UK Politics

Guide to International Men's Day

Man in Corsica

Thursday was International Men's Day - MPs held debate to mark the occasion and highlight the issue of male suicide rates. There has been some controversy, however...

Why do men need their own day?

Surely every day is international men's day, say the critics. The UK organisers of International Men's Day disagree and say the fact that 13 men a day take their own lives shows the need to raise men's issues.

Is there an International Women's Day?

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It's been around in one form or another for more than 100 years. It was a public holiday in the Soviet Union. Now it's celebrated around the world on 8 March, with events and demonstrations, like this one in Brazil, aimed at promoting women's equality.

When did men's day start?

Calls for an International Men's Day began in the 1960s but it did not get under way until the 1990s. It is celebrated on 19 November in more than 60 countries, according to the organisers. In the UK, there are debates and get-togethers being held across the country. The idea is to promote male role models, increase awareness of men's health issues, improve gender equality and highlight discrimination. Or simply to get people to show some appreciation for the men in their life.

Why are MPs debating it?

Conservative MP Philip Davies managed to secure a debate in Westminster Hall, a side chamber to the House of Commons, after initially being rejected by the backbench business committee, which decides these things. He says MPs never get a chance to debate men's issues like the alarming increase in male suicides, lower male life expectancy, male victims of domestic violence, low educational achievement among working class white boys and the treatment of men in child custody cases.

Commons spat

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Media captionWomen and men debate: Phillips v Davies

Labour MP Jess Phillips sparked a social media storm after she mocked Philip Davies for trying to get a debate about International Men's Day.

The Birmingham Yardley MP could not hold back her laughter when he was originally putting his case to the backbench business committee. The idea that "men don't have the opportunity to ask questions in this place is a frankly laughable thing," she told the Tory MP. "I say this as the only woman on this committee."

The spat continued on the BBC's Daily Politics programme.

Ms Phillips has since said she regrets being "so flippant" and insists she cares deeply about suicide and other issues affecting men and boys.

Mr Davies distanced himself from the online abuse directed at Ms Phillips and suggested she report the worst threats to the police.

He claims "political correctness" is harming men's health. He told The Daily Telegraph: "If a male MP had reacted in that way about the need for debate on International Women's Day, there would have been hell to pay. It's entirely possible you'd be removed from the chamber or have the Whip removed."

Male suicide

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Recent years have seen a big increase in men killing themselves in the UK - 78% of suicides are male, with middle-aged men being particularly vulnerable.

Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at mental health charity Mind, told the Huffington Post: "It's not always clear why someone may experience depression, but significant life changes are thought to be a factor - and men in their 40s may be at a point in their life when they have recently experienced divorce, bereavement or redundancy for example.

"We do know though that men are less likely than women to seek help with feelings of depression - and it's possible that middle aged men are being adversely affected by the feeling they should keep a stiff upper lip at all times."

What can MPs do about it?

The Campaign Against Living Miserably (Calm), which petitioned MPs for today's debate, along with other mental health charities, has hailed it as an "historic" moment.

It is calling on all local authorities to develop and implement a suicide prevention plan and for more money to be spent on research into the subject.

The charity will also be handing out more than 25,000 Mind the Chap Oyster card holders on Thursday evening at central London underground stations.

When is the debate?

The Westminster Hall debate entitled Male suicide and International Men's Day begins at 1:30 GMT. You will be able to watch it live on the UK Parliament's website.

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