South-South Institute on Sexual Violence against Men and Boys in Conflict and Displacement
Refugee Law Project in Collaboration with First Step Cambodia, Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust New Zealand, Men of Hope Uganda, Men of Peace Uganda and the International Human Rights Law Clinic, University of California Berkeley, conducted the 1st South-South Institute on Sexual Violence against Men and Boys in Conflict and Displacement, from 8th – 12th April in Kampala, Uganda.
This Institute was the first of its kind and built on the extensive work by Refugee Law Project and partner organizations, as well as that of more recently established survivor-led support groups in Uganda. It provided an opportunity to reflect, consolidate, strategize, publicize and advocate on the practical questions of medical and psychosocial work with survivors, as well as the legal, political, and sociological parameters of working on sexual violence against men and boys.
The Institute was the first to cover a subject that is not discussed and often goes unnoticed – that is the rape and sexual assault of men and boys in conflict situations. Sexual and Gender based violence (SGBV) has been declared a major public health crisis around the world by the World Health Organization and because of this there is more and more attention addressing SGBV against women and girls; unfortunately almost ignoring the fact that men and boys are also victims especially during times of conflict. Because the issue has largely been ignored by the international community there is very little data as to the extent of SGBV against men and boys but it is clear that incidents are largely underestimated.
Rape as a weapon of war has received increasing attention from the international community and it is widely accepted that the systematic rape of women in a community or of a specific ethnic group is used as a means of pushing a military agenda that shames and breaks apart the social fabric of that community. What goes largely unrecognized is that the rape and sexual assault of men is used in the same manner and has in fact been documented in twenty-five countries around the world.
Issues discussed during the Institute included the deficiencies in the Ugandan penal code that recognizes rape and sexual assault as actions that can only be perpetuated against women; a culture where men are too ashamed to report rape due to the fact that they may seem “less of a man” or may be labeled as homosexuals; and many of the both mental and physical health consequences that not only accompany such a violation but also occur when a man is too ashamed to seek help or treatment until it is too late to address the impacts of sexual violence on the health of male survivors and victims.
Drafted by Terri
Intern Gender and ICT Policy Program
Women of Uganda Network