A Tory MP has warned that parliament is too "politically correct" to seriously address the issues facing men.
Speaking on International Men's Day, Philip Davies said men's issues were being "forgotten" because of an assumption in Westminster that "everything is biased against women".
He said men face "clear discrimination" in the criminal courts, warned of the high male suicide rate, and said many fathers had trouble getting access to their own children.
The MP for Shipley rejected claims from a female Labour MP that his speech was "misogynistic", saying: "She needs to get out more, quite frankly."
Last week, Davies was finally granted the three-hour debate in Westminster Hall, after his initial request was angrily dismissed by Labour MP Jess Phillips who sits on the backbench business committee.
He said it was "only right" for International Men's Day to be debated, just as International Women's Day was every year, and claimed he had been fighting the "blight of political correctness" for the last decade.
"I want to be very clear – I don't believe there is actually an issue between men and women," he said. "I think often the problems are stirred up by those who might be described as militant feminists and the politically correct males who sometimes pander to it."
He said "one of the most depressing things to happen" was the introduction of the Commons committee for women and equalities, along with women's question time and a women's minister.
"I want to say that to assume that men can't adequately represent women is a nonsense, just as it is to say only women can represent other women," he said.
"As a man I can say quite clearly that Margaret Thatcher represented my views very nicely indeed, but I'm not sure she would have been the pin-up to many of the politically correct, left-leaning women that are obsessed with having more women in parliament today."
Davies batted away a number of interventions from female MPs during his speech.
He said: "The problem is in virtually everything we do in this House, it seems to start with the premise that everything is biased against women and something must be done about it. Never an appreciation that men's issues are just as important and men can be just as badly treated in some areas as women."
As Tory MP Helen Whately urged him to "move on" and speak about men's mental health, Davies told her: "I'm sorry that pointing out that men are actually badly treated in the world is so discomforting for her to have to listen to, but that's part of the problem we have in this House."
Davies said that more men than women took their own lives every year, with nearly 5,000 men "committing suicide" in 2013 alone.
Labour MP Madeleine Moon took him to task for using that term. "No one in this country committed suicide since 1961 when suicide was no longer a crime," she said. "You commit murder, you commit burglary, you commit arson, you don't commit suicide, you take your own life but you don't commit."
Davies replied: "Let's not get bogged down in politically correct terminology."
He spoke about how the breakdown of relationships could lead to suicides – and said it was "quite clear" that family courts were more likely to place children with the mother rather than the father.
"Some women do use their children as a stick to beat the father, either because they're bitter about the failed relationship, financial reasons, or because they've moved on," he said.
"Women know for sure that babies are their own – but fathers can never know 100% for sure this is the case without formally having a DNA test."
Labour MP Liz McInnes intervened to say: "I do feel that the evidence he's presented has been anecdotal and there's no concrete evidence. And I am concerned that this discussion is straying down a slightly misogynistic streak."
Davies said: "I'm sorry she feels like that. Again this is part of the politically correct culture we have in this place. The moment anyone raises anything that affects men, people accuse them of being misogynists."
Urging her to speak to her constituents, he added: "She may learn that it's right to raise these issues in parliament. It's not misogynistic to raise the issues that some fathers in her constituency have in having trouble getting custody or access to their children. If she doesn't think that's a problem, I think she needs to get out more, quite frankly."
That led Labour MP Mike Gapes, who was chairing the debate, to call order – saying the debate must be conducted in a "civil manner".
Davies said there was "clear discrimination" against men in the criminal justice system.
He said that while 5% of the prison population at any one time was female, "there has always been so much consternation, time, and effort exuded over the very small number of women in prison".
"For every category of offence, men are more likely to be sent to prison than women. That is a fact," he added.
While the average sentence length is 17.7 months for men, it is 11.6 months for women, he claimed. And he criticised the decision of a judge last month to not imprison a babysitter who admitted sexual activity with a 11-year-old boy.
"There is no way on this planet that a male who had sex with a 11-year-old girl would have avoided prison," he said. "These facts and figures show there are certainly questions to be answered about the treatment of men compared to women in the justice system. It seems there is clear discrimination against men."
Former equalities minister Maria Miller warned him that "striving for equality isn't a competition between men and women".
She said: "Women face discrimination on a daily basis, that's not a myth. He does not do his case much good at all in an attempt to try and belittle that."
Emily Ashton is a senior political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Emily Ashton at email@example.com.
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