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Summit on sexual violence must remember male victims

AOAV is this week participating in The Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, held in London from 10-13 June 2014. The summit is the largest gathering ever brought together on the subject.

The Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, while being an incredibly important opportunity for the international community to take action on sexual violence in conflict, has also served to reinforce the gaps in the current discussions. One such gap is male victims of sexual violence.

Out of 19 expert sessions conducted on 11 June, only one was focused on male victims. Today in the ministerial sessions, men will only be specifically considered in the ‘hidden victims’ session, as one of a number of other groups.

The Refugee Law Project, one of the organisations actually working with male victims, checked the websites of all organisations with stands at the Fringe event at the Summit. Not one of them mentioned male victims in any obvious way on their websites. Very few delegate events mentioned male victims. The focus is still very much on female victims and survivors.

This is despite the fact that the office of the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict has recorded male victims of sexual violence in 10 different current conflict areas. In Uganda, the Refugee Law Project reports that one in every three males in one of the main refugee camps is a victim of sexual violence. One in 10 have been subjected to sexual violence in the past 12 months. While one in two, or sometimes two in three, women in the same refugee camp, have been subjected to sexual violence, this means that a third of all sexual violence victims there are male.

So why is it an issue which is given so little attention? Why, when sexual violence is mentioned, is it assumed that the victim is female? Why is there so much institutional resistance to working with male survivors?

Some of these issues were discussed in two sessions during the first two days of the Summit, but the vast majority of discussion has surrounded women and girl victims. When developing any policy, advocacy and programmatic interventions, all actors have to remember that not all victims are female. It should also be remembered that sexual violence does not only occur in conflict situations. It occurs in times of peace, armed violence, conflict, and post-conflict. It affects women, men, boys and girls. The international community, in their discussions at the Summit, should be careful not to limit their attention too narrowly. If all of the focus is on women and girls, and only in sexual violence in conflict, thousands upon thousands of victims will be forgotten.


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