Mark Brooks was the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Batley and Spen in 2019, and has an OBE for services to male victims of domestic abuse. These are his personal views.
It’s International Men’s Day today, which provides a real opportunity to focus on a whole range of issues that impact on men and boys. It also promotes the charities that support them, and allows for a positive conversation about the contribution they make to their families, society and their country.
There is also a House of Commons debate and I am hoping that our MPs urge the Government to start to hone in and tackle matters specific to men and boys’ wellbeing – which, in turn, affect women and girls, whom we share our lives and society with. If we want to create an inclusive Britain we should ask nothing less of our parliamentarians.
International Men’s Day is not an “establishment” promoted or endorsed event; in fact, to the contrary, it is often met with a wall of indifference as are a number of the issues that men and boys face. It is one that is created and led by the public, charities and organisations large and small across the UK.
It is very much in tune with a grassroots day because without any “establishment” promotion, it will be marked in over 150 ways. Big corporations have sponsored motivational conferences with well-known speakers (Colin Jackson and Nigel Owens) and the Civil Service will be running mental health events for its staff. There will also be the likes of Men’s Sheds Cymru’s Bring a Butty event, to fundraisers for Oxfordshire Mind. Twitter will be alive with the use of #InternationalMensDay.
It shows the public care about:
- the alarming suicide rate with over 12 men per day taking their own lives;
- 12,000 men per year are still dying from prostate cancer;
- the fact that boys are behind girls at every education stage;
- 60 per cent of the people dying from Covid-19 are men with little explanation of why this is;
- 85 per cent of those sleeping rough on our streets are men;
- 700,000 men are victims of domestic abuse per year;
- 12,000 men are subjected to sexual violence per year; and
- 75,000 men are in prison.
If the public care about these issues, we need to do too and be proactive about having policies that seek to address these both on broad terms but also look closely at how they affect men. What is it specifically that means more men take their own lives or are behind at school and less likely to go to university? However, because it is not a gender competition we should also be proactively looking at how these areas also affect women.
The Government should consider a range of policies including:
- Men’s Health Strategy – A number of countries such as Ireland and Australia have a strategy looking at male cancers, mental health and promoting more accessible services. This is also advocated by the World Health Organisation Europe.
- Male Suicide Prevention Action Plan – To focus in on the causes of male suicide with a plan to greatly reduce the rate.
- To provide better support for those at risk or suffering from prostate and testicular cancer – As advocated by Prostate Cancer UK, every man with prostate cancer, or at risk of it, should have access to the same high-quality diagnosis, treatment and care, no matter where in the UK they live.
- To introduce a parallel strategy to the Ending Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) titled Ending Intimate Violence Against Men and Boys – In policy terms, men who are victims of domestic abuse, sexual violence and force marriage are victims of “VAWG” crimes, as are sexually abused boys. As well as being factually incorrect, it makes them invisible.
- To commission an official inquiry into the educational underachievement of boys – There is no agreement on what causes this 30-year problem, let alone how to resolve it. It is time this changed.
We need to do more to resolve men and boys wellbeing issues because to live in a mature and inclusive society, we need to both question why a number of these issues are affecting men and then take action.
More so, we need to act, because the public across the UK want action and are concerned. Why support international Men’s Day otherwise?
Just because it is not fashionable within the Westminster Bubble, in Medialand or in the broader Central London establishment, we still have a moral imperative to act. In fact, as was shown on the Brexit vote and the last year’s General Election win being unfashionable is very fashionable indeed with normal men and women across the UK. They care enough to act, so should we.
Happy International Men’s Day everyone!