"You cannot enact change, unless you first change yourself": gender-based violence in Greece

Gender-based violence respects no national boundaries. We've been asking men around the world what the situation is in their country - Nikos-Pavlos from Greece shares his thoughts.

Over the past decade, Greece has seen dramatic changes. Not only regarding the collapse of our economy and the radical decline in the standards of living, but in a broader sense. The time to face our society and ourselves has finally arrived. Greece is undergoing this strenuous process of re-establishing its morals and making the choice between the past and the future.

Greece has always been very conservative, regardless of the fact that Greeks like to think that they’re always progressive and the cradle of culture and civilisation. The same, sadly, applies to gender-based violence. Up until very recently it was considered a "taboo", or, to be more precise, a common secret. Even though everyone accepted that a "real man should not have to beat his wife", no one would blink an eye if he indeed did it. It was the norm, under the premise "It is not my job what others do in their house".

Fortunately, great strides have since been made. Nowadays, gender-based violence is condemned by almost everyone and media has done a great job in highlighting this issue. Adding to that progress is the fact that any type of abuse is punishable by law, and in general, a principle of non-aggression permeates Greek mentality.

However, there are still two major factors that make me doubt if my claims are indeed true. First of all, the notion of "keep it within the house" still lingers, so it’s almost certain that the cases reported only amount to a fraction of the actual number. This in turn means that the support system needed is in its very early stages of development. It is almost impossible for the State and Civil Society to deal with a problem that is still very much hidden deep within the dark cleavages of our society.

Greek woman protesting on International WOmen''s Day

Greek woman protesting on International WOmen''s Day

Another huge factor is that for many Greeks gender is still pretty much a binary thing; there are only two genders, each one with its own strengths and weaknesses. For most, gender-based violence towards males doesn't exist, let alone towards people who do not identify with the binary gender norm. Although women are of course the most likely to be victims of violence, in reality it’s an issue that affects everyone and should be seen as such.

All in all, I wouldn't say that gender-based violence is something that is still prevalent today in Greece, since the real problem lies more on gender equality. However, given that it is happening and the majority of people have no real picture of the situation, it is quite clear that there are still many steps until it is totally eliminated.

Why is it important to you that males condemn gender-based violence in 2016? Why is now the time to affect change?

Today, in 2016, everyone is talking about gender equality, women's rights, LGBTQI rights and the such, yet there is little progress towards addressing their symptoms. How does one expect to promote women's rights if they do not fight towards stopping gender-based violence in the first place?

And here comes the distinction between the victim and the culprit. The victim can only speak about the abuse, highlight the problem and try to motivate others. However, the whole point is to affect the culprit, make them realise their mistake and fully change their mentality that lead to the abuse in the first place. So, that's the problem. Victims are speaking about it, maybe not as much as they should be, but they are speaking, the society is motivated to change and then... nothing. This is where it stops, before it has gone a full circle and actually back to the culprit. They won't change, this is a fact, unless someone else convinces them, one way or another, of their wrongdoing,

So it's all up to society to finally affect change. And, although it hurts me to say so, mostly down to males. We live in a misogynistic society. As much as I would love to see females rising together and facing the problem alone, the possibilities of it happening are close to zero. Not only because, women make up most of the victims, but also because this is a crime that everyone has helped foster and especially men. Men are behind this, more than women, men are lawmakers, men are world leaders, men are the culprits. 

For me, the sole reason why it is important that males condemn gender-based violence, is because they are mainly to blame. And why now? Well, this question doesn't even need an answer. The only thing I would reply to that is "Do you believe we need to wait another day, have more cases, cultivate the issue even more, bury it deep within our consciousness and hope that one day, it will magically go away?"

How are you, in your own capacity, going to enact change?

I've always considered myself a man of the world, a feminist, a fighter for equality in all fields. And I know that this does not say much by itself, but it does if you think about it. I have cultivated myself the mentality of non-aggression, knowing that violence, especially based on gender, is never, and should never, be an option. I am one of those that condemn it and will continue to do so until the end of my days. I would never turn a blind eye to someone else who needs my help, either physically, or just a shoulder to cry on and tell their story.

Hear survivors stories, that is what I want to do. By allowing oneself to be open and listen to what they have to say, not only are you helping the victims, but you are also improving yourself. You cannot enact change, unless you first change yourself.

And then, comes phase two, spreading the word. You have heard the story, you are motivated yourself, so what are you waiting for? Do it!

I have been in the position of needing to argue against gender-based violence myself and although, I cannot be sure if I succeeded or not, I am quite certain I laid the beginnings of a foundation. I did affect others, even a tiny bit. Men must speak out, not only during fancy conferences, projects or interviews, but also in our daily lives, when talking to a stranger, a friend, family, or even a culprit.

I know this may not sound as much, but this is not an issue that we can solve just by having a law, a seminar, or even a huge media campaign to spread awareness. The solution lies within me, you, him, her, everyone. Because, at the end of the day, it is up to each and every one of us to initiate change, by first changing our own mentality and then try and influence others. Violence is still very much alive within not only our society, but also ourselves.