Young Men and the Construction of Masculinity in Sub-Saharan Africa: Implications for HIV/AIDS, Conflict, and Violence


Barker, Gary, and Christine Ricardo. 2005. "Young Men and the Construction of Masculinity in Sub-Saharan Africa: Implications for HIV/AIDS, Conflict, and Violence." Working Paper, Conflict Prevention and Reconstruction, World Bank, Washington, DC.

Authors: Gary Barker, Christine Ricardo


In the literature on conflict and HIV/AIDS, African men are often presented in simplistic and explicitly negative terms. It is generally taken for granted that those who use weapons are men whilst those who suffer the consequences of conflict are women, and that men always hold power in sexual relationships whilst women are always powerless. Certainly, African women and girls have been made vulnerable by the behaviour of men and boys in conflict settings and in sexual relationships. Yet the fact that gender hierarchies also oppress some men is seldom discussed. What of the men who are survivors and victims of violence, or who are displaced or orphaned due to conflict? What of the men who are brothers or husbands of women who have been sexually abused during conflict? This paper argues that applying a more sophisticated gender analysis as it relates to conflict and HIV/AIDS is essential in order to understand how both women and men are made vulnerable by rigid ideas of masculinity and by gender hierarchies. References are made to alternative, non-violent forms of masculinity in Africa and to elements of traditional gender socialisation (the process by which individuals learn and teach others about the roles and behaviours that are expected of a women or man in a given society) which promote more gender-equitable attitudes on the part of young men. Included are examples of young men whose stories reveal ways in which men can question and counter prevailing norms of masculinity. A summary is also provided of promising programmes for including men in the promotion of gender-equity.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Men, Masculinity/ies, Gender Roles, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Hierarchies, Gender Equity, Health, HIV/AIDS, Sexual Violence, Violence Regions: Africa

Year: 2005

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