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All men should be feminists, even if it is hard work.

Dr. Willy Mutunga

Former Chief Justice, Kenya

Patriarchy has been a negative factor in gender relations. It has perpetrated false masculinity and perpetuated economically and socially costly discriminatory tendencies and exclusionary practices. Whereas the feminist movement has made considerable progress in expanding our knowledge of the retrogressive dynamics and effects of our patriarchal gender system, a lot still needs to be done to disrupt the patriarchal order. Women's representation in high decision-making positions is still comparatively lower; the IAWL reports on women in law and leadership show that women are paid less than men for the same jobs, and socially harmful cultural practices continue. That is why it is important to pay attention to the multiple and reinforcing systems of oppression against women including race, ethnicity, class and much more.


Not all the men who have intellectually embraced gender equality, and recognise its objective merit, socially live the fact. Many men – who enjoy the material benefits of gender hierarchies - still need to consciously move beyond the polite intellectual nods to the cause, and totally immerse themselves in the belief that gender parity is an important necessity. Gender parity is not a perfume for men to wear in order to ‘smell nice’ and appear progressive; rather, it is a moral cause men must commit to their bloodstream and 'behave right’. Residual patriarchy among liberal men, or weak strands of feminist masculinity, may sometimes cause a lot more harm.


Gender-based violence (GBV) and sexual harassment are global epidemics. Most of the victims are women. A FIDA-Kenya study found that up to half of all women in Kenya have experienced GBV. These are alarming figures that should concern all of us as a serious human rights issue. There are several reasons that account for these frighteningly high cases of GBV in our societies, including the lack of adequate laws to protect women, societal attitudes, and the lack of economic empowerment of women that marginalises them. It is important to realize how sexual harassment and GBV are inscribed in societal and cultural norms: First, women are socialized to accept sexual harassment and GBV as part of what they must deal with in their everyday lives. At the same time, the societal norms about it and the silence prescribed by society make it difficult for women to report it. Second, men are socialised to dish out GBV as part of the cultural imprimatur of their negative masculinity.


I commend the Institute for African Women in Law for launching the Gender Equality in Law Campaign. Interventions such as this should be supported by key players in the legal and judicial professions to address the gender inequities that women continue to face.

The legal and judicial professions should safeguard and promote the highest standards of justice, equity and inclusion. We should be the voices that guarantee the rights of women—both within the profession and beyond. During my tenure as the Chief Justice of Kenya, I made it part of my vision to ensure that institutional changes were put in place to raise awareness of gender inequities, develop mechanisms to address them and provide support for female victims while punishing perpetrators. We can all be part of the change. We should all be part of the change.


Women's empowerment is a metaphor for the assault on structural inequalities. It represents the enduring ambition to realise social justice and equality free from the usual divisions along ethnic, gender, class, racial and class lines. That is why we must eschew the traditional divisions between rural and urban, rich and poor, men and women, ethnicity and race that undermine the struggle for equality. While it is important to acknowledge the uniqueness of women's experiences and contributions to society, it is equally important to recognise that the empowerment of women has never been about the exclusion of anyone or any group. It cannot be. That is why our plans must include all. Male support for women's empowerment cannot be made conditional; it must be absolute. But the struggle becomes much easier when we have women role models who are strong and eloquent in their integrity and men whose feminine masculinity is ideologically, philosophically, politically, and socially rooted. Gender equality in law is necessary for our societies to advance. Let us all rally around this campaign and make it a success.



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