International Men's Day (IMD) is an annual international event celebrated on 19 November. Inaugurated in 1999 in Trinidad and Tobago, the day and its events find support from a variety of individuals and groups in Australia, the Caribbean, North America, Asia, Europe and Africa.
Speaking on behalf of UNESCO, Director of Women and Culture of Peace Ingeborg Breines said of IMD, "This is an excellent idea and would give some gender balance." She added that UNESCO was looking forward to cooperating with the organizers.
The objectives of celebrating an International Men's Day include focusing on men's and boys' health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models. It is an occasion to highlight discrimination against men and boys and to celebrate their achievements and contributions, in particular for their contributions to community, family, marriage, and child care. The broader and ultimate aim of the event is to promote basic humanitarian values.
International Men's Day is celebrated in over 60 countries, including Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Australia, India, China, United States, Romania, Singapore, Malta, United Kingdom, South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Seychelles, Burundi, Hungary, Ireland, Isle of Man, Ghana, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine, France, Italy, Pakistan, Cuba, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Grenada and Cayman Islands, on 19 November, and global support for the celebration is broad.
Calls for an International Men's Day have been noted since at least the 1960s when it was reported that "many men have been agitating privately to make 23 Feb International Men's Day, the equivalent of 8 March, which is International Women's Day" In the Soviet Union this was The Red Army and Navy Day since 1922 which was later renamed Defender of the Fatherland Day. The date was informally viewed a male counterpart of Women's Day (8 March) in some territories of the Union, however due to the day's limited focus to historical events some countries of the former union have moved to adopt the more 'male specific' 19 November as International Men's Day, including Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia.
In 1968 American Journalist John P. Harris wrote an editorial in the Salina Journal highlighting a lack of balance in the Soviet system which promoted an International Women's Day for the female workers, without promoting a corresponding day for male workers. Harris stated that while he did not begrudge Soviet women their March day of glory, it was clear that the lack of equality for males exhibited a serious flaw in the Communist system which, "makes much of the equal rights it has given the sexes, but as it turns out, the women are much more equal than the men." Harris stated that while the men toiled along in their grooves doing what their government and womenfolk tell them to do, there was no day when males are recognised for their service, leading Harris to conclude that "This strikes me as unwarranted discrimination and rank injustice." Similar questions about the inequality of observing women's day without a corresponding men's day occurred in media publications from the 1960s through to the 1990s, at which time the first attempts at inaugurating international Men's Day are recorded.
In the early 1990s, organizations in the United States, Australia and Malta held small events in February at the invitation of Professor Thomas Oaster who directed the Missouri Center for Men's Studies at the University of Missouri–Kansas City. Oaster successfully promoted the event in 1993 and 1994, but his following attempt in 1995 was poorly attended and he ceased plans to continue the event in subsequent years. Australians also ceased to observe the event (until they re-established it in 19 November 2003), whilst the Maltese Association for Men's Rights continued as the only country that continued to observe the event each year in February. As the only remaining country still observing the original February date, the Maltese AMR Committee voted in 2009 to shift the date of their observation to 19 November to be in synchrony with all other countries which had begun to celebrate IMD on that date.
While International Men's and Women's Day are considered together as 'gender focussed' events they are not ideological mirror images, as both events highlight issues considered unique to men or to women. The history of IMD is primarily concerned with celebrating issues considered unique to men’s and boys experiences, and the emphasis on positive role models "is deemed necessary in a social context which is often fascinated with images of males behaving badly... In highlighting positive male role models IMD attempts to show that males of all ages respond much more energetically to positive role models than they do to negative stereotyping."