Shame, stigma, devastating health repercussions, criminalization, decreased livelihood opportunities, and a lack of services are just some of the challenges in tackling conflict-related sexual violence against men and boys, participants at a United Nations meeting concluded.
“The crippling repercussions of rape in war are devastating for women, but our sons and brothers who are victims also suffer in silence,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura.
“They too experience health complications related to sexual violence in conflict such as physical injuries, sexually transmitted diseases and psychological stress and trauma,” she said in her remarks to a workshop held on 25 and 26 July in New York.
The event, co-hosted by the United States Mission to the UN, brought together representatives of UN agencies, civil society organizations, legal experts, medical practitioners, researchers and survivors from around the world to discuss what could be done to address the issue of men and boys who are victims of sexual violence in conflict.
A news release issued by Ms. Bangura’s office noted that the phenomenon of men and boys being sexually assaulted during conflict is not new. Research shows that male-directed sexual violence has taken place in more than 25 countries in the last few decades and a recent survey in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) found that 15 per cent of male respondents had been victims of sexual violence in conflict.
The workshop identified several issues that require immediate attention to combat the problem, including addressing inadequacies in legal frameworks that ignore or criminalize male victims and allow perpetrators to enjoy impunity, as well as tackling gaps in research to foster a better understanding of the causes, consequences and scope of male-directed sexual violence.
Another issue is addressing shortcomings in the programmatic response to sexual violence against men and boys to ensure they have access to medical and psychosocial services that take into account their needs and offer survivor-centred assistance.
A survivor of sexual violence from Bosnia told the meeting that there was a dire need for responses tailored for men and boys who were victims of conflict-related sexual violence, and that their voices needed to be heard and their experiences acknowledged.
This was also stressed in the latest report of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, which stated that “more monitoring and information regarding male victims and the types of sexual violence perpetrated against them is required to tailor prevention initiatives, sensitization campaigns, treatment protocols and services for survivors.”
The meeting’s outcome will be presented in a report that outlines the most pressing needs in the area of sexual violence in conflict against men and boys and how various stakeholders can best address them.
“Acts of sexual violence leave visible and invisible scars that have long lasting and devastating repercussions,” said Ms. Bangura.
“Therefore, we must address sexual violence in conflict in all its manifestations and stamp it out in every corner of the globe, stand up for whomever is affected by it and go after anyone who commits it.”