Male refugees should be taught about women’s equality when they arrive in the UK to prevent cases of assault and sexual harassment and aid their interactions with women, a Labour MP has said. Thangam Debbonaire, who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on refugees, said a "refugee integration strategy" would help men "understand what is expected of them”, the Telegraph reported.
The MP, who recently launched an inquiry into the experiences of new refugees in the UK, said the move could be part of a national drive to improve attitudes towards women generally. The Bristol West MP said it could help reduce “fears” in the UK that there could be sexual attacks similar to those against hundreds of women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve. "What I don't want is for the British people to respond to a case of assault or sexual harassment by saying 'no' to more refugees, which seemed to be what the public's response to Germany was in danger of becoming,” she told the Telegraph. "We need to think about how we have those men understand what is expected of them without pretending we ourselves are perfect. "It would need to be sensitively worked out, and could be part of a nationwide campaign to help men and boys in general to look at gender equality in a different way," the MP told the Telegraph. "I'm not saying there's a little ticket you can give incoming men. But I do believe we need compulsory PHSE [Personal, Social and Health Education] classes in schools for all young people and an appropriate version for new arrivals.”
Debbonaire said that some refugees are hailing from cultures where “gender inequality is an extreme struggle” , but she added the move would also benefit males already in the UK. "All men need this education, our indigenous population is not a haven of gender equality and you could have a situation where boys who have settled, just arrived, or been born here, would all get the same information on how they should interact with women." One British woman, who has volunteered in the refugee camp in Calais and Dunkirk, France, told Refinery29 that while she didn't experience any "malicious" sexism, male refugees' attitudes towards female volunteers were outdated in other ways. "As soon as they saw me, a woman, with a saw and an electric drill, they ran to my aid. Offering to do the drilling, sawing, lifting, helping as much as they could. They said 'please, allow me.' To them it was chivalry, and definitely a shock to see a woman manual work. "In the camps, traditional gender roles are very much at play. Women are rarely out 'in public', preferring to stay in the tents, huts, or women-only centres, while the men are outside, in groups." She added that because there are a lot more men in the camps, because they often travel ahead of their wives, sisters and children, many appeared to have a "man as protector" mentality. "There are some very antiquated ideas in the camps, with the older men particularly making comments and jokes. However, it’s never intended as malicious, it’s just a different culture, so education into our way of living – equally – is necessary."