Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland, spoke before the U.N. General Assembly on Monday and announced that his country and Suriname would hold a conference to discuss gender equality…in which only men and boys would be invited to attend.
This will be the first time only male leaders have met to discuss the issues involved with gender inequality. Bragi elaborated, “We want to bring men and boys to the table on gender equality in a positive way.”
The termed “Barbershop” conference will be held in January 2015. Bragi explained in his speech that there would be a special focus on what men can do to prevent and not perpetuate violence against women.
The Iceland and Suriname conference will be part of a global campaign launched to get 100,000 men and boys involved in the fight for gender equality by 2015. So far, the campaign is most notably known for Emma Watson’s recent speech about the U.N.’s ‘HeForShe’ initiative. Watson formally invited men to join the fight, stating, “Men don’t have the benefits of equality, either.” She explained that the campaign was about freedom for everyone to be able to be who they really are without the binary idea of gender confining them.
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The Associated Press reported that Bragi made the announcement in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the 1995 U.N. women’s conference.
The Global Gender Gap Report of 2013 ranked Iceland as the top country in gender equality while Suriname, a South American country, was ranked 110th.
While the all-male Iceland conference has a positive intention and may be successful at introducing more men into the conversation of gender equality, which is a noteworthy feat, the gender restrictions involved have problematic implications. Watson’s famous speech called for men to participate in the discussion, not exclude women from it. If male leaders set the example that talking about gender inequality without female leaders even present is accepted and positive, then the conference only shows how deeply rooted these problems are on an international level.