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"Before the War, I Was a Man": Men and Masculinities in Eastern DR Congo

This study analyses the relationship between sexual and gender-based violence and hegemonic masculinities in the conflict zone of North Kivu province in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The study’s main focus lies on the discrepancies between dominant ideals of masculinity and the actual realities of men’s lives. As men try to enact masculine ideals of breadwinner and family head, the current political and economic context puts them under increasing pressure. Respondents drew a direct connection between the resulting sense of failure and unhealthy outlets for asserting masculinity, lack of productivity and violence. They were critical of the fact that most programs dealing with sexual and gender-based violence focus exclusively on supporting women. It is argued here that humanitarian interventions do not recognise the interdependent and interactive nature of gender. Their antagonising effect is evidenced by the high level of men’s resistance to programs and campaigns promoting gender equality. The study further highlights the role of hegemonic masculinity in creating a general climate of violence and conflict, pointing up the need for holistic approaches that empower men to make non-violent life choices.

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