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International Men's Day

Volume 616: debated on Thursday 27 October 2016

Some women might be forgiven for thinking that every day is International Men’s Day, but this year it falls on 19 November. The theme will be “Making a Difference for Men and Boys”, and there will be a focus on the very important issue of male suicide. As with International Women’s Day, it will be up to Back Benchers to bid for parliamentary time for a debate on the subject, and I encourage them to do so. Of course, I welcome any initiatives that support gender equality and its meaning in people’s lives.

So the answer is that the Minister has no plans. Perhaps her Department ought to take International Men’s Day as seriously as the Prime Minister has. She has said:

“I recognise the important issues that this event seeks to highlight, including men’s health, male suicide rates and the under-performance of boys in schools. These are serious issues that must be addressed in a considered way.”

Why is International Men’s Day not as important to this Minister as it is to the Prime Minister?

Let me gently say that I think that my hon. Friend is being a little unfair. The role of the Government Equalities Office is to tackle inequality wherever we find it. All parents of sons throughout the country, including me, will be conscious of and concerned about the issues that the hon. Gentleman and, indeed, the Prime Minister have mentioned. However, I am also aware that there are parts of the world where girls are routinely subjected to genital mutilation, forced marriage and sexual violence. For me, equality is not a zero sum game.

Does the Minister agree that International Men’s Day will give fathers of daughters an opportunity to ask, for instance, why those daughters may have to wait another 30 years for equal pay, and will give men a platform on which to ask why there continues to be a problem of violence against women and girls? Does she agree that it will give men an opportunity to express concern about those subjects?

International Men’s Day in the United Kingdom takes a very gender-inclusive approach, which is why issues affecting women and girls are also involved. The hon. Gentleman made an important point about the gender pay gap. We welcomed reports this week that it has been reduced again, and is now narrower than it has ever been. However, he was also right to point out that, while focusing on the very important issues that International Men’s Day raises, we must never forget all the women around the world who are suffering every single day.

No doubt, in seeking ways of celebrating International Women’s Day, the Minister has looked around the world to find out which countries do it best. Which countries best celebrate International Men’s Day, and will she note the example that they provide?

I know that 60 countries celebrate International Men’s Day in various ways, focusing on men’s health and wellbeing, discrimination against men and any inequalities that they face, improving gender relations, and promoting gender equality. That creates a safer world for everyone, and is always to be commended.

The aim of International Men’s Day is to promote gender equality and highlight positive male role models. In the United Kingdom, two women are killed by a partner or ex-partner every week. Action is urgently needed to tackle deeply ingrained and damaging inequality. Does the Minister agree that we should support campaigns to tackle misogyny and sexist attitudes, and that men have a crucial role to play in that?

I could not have put it better myself. The hon. Lady is right to draw attention to the fact that last year 81 women were killed by violent partners or ex-partners. In fact, 19 men were killed by violent partners or ex-partners as well. The Government are absolutely committed to tackling violence against women and girls—it is of the utmost importance, which is why we have put more money into it than ever before—and we will not rest until that happens.