Over the years, CASSA has initiated a shift in its priorities to focus more on contemporary issues in South Asian communities. One of these priorities is addressing gender-based violence in the South Asian community. To address this priority, CASSA began a three-year project officially known as “Understanding of Toxic Masculinity and its Impact on Gender-Based Violence and Intimate Partner Violence in South Asian Communities in Canada.” As stated by the project manager, Maryam, the aim is to “take the concerns of our community and create a project that addresses them.” Currently, in year one, the project’s team is focused on data collection, developing the research methodology, and recruiting participants for focus groups.  In their second year, the focus will be on data analysis, curating training, and information for service providers. For the third and final year of the project, they will be working with CASSA to create and launch a public awareness campaign around toxic masculinity, develop intervention tools, and host workshops.

CASSA is partnering with six organizations, the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO), Nisa Homes, Alliance for South AsianAIDS Prevention (ASAAP), Punjabi Community Health Services (PCHS), ISEE Initiatives, and Bangladeshi Center and Community Services (BCCS). Due to the contemporary connotations and sensationalization of the term “toxic masculinity”, to kickstart the project, the team was working with partners on ways to make the definition more accessible and easier to understand.

Following that, the team will interview men specifically; both those who have previously perpetrated abuse but have responded to the invention and also South Asian men in general. They will start to analyze men’s gender roles, the expectations that they have for themselves, and the conflict they experienced when faced with challenging situations. They will also be interviewing women who have been victims of domestic and intimate partner violence with the aim of exploring what factors they felt may be led to violence in their homes.

Concerns were raised by the research team regarding publicly criticizing their own community. They were worried that people from other communities would criticize South Asian men more than they already do. To try and avoid this, the team decided to provide a great magnitude of disclaimers, emphasizing that they are not holding families/men from other cultures and communities to a higher standard and that the presence of domestic violence is not only a South Asian issue. 

It was instrumental for the team to develop a strategy to ensure the male participants being interviewed did not feel under attack, especially in order to facilitate responses that were not defensive. They reached out to two experts in the Edmonton area who helped them develop questions to ask the participants. The team concluded that the most effective way to get the male participants to answer their questions, without feeling attacked, was to take out the personal component from the question. For example, they will not be using phrases such as “how would you react in this situation”, but rather generalize the components of the question.

Currently, the team is recruiting participants and starting outreach for the project with hopes to begin in September 2022. Project materials will be translated into five languages: Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, and Bangla. For the most up-to-date information on their project, please subscribe to the CASSA newsletter above.