and boys in a redefinition of manhood away from domination or control through aggression, and mobilizing women and men to publicly speak out against the violence that is faced by many women.

Kaufman's talk ended with a presentation of the White Ribbon Campaign. Launched by himself and two other men in Canada in 1991, it has spread around the world to become the largest effort of men working to end violence against women. The campaign's white ribbon represents "a public pledge not to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women," and implies "a call on governments to adopt and enforce laws on all forms of violence against women and to properly support women's programs."

While Kaufman and the White Ribbon Campaign encourages men around the world to initiate community-specific activities in the spirit of the campaign, only time will tell if somebody at Bilkent takes on the challenge and initiates a local campaign aimed at getting members of the Bilkent Community to take a public stand and wear white ribbons on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, November 25.

Kaufman's visit to Bilkent was organized by the Departments of International Relations and Political Science, in cooperation with the UN Population Fund in Ankara. For more information you can visit the following websites:


Tore Fougner (IR)


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