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Sexual Violence

The Health Impacts of Violence Perpetrated by Police, Military and Other Public Security Forces on Gay, Bisexual and Other Men Who Have Sex with Men in El Salvador


Davis, Dirk A., Giuliana J. Morales, Kathleen Ridgeway, Modesto Mendizabal, Michele Lanham, Robyn Dayton, Juana Cooke, Karin Santi and Emily Evens. 2020. “The Health Impacts of Violence Perpetrated by Police, Military and Other Public Security Forces on Gay, Bisexual and Other Men Who Have Sex with Men in El Salvador.” Culture, Health & Sexuality 22 (2): 217-32.

Authors: Dirk A. Davis, Giuliana J. Morales, Kathleen Ridgeway, Modesto Mendizabal, Michele Lanham, Robyn Dayton, Juana Cooke, Karin Santi, Emily Evens


Gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men face both high levels of violence and a disproportionate burden of poor health outcomes. We explored violence perpetrated against Salvadoran gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men by public security forces; perceived motivations of violence; and impacts on health. We conducted structured qualitative interviews with 20 participants and used systematic coding and narrative analysis to identify emergent themes. Nearly all participants described the physical, emotional, sexual and/or economic violence by public security forces. Most attributed being targeted to their gender expression and/or perceived sexual orientation. The most common impact was emotional distress, including humiliation, fear and depression; lasting physical injuries were also widely reported. Study participants felt unable to report these incidents for fear of retribution or inaction. Men reported feelings of helplessness and distrust, avoidance of authorities and altering when, where or how often they appeared in public spaces. Programmes and interventions should focus on providing mental health services for LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) victims of violence, educating public security forces on the legal rights of Salvadorans and expanding current LGBTI-inclusive policies to all public security forces.

Keywords: violence, men who have sex with men, police, military, El Salvador

Topics: Gender, Men, Health, Mental Health, LGBTQ, Male Victims, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Security, Sexuality, Sexual Violence, SV against men, Violence Regions: Americas, Central America Countries: El Salvador

Year: 2020

Homophobic Violence in Armed Conflict and Political Transition


Serrano-Amaya, José Fernando. 2018. Homophobic Violence in Armed Conflict and Political Transition. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Author: José Fernando Serrano-Amaya


This book argues that homophobia plays a fundamental role in disputes for hegemony between antagonists during political transitions. Examining countries not often connected in the same research—Colombia and South Africa—the book asserts that homophobia, as a form of gender and sexual violence, contributes to the transformation of gender and sexual orders required by warfare and deployed by armed groups. Anti-homosexual violence also reinforces the creation of consensus around these projects of change. The book considers the perspective of individuals and their organizations, for whom such hatreds are part of the embodied experience of violence caused by protracted conflicts and social inequalities. Resistance to that violence are reason to mobilize and become political actors. This book contributes to the increasing interest in South-South comparative analyses and the need of theory building based on case-study analyses, offering systematic research useful for grass root organizations, practitioners, and policy makers. (Summary from Palgrave Macmillian)

Table of Contents:
1. Introduction

2. Sex, Violence and Politics: The Research Problem

3. Armed Conflict and Sexual Para-politics in Colombia

4. Homophobia in Apartheid and Post-apartheid South Africa

5. The Chiaroscuro of Sexual Politics

6. Telling Truths About Violence

7. Gender and Sexual Orders Making the New Society

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Gender-Based Violence, LGBTQ, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Post-Conflict, Sexuality, Sexual Violence, Violence Regions: Africa, Southern Africa, Americas, South America Countries: Colombia, South Africa

Year: 2018

Still a Blind Spot: The Protection of LGBT Persons during Armed Conflict and Other Situations of Violence


Margalit, Alon. 2018. "Still a Blind Spot: The Protection of LGBT Persons during Armed Conflict and Other Situations of Violence." International Review of the Red Cross 100 (907-909): 237-65.

Author: Alon Margalit


This article draws attention to the situation of LGBT persons during armed conflict. Subjected to violence and discrimination outside the context of armed conflict, the latter aggravates their vulnerability and exposure to various abuses. Despite important progress made with respect to their protection under human rights law, a similar effort is largely absent from the international humanitarian law discourse. This article accordingly highlights some of the norms and challenges pertaining to the protection of LGBT persons in time of war.

Keywords: International Humanitarian Law, LGBT, sexual orientation, gender identity, armed conflict, protection, discrimination, non-refoulement, sexual violence

Topics: Armed Conflict, Conflict, Gender, International Law, International Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law IHL, LGBTQ, Security, Sexuality, Sexual Violence, Violence

Year: 2018

Risky Dis/entanglements: Torture and Sexual Violence in Conflict


Gray, Harriet, and Maria Stern. 2019. "Risky Dis/entanglements: Torture and Sexual Violence in Conflict." European Journal of International Relations 25 (4): 1035-58.

Authors: Harriet Gray, Maria Stern


Conflict-related sexual violence has become increasingly recognized in international spaces as a serious, political form of violence. As part of this process, distinctions between the categories of ‘sexual violence’ and ‘torture’ have blurred as scholars and other actors have sought to capitalize on the globally recognized status of torture in raising the profile of sexual violence. This move, while perhaps strategically promising, even already fruitful, prompts us to heed caution. What might we inadvertently engender by further pursuing such positioning? While torture and sexual violence have both been widely framed within the academic literature as strategic in recent decades, only torture, and not sexual violence, has emerged from elements of this literature as (potentially) legitimate, despite the slippages between them as categories of violence. This article offers one avenue for thinking through what an invigorated focus on sexual torture as a category of violence might unwittingly render possible, and thus for reflecting on the possible stakes of collapsing the categories of sexual violence and torture. Ultimately, we argue that we should perhaps resist the urge to frame sexual violence as torture and instead cleave to the sticky signifier of ‘the sexual’, despite the ways in which it has served to normalize, perpetuate and obfuscate grievous harms throughout history.

Keywords: conflict-related sexual violence, consent, gender, legitimacy, sexual torture, torture

Topics: Conflict, Torture, Sexual Torture, Sexual Violence

Year: 2019

Experiences of Sexual Harassment, Stalking, and Sexual Assault during Military Service among LGBT and Non‐LGBT Service Members


Schuyler, Ashley, Cary Klemmer, Mary Rose Mamey, Sheree M. Schrager, Jeremy T. Goldbach, Ian W. Holloway, and Carl Andrew Castro. 2020. "Experiences of Sexual Harassment, Stalking, and Sexual Assault during Military Service among LGBT and Non‐LGBT Service Members." Journal of Traumatic Stress 33 (3): 257-66.

Authors: Ashley Schuyler, Cary Klemmer, Mary Rose Mamey, Sheree M. Schrager, Jeremy T. Goldbach, Ian W. Holloway, Carl Andrew Castro


Sexual victimization, including sexual harassment and assault, remains a persistent problem in the U.S. military. Service members identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) may face enhanced risk, but existing research is limited. We examined experiences of sexual harassment, stalking, and sexual assault victimization during service in a sample of LGBT and non‐LGBT active duty service members. Service members who identified as LGBT (n = 227 LGB, n = 56 transgender) or non‐LGBT (n = 276) were recruited using respondent‐driven sampling for an online survey. Logistic regression models examined the correlates of sexual and stalking victimization. Victimization was common among LGBT service members, including sexual harassment (80.7% LGB, 83.9% transgender), stalking (38.6% LGB, 30.4% transgender), and sexual assault (25.7% LGB, 30.4% transgender). In multivariable models, LGB identity remained a significant predictor of sexual harassment, OR = 4.14, 95% CI [2.21, 7.78]; stalking, OR = 1.98, 95% CI [1.27, 3.11]; and assault, OR = 2.07, 95% CI [1.25, 3.41]. A significant interaction between LGB identity and sex at birth, OR = 0.34, 95% CI [0.13, 0.88], suggests an elevated sexual harassment risk among male, but not female, LGB service members. Transgender identity predicted sexual harassment and assault at the bivariate level only. These findings suggest that LGBT service members remain at an elevated risk of sexual and/or stalking victimization. As the military works toward more integration and acceptance of LGBT service members, insight into victimization experiences can inform tailored research and intervention approaches aimed at prevention and care for victims.

Topics: Gender, Health, LGBTQ, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Sexuality, Sexual Violence Regions: Americas, North America Countries: United States of America

Year: 2020

Understanding Conflict-Related Sexual Violence and the 'Everyday' Experience of Conflict through Witness Testimonies


Campbell, Kirsten, Elma Demir, and Maria O'Reilly. 2019. "Understanding Conflict-Related Sexual Violence and the 'Everyday' Experience of Conflict through Witness Testimonies." Cooperation and Conflict 54 (2): 254-77.

Authors: Kirsten Campbell, Elma Demir, Maria O'Reilly


The testimonies of witnesses who testify before criminal courts provide crucial insights into the situated experience of conflict-related sexual violence. Witness testimonies highlight the complex realities and everyday lives of individuals caught up in situations of armed conflict. The evidence presented by witnesses can provide vital insights into lived experiences of wartime violence, and reveal the seemingly mundane strategies and tactics adopted by victims to cope with, survive and resist the violent and coercive circumstances of war. This article foregrounds conflict-related sexual violence witness testimonies as highly significant sources of knowledge of everyday experiences of conflict. It sets out a bottom-up, mixed-method approach for identifying and analysing the experiential accounts of those who lived through conflict-related sexual violence, while engaging with the opportunities and challenges of using witness testimony. Our approach unsettles existing notions of ‘the everyday’ in Peace & Conflict Studies as a synonym for narratives and practices of violence, justice and peacebuilding that are private, informal and largely hidden from view. Understanding witness testimonies requires conceptualising the everyday as an amalgam of formal and informal practices, as accessible through both elite and lay knowledges and as documented in both public and private (e.g. redacted) sources. It requires challenging taken-for-granted dichotomies that are frequently invoked to understand conflict and peace.

Keywords: armed conflict, gender, rape, sexual violence, testimony, the everyday

Topics: Armed Conflict, Conflict, Justice, Peacebuilding, Sexual Violence, Violence

Year: 2019

Legitimizing Military Action through “Rape-as-a-Weapon” Discourse in Libya: Critical Feminist Analysis


Kolmasova, Sarka, and Katerina Krulisova. 2019. "Legitimizing Military Action through “Rape-as-a-Weapon” Discourse in Libya: Critical Feminist Analysis." Politics & Gender 15 (1): 130-50.

Authors: Sarka Kolmasova, Katerina Krulisova


Contemporary discourse on sexual(ized) violence in armed conflicts represents a powerful source for legitimization of highly controversial military interventions. Recent gender-responsive security studies have called for enhanced protection of women and girls from widespread and systematic sexual(ized) violence. Yet military operations reproduce the Western masculine hegemony rather than providing inclusive and apolitical assistance to victims of sexual assault. The article aims to critically assess discourse on sexual violence in a case of military intervention in Libya initiated under the rubric of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). The case study indicates a set of discursive strategies exercised by Western political representatives and nongovernmental organizations and even more expressively by the media to legitimize the military campaign. Typically, sexual(ized) violence is presented as a weapon of war, used by one of the conflicting parties without an adequate response of the state. This is followed by urgent calls for international action, willingly carried out by Western powers. The simplified narrative of civilized protectors versus savage aggressors must be challenged as it exploits the problem of sexual(ized) violence in order to legitimize politically motivated actions.

Topics: Gender, Masculinity/ies, Media, Governance, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, NGOs, Sexual Violence, Rape, Weapons /Arms Regions: Africa, MENA, North Africa Countries: Libya

Year: 2019

Sexual Violence and Biased Military Interventions in Civil Conflict


Johansson, Karin, and Mehwish Sarwari. 2019. "Sexual Violence and Biased Military Interventions in Civil Conflict." Conflict Management and Peace Science 36 (5): 469-93.

Authors: Karin Johansson, Mehwish Sarwari


What is the impact of foreign troop support on combatant-perpetrated sexual violence against civilians? We hypothesize that biased troop support increases the risk of sexual violence by the subordinate party both as a consequence of strategic considerations and as a product of a situation increasingly conducive to opportunistic behavior. Time-series cross-section analyses of all civil wars during 1989–2012 are largely supportive of our expectation. Rebel groups are more likely to perpetrate sexual violence the more troop support the state receives. Likewise, state forces are more prone to commit sexual violence the more they are challenged by troops supporting the rebel group(s).

Keywords: biased military intervention, civil war, conflict-related sexual violence, external support, troop support, violence against civilians, wartime sexual violence

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Wars, Combatants, Sexual Violence

Year: 2019

Civil Society Perspectives on Sexual Violence in Conflict: Patriarchy and War Strategy in Colombia


Kreft, Anne-Kathrin. 2020. "Civil Society Perspectives on Sexual Violence in Conflict: Patriarchy and War Strategy in Colombia." International Affairs 96 (2): 457-78.

Author: Anne-Kathrin Kreft


In international policy circles, conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) is commonly viewed as a weapon of war, a framing that researchers have criticized as overly simplistic. Feminist scholars in particular caution that the ‘weapon of war’ framing decontextualizes sexual violence in conflict from the structural factors of gender inequality that underpin its perpetration. In light of these tensions, how do politically relevant local actors perceive the nature and the origins of conflict-related sexual violence? Civil society organizations often actively confront conflict-related sexual violence on the ground. A better understanding of how their perceptions of this violence align or clash with the globally dominant ‘weapon of war’ narratives therefore has important policy implications. Interviews with representatives of Colombian women's organizations and victims' associations reveal that these civil society activists predominantly view conflict-related sexual violence as the result of patriarchal structures. The mobilized women perceive sexual violence as a very gendered violence that exists on a continuum extending through peace, the everyday and war, and which the presence of arms exacerbates. Strategic sexual violence, too, is understood to ultimately have its basis in patriarchal structures. The findings expose a disconnect between the globally dominant ‘weapon of war’ understanding that is decontextualized from structural factors and a local approach to CRSV that establishes clear linkages to societal gender inequality.

Topics: Civil Society, Conflict, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Gender Equality/Inequality, Sexual Violence Regions: Americas, South America Countries: Colombia

Year: 2020

The Body Weaponized: War, Sexual Violence and the Uncanny


Kirby, Paul. 2020. "The Body Weaponized: War, Sexual Violence and the Uncanny." Security Dialogue 51 (2-3): 211-30.

Author: Paul Kirby


It is today common to argue that rape is a weapon, tool or instrument of warfare. One implication is that armed groups marshal body parts for tactical and strategic ends. In this article, I interrogate this discourse of embodied mobilization to explore how body weaponry has been made intelligible as a medium for sexual violence. First, I show that, despite wide rejection of essentialist models, the penis and penis substitutes continue to occupy a constitutive role in discussions of sexual violence in both political and academic fora, where they are often said to be like weapons, a tendency I term ‘weapon talk’. Second, I trace the image of the body weapon in key threads of feminist theorizing and commentary, to show how the penis has appeared as a ‘basic weapon of force’ in various permutations. Third, I explore the weaponization of the body as it appears in military thought and in the cultural circulation of ideas about the soldiering body in which sexual pleasure and violence are frequently conflated. Building on this foundation, I propose that these literatures collectively describe an uncanny weapon object, and I draw out the significance of this term for feminist security studies and martial empiricism. In short, the uncanny haunts accounts of sexual violence in the collision of sexuality and machinery in the image of a body weapon, in the unsettling designation of sexuality as itself both familiar and dangerous, and in the strange movement of violent bodies across the boundary between wartime and peacetime. A concluding discussion draws out implications and challenges for thinking about embodied violence, advocating renewed attention to the history of weaponization as a fallible and confounding process.

Keywords: critical war studies, embodiment, feminism, phenomenology, uncanny, wartime sexual violence

Topics: Feminisms, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Security, Sexual Violence, Rape, Violence, Weapons /Arms

Year: 2020


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