We know that social, economic and political trends have important links with shifts in gender equality and men’s relationships to women’s empowerment, positively and negatively; trends such as globalisation, urbanisation, increasing (and more gender-equal) enrolment in education, changing types of conflicts and resurgent nationalisms or fundamentalisms. We also know a little about how social processes and trends are mediated by policies, institutions and movements. These range from international frameworks down to national and local policies, institutions and services, but also involve interactions between formal and informal dimensions of institutions and process. A key finding from recent evidence is that there has been a focus on individual women’s or girls’ empowerment rather than policy attention to gender relations or structural perspectives, or these complex interactions.
Gendered inequalities and power relations are intersecting (or 'working together') with other inequalities, such as social class, age, ethnicity, race, ability and sexuality. Yet, more needs to be learned and shared on these topics; particularly on the way that masculinities figure in such intersectionality and how that affects linkages and relations between different political projects, movements and struggles. In the language of the principles underpinning the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), men’s and women’s lives are also ‘indivisible’, where personal identity also reflects social, economic and political dimensions, which constantly interact and coexist across both public and private spaces. We therefore need to explicitly link masculinities and men relationally to women’s economic empowerment, the sharing of care work, sexual health and wellbeing, equality in public participation and with responding to conflict and violence (including gender-based violence).
There have been recent contradictory trends in the promotion of men’s Sexual Health and Rights (SRH) in ways that advance gender equality and support the SRH of girls and women. We know that institutions – including political, religious and health systems – have influenced these trends in complex and sometimes conflicting ways. Key areas of concern centre on how to promote and ensure the sustainability of long-term and large-scale attitude and behaviour change regarding men's sexual health. For both men and women, there is a limited understanding of how sexuality intersects with SRH and more grounded, ethnographic research on men’s SRH is required to better understand the cultural, social, and economic drivers behind men’s SRH, and the diversity of men’s sexual identities, practices and relations.
More broadly, dominant constructions of masculinity often promote notions of invulnerability and risk-taking, which drive men’s poor health and excess mortality. Understanding the institutions and policies that support or hinder men’s health and wellbeing is critical for identifying effective responses to the ways that social, economic and political dynamics encourage men to compromise their health and public health. The current stock of knowledge in the area of men’s health provides a limited basis for meeting men’s health needs. Further evidence is needed to assess how efforts to improve men’s health behaviours and gender attitudes influence women’s health and wellbeing, using a gender relational approach. This would also include relational considerations of men, boys and masculinities within research on the health of women and girls.
The Health and wellbeing chapter of the report ‘Engendering Men: A Collaborative Review of Evidence on Men and Boys in Social Change and Gender Equality’ provides a useful overview to the issue. Also, this EMERGE case study shows how the Brazilian Ministry of Health, along with civil society, medical associations, and academic actors, created the pioneering National Comprehensive Healthcare Policy for Men (PNAISH). Additionally, the Men, Masculinities and HIV programme looks at how to effectively tackle the challenge of achieving gender equality, particularly looking at the role of men in addressing HIV.