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The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Beijing Platform of Action and the Agreed Conclusions of the 48th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) all make explicit calls for prevention to end violence against women. The Cairo Platform of Action at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the Agreed Conclusions of the 48th Session of CSW make specific references to engaging men and boys in ending violence against women, as do numerous UN agency plans of action. The World Health Organization has repeatedly endorsed gender equality work as an important strategy and provided guidance on how to implement it. However, existing UN agreements on violence against women have yet to make explicit calls for scaling up and implementing universal primary prevention programs to end men’s and boys’ use of violence against women and girls.
With the growing array of interventions and strong evidence that interventions with men and boys can work to change the norms and other factors associated with men’s use of violence against women (VAW), the time has come to make primary prevention a part of national and international policies and platforms. Most primary prevention efforts working with men and boys to end VAW to date have been small-scale, reaching several hundred beneficiaries, or at most several thousand. The challenge and urgency for each of these approaches is that they garner adequate funding and global attention, while ensuring that they hold perpetrators accountable, and do not inhibit or diminish funding for the protection of survivors of violence or efforts to empower women (including political and economic empowerment). It is time for approaches that have been shown to lead to changes in men’s use of violence against women be taken to scale via large-scale public institutions and with adequate attention to quality, rigor, and protection of women’s rights.