The UK Foreign Secretary yesterday acknowledged that rape and sexual violence against men in conflict deserves greater attention than it currently receives. He has stated that the issue will be specifically addressed at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, which will be held in London in June this year.
The use of rape and sexual violence in conflict has catastrophic impacts on the victims of such violence, their families and their communities. It has been used as a tool of war and genocide in conflicts around the world over the last few decades, from Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia to Syria and the Central African Republic.
It is often stated that women constitute the majority of victims of rape and sexual violence in conflict. Certainly, women are more likely to report having been subjected to sexual violence than men. This fact is not in dispute. Until relatively recently, however, it was thought that because men very rarely reported being victims of rape or sexual violence in conflict, they were only very rarely subjected to it.
This aspect of sexual violence in conflict is very rarely discussed and consequently has received little international attention. There are some statistics which reflect the prevalence of sexual violence against men in conflict, yet there has been so little research conducted on the issue that it is impossible to say with any certainty exactly how widespread it is. The University of California’s Health and Human Rights Law project estimates that 22% of men in Eastern Congo have experienced conflict-related sexual violence, and a London torture treatment centre reported that 21% of Sri Lankan males examined had been subjected to sexual violence while in detention in their home country. These figures, while lower than comparable estimates of women victims of sexual violence, demonstrate that sexual violence against men is much more widespread than previously thought.
Thanks to the limited availability of hard data, there is very little knowledge of the types of services male survivors might need in a post-conflict environment. It is clear that, while more research is required on all aspects of rape and sexual violence in conflict generally, there must be more focus on male survivors than there is at the moment.
AOAV welcomes William Hague’s comments that the Summit will consider the impacts of sexual violence in conflict on men as well as women. We hope that highlighting these issues at the summit in June will increase public awareness and create an impetus to undertake more thorough research to fully understand the impacts of sexual violence on victims, families, and communities.
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