SV against Men

Unrecognized Victims: Sexual Violence Against Men in Conflict Settings Under International Law


Lewis, Dustin A. 2009. “Unrecognized Victims: Sexual Violence against Men in Conflict Settings under International Law.” Wisconsin International Law Journal 27: 1–50.

Author: Dustin A. Lewis


This article casts light on the international law aspects of a largely unrecognized occurrence in armed conflict: sexual violence against men. The article discusses causes and consequences of such violence, and assesses pertinent aspects of international law. The article argues that, to reduce and prevent sexual violence against men in conflict settings, international law should be interpreted, applied, and enforced in ways that delegitimize the prejudicial and discriminatory conceptions of gender, sex, and (homo)sexuality that often fuel such violence in the first place. Toward this aim, the article highlights why it is necessary to use a definition of sexual violence that encompasses, among other things, violence targeting an individual's imputed, perceived, or actual sexuality. In addition, the article provides a prosecution roadmap, sketching the conventional and jurisprudential standards for sexual violence to be prosecuted as a constituent element of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The article concludes by suggesting two additional ways to enhance protection: treaty drafters should explicitly recognize men as a class of victims, and a postulated jus cogens norm should be expanded to include all forms of sexual violence against men, women, and children.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Men, Boys, Genocide, International Law, Justice, Crimes against Humanity, War Crimes, Sexual Violence, SV against Men, Sexuality

Year: 2009

Straight as a Rule: Heteronormativity, Gendercide, and the Noncombatant Male


Jones, Adam. 2006. “Straight as a Rule: Heteronormativity, Gendercide, and the Noncombatant Male.” Men and Masculinities 8 (4): 451–69. doi:10.1177/1097184X04268797.

Author: Adam Jones


This article is an extension of the author's research into the vulnerability of noncombatant "battle-age" males in situations of war and genocide. It explores the role of heteronormativity–defined as culturally hegemonic heterosexuality–in shaping the victimization experiences of male noncombatants. An introductory section addresses definitional issues and frames the discussion in terms of the study of gendercide, or gender-selective mass killing. The link among noncombatant status, imputed violations of heteronormativity, and gendercide is then explored. A separate section considers the phenomenon of sexual violence against males in wartime and asks whether feminist theories of "genocidal rape" can usefully be deployed to assist understanding of this little studied phenomenon. The conclusion cites some remaining conceptual and conventional obstacles to research on male noncombatants, and suggests avenues for further investigation. (Sage Journals)



"One of the most intriguing elements of male-on-male rape and sexual violence is the gendered positioning of rapist and victim: the way in which victims are feminized while rapists are confirmed in their heterosexual, hegemonic masculinity." (459)

"The question is, Can sexual violence against noncombatant men also serve a genocidal purpose? I think it can. First, it must be noted that the rape of males in the context of war and genocide far less frequently involves actual intercourse between assailant and assailed. More common is one of two patterns: (1) forced rape of one “subordinate” male (especially an imprisoned one) by another; or (2) severe sexual torture, up to and including castration (sometimes also committed by one subordinate male against another on the command of a prison guard; reports of both variants surfaced in the Bosnian war-crimes trials)." (461)

"First, the coercion of one’s fellows to inflict the violence is a special feature of sexual violence against males and can be predicted to erode group cohesion in something of the same way that rapes and impregnations of subordinate-group women are expected to do. The ‘feminization’ of male victims certainly threatens the masculine group cohesion that is essential for military action. And, finally, the element of sexual torture and genital damage that figures so strongly in accounts of male rape and sexual violence in conflict situations can be seen as a counterpart to the forced impregnation and cultural humiliation of female victims." (461)

"We need to understand better the fluid, shifting, and contingent character of hegemonic masculinity through history." (462)

"The subject of the deployment of gendered language and propaganda before and during outbreaks of war and genocide deserves close attention for what it might teach us about how the masculine identities of perpetrators are shored up and how the Other is feminized as a prelude to victimization or extermination." (462)

"A significant difficulty is that we still lack a clear empirical picture of the character and scale of victimization inflicted on ‘outgroup’ males, including bearers of subordinate masculinities, throughout history and around the contemporary world."(463)

"One question that preoccupies me is the extent to which male victimization, including the abuse and atrocity meted out to noncombatant males, merits analysis within a ‘human-rights’ framework. We have grown accustomed to the (once-radical) statement that ‘women’s rights are human rights’: that is, gender-specific rights issues are an integral part of broader human-rights framings. Do ‘men’s rights’ deserve similar consideration?"(463)

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Men, Boys, Genocide, Sexual Violence, SV against Men, Sexuality

Year: 2006

Sexual and Gender Based Violence Against Men in the Democratic Republic of Congo: Effects on Survivors, Their Families and the Community


Christian, Mervyn, Octave Safari, Paul Ramazani, Gilbert Burnham, and Nancy Glass. 2011. “Sexual and Gender Based Violence Against Men in the Democratic Republic of Congo: Effects on Survivors, Their Families and the Community.” Medicine, Conflict, and Survival 27 (4): 227–46.

Authors: Mervyn Christian, Octave Safari, Paul Ramazani, Gilbert Burnham, Nancy Glass


Media and service provider reports of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) perpetrated against men in armed conflicts have increased. However, response to these reports has been limited, as existing evidence and programs have primarily focused on prevention and response to women and girl survivors of SGBV. This study aims to contribute to the evidence of SGBV experienced by males by advancing our understanding of the definition and characteristics of male SGBV and the overlap of health, social and economic consequences on the male survivor, his family and community in conflict and post-conflict settings. The qualitative study using purposive sampling was conducted from June-August 2010 in the South Kivu province of Eastern DRC, an area that has experienced over a decade of armed conflict. Semi structured individual interviews and focus group discussions were conducted with adult male survivors of SGBV, the survivors' wife and/or friend, health care and service providers, community members and leaders. This study found that SGBV against men, as for women, is multi-dimensional and has significant negative physical, mental, social and economic consequences for the male survivor and his family. SGBV perpetrated against men and boys is likely common within a conflict-affected region but often goes unreported by survivors and others due to cultural and social factors associated with sexual assaults, including survivor shame, fear of retaliation by perpetrators and stigma by community members. All key stakeholders in our study advocated for improvements and programs in several areas: (1) health care services, including capacity to identify survivors and increased access to clinical care and psychosocial support for male survivors; (2) economic development initiatives, including microfinance programs, for men and their families to assist them to regain their productive role in the family; (3) community awareness and education of SGBV against men to reduce stigma and discrimination and increase acceptance of survivors by family and larger community. (Ibid, 227)

Keywords: Democratic Republic of Congo, sexual violence, gender-based violence

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Men, Boys, Gender-Based Violence, Sexual Violence, SV against Men Regions: Africa, Central Africa Countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo

Year: 2011

Female Combatants and the Perpetration of Violence: War Time Rape in the Sierra Leone Civil War


Cohen, Dara Kay. 2013. “Female Combatants and the Perpetration of Violence: War Time Rape in the Sierra Leone Civil War.” World Politics 65 (3): 383–415.

Author: Dara Kay Cohen


Much of the current scholarship on wartime violence, including studies of the combatants themselves, assumes that women are victims and men are perpetrators. However, there is an increasing awareness that women in armed groups may be active fighters who function as more than just cooks, cleaners, and sexual slaves. In this article, the author focuses on the involvement of female fighters in a form of violence that is commonly thought to be perpetrated only by men: the wartime rape of noncombatants. Using original interviews with ex-combatants and newly available survey data, she finds that in the Sierra Leone civil war, female combatants were participants in the widespread conflict-related violence, including gang rape. A growing body of evidence from other conflicts suggests that Sierra Leone is not an anomaly and that women likely engage in conflict-related violence, including sexual violence, more often than is currently believed. Many standard interpretations of wartime rape are undermined by the participation of female perpetrators. To explain the involvement of women in wartime rape, the author argues that women in armed group units face similar pressure to that faced by their male counterparts to participate in gang rape. The study has broad implications for future avenues of research on wartime violence, as well as for policy.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Female Combatants, Gender, Women, Men, Sexual Violence, Female Perpetrators, Male Perpetrators, Rape, SV against Men, SV against Women, Violence Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Sierra Leone

Year: 2013

Wartime Sexual Violence: Women’s Human Rights and Questions of Masculinity


Alison, Miranda. 2007. “Wartime Sexual Violence: Women’s Human Rights and Questions of Masculinity.” Review of International Studies 33: 75–90.

Author: Miranda Alison


This article examines wartime sexual violence, one of the most recurring wartime human rights abuses. It asserts that our theorizations need further development, particularly in regard to the way that masculinities and the intersections with constructions of ethnicity feature in wartime sexual violence. The article also argues that although women and girls are the predominant victims of sexual violence and men and boys the predominant agents, we must also be able to account for the presence of male victims and female agents. This, however, engenders a problem; much of the women’s human rights discourse and existing international mechanisms for addressing wartime sexual violence tend to reify the male-perpetrator/female-victim paradigm. This is a problem which feminist human rights theorists and activists need to address. (Academic Search Premier)



“Lynne Segal stresses, however, that we could reverse the assumed causal link between masculinity and violence: ‘[t]he idea that what is at stake here is state violence in the hands of men (rather than, as many feminists believe, male violence in the hands of the state) is supported by reports of women’s use of force and violence when they are placed in jobs [or other positions of power] analogous to men’s.’” (Alison,76)

“The homosocial nature of militaries may be necessary for cohesion but its attendant danger of homosexual behaviour does not sit well with the hetero-normativity of hegemonic masculinity. Rape (even, as discussed later, rape of men) serves to reassert heteromasculinity.” (77)

“Finally, it has been noted that gang-rape performs a bonding function for groups of men and that it accounts for a high proportion of wartime sexual violence. Gang-rape cements a sense of loyalty between men and those who might not rape individually do rape collectively in a group assertion of masculinity. Goldstein suggests that raping as part of a group ‘may serve to relieve individual men of responsibility’. I suggest, however, that part of the reason gang-rape promotes group cohesion may be that it bonds men together in a complicity (in fact a shared awareness of responsibility) that makes loyalty to the group vital.” (77)

“‘[I]n wars men only continue to do what they did before but in a more mindless and indiscriminate way’, and that ‘[r]ape . . . happens during war for the same reasons it happens during peace. It is a phenomenon rooted in inequality, discrimination, male domination and aggression, misogyny and the entrenched socialisation of sexual myths.’” (78)

“In contemporary armed conflicts, particularly though not exclusively ethnonational, rape is intentionally committed by specific men against specific women (and men) – namely ‘enemy’ women (and men) – and therefore it cannot be regarded as indiscriminate.” (79)

“During times of conflict multiple binary constructions are formed; not only is ‘masculine’ contrasted to ‘feminine’ within a group and ‘us’ contrasted to ‘them’ between groups, but ‘our women’ are contrasted to ‘their women’ and ‘our men’ to ‘their men’. ‘Our women’ are chaste, honourable, and to be protected by ‘our men’; ‘their women’ are unchaste and depraved. Wartime propaganda presents the (male) enemy as those who would rape and murder ‘our’ women and the war effort is directed at saving ‘our’ women.” (80)

“In wartime, then, male to male rape (as male to female rape) humiliates and feminises the victim whilst asserting the perpetrator’s dominant (heterosexual, ethno-national) masculinity. The ethnonational element means that symbolically the victim’s national identity is also feminised and humiliated. Sexual violence is ‘preferred’, Inger Skjelsbæk suggests, because ‘this is the form of violence which most clearly communicates masculinisation and feminisation’.” (81)

“Women are not only victims of war, they are also agents of violence; men are also victims of sexual violence; the idea of male protection is inherently problematic and can lead in itself to abuses of women; women are not all located the same and one’s positioning impacts on one’s experiences of war. This leads us to a further overriding problem: how to both acknowledge and respond to the reality of male victims and female agents of sexual violence whilst still recognising and acting with the simultaneous reality that women and girls remain the majority of victims and men and boys the majority perpetrators – but, further, that both women’s and men’s ethnic and social positioning contributes enormously to differential experiences.” (84)

“I have argued that a more complex analysis of empirical cases of wartime sexual violence that examines the interplay between masculinity, femininity, ethnicity and sexuality, is required and serves to bring into relief the problems with accepting this binary at face value and wholeheartedly. The example of wartime sexual violence as a problem for women’s human rights, then, illuminates a broader conundrum feminists face: how to ‘do’ women’s human rights if in so ‘doing’ we actually reify certain (unhelpful, incomplete, potentially essentialist) constructs that we also wish to – or need to – annihilate.” (89)

Topics: Armed Conflict, Ethnicity, Feminisms, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Rights, Human Rights, Women's Rights, Sexual Violence, Female Perpetrators, Male Perpetrators, SV against Men, SV against Women

Year: 2007

A Silence Deep as Death: Sexual Violence against Men and Boys in Armed Conflicts


Russell, Wynne. 2008. “A Silence Deep as Death: Sexual Violence against Men and Boys in Armed Conflicts.” Background paper prepared for the OCHA Experts Meeting, New York, June 26.

Author: Wynn Russell

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Men, Boys, Sexual Violence, SV against Men

Year: 2008

Male-on-Male Sexual Violence in Wartime: Human Rights’ Last Taboo?


Del Zotto, Augusta, and Adam Jones. 2002. “Male-on-Male Sexual Violence in Wartime: Human Rights’ Last Taboo?” Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the International Studies Association, New Orleans, March 23-27.

Authors: Augusta Del Zotto, Adam Jones


Del Zotto and Jones explore the complex cultural and institutional factors that have contributed to the silencing of men's and boy's experiences of sexual assault in warfare. They state that the lack of widespread institutional recognition of male-on-male sexual violence in wartime stems form three conditions: (1) The historical silencing of men's experiences of intra-gender abuse and cruelty. (2) The far-reaching dissemination and institutionalization of narrow feminist constructions of masculinity and sexual violence, reflected in the academic and activist literature as well as the actions of international organizations and the coverage offered by mass media. (3) The appropriation of this narrow construction of masculinity by political elites as a way of upholding regional security interests

The authors examine in turn the agendas and discourse of policymakers, non-governmental organizations, and feminist scholarship. They argue that, because institutionalized recognition of war sex crimes performs a strategic function, the construction of this human rights problem calls attention to certain types of victims, while ignoring others.  Human rights policies and activism are determined by narrow constructions of masculinity and femininity. Some indication of the power of the dominant framework can be found in a random sample of 60 NGO reports that address the issue of sexual assault in wartime. The authors find that 58 NGO reports framed victims of sexual assaults solely as “women or girls.”   An analysis of 4,076 NGOs conducting work on sexual violence and assault during wartime shows that only 3 % of the organizations specifically mention the experience of male victims in their programming or literature, while roughly 25 % of the groups deny male on male sexual violence as a problem. Del Zotto and Jones argue that one key reason for this neglect is that NGOs rely on both government and private funding to operate their services. Another influential element is the framing of sexual violence by feminist scholars and activists.In the second part of the paper, the authors look at feminism and sexual victimization in the Balkan’s War, arguing that there has not been a serious attempt to explore the subject of male sexual victimization in the feminist study of the Balkans wars. The authors also argue that the ICTY’s mandate focused on the protection of women, argue that male victims were omitted, conceptually and de facto, from the trial process. 

19 of the reports actually used the phrase ‘war against women’ as a central one in their literature. 58 framed victims of sexual assaults solely as ‘women’ and/or ‘girls.’ The remaining two used the generic phrase ‘person.’ 13 referred to sexual torture as deriving from male heterosexual desire (all were agencies based in the Third World). 24 evinced a preoccupation with female ‘honor’ (sexual assault reduces or eliminates the female's chances of marriage, etc.). This construction pervaded both western and non-western sources, including reports by the respected organization Human Rights Watch. 7, including OXFAM, did mention the sexual exploitation of male children, though.


"Elite political actors, non-governmental organizations, and feminist scholars and activists must all be pressed to incorporate the male victim into their analysis of wartime sexual violence, and to work to provide the necessary resources to meet that victim's needs. Until they do so, the prevailing framing of sexual violence in war will continue to be one-dimensional and woefully inadequate, and the survivors will continue to suffer in silence imposed from both within and without." 

“Between 1998 and 2000, over a half-million women applied for asylum or refugee status in the U.S. based on gendered persecution, including war-related persecution. Meanwhile, approximately 70,000 men apply for U.S. asylum each year (over the past 10 years), representing 15% more applications than women. How many applications cited sexual violence? None.”

“An examination of 36 asylum cases involving women and 44 involving men found that all but two women were questioned by INS officials as to whether they faced sexual danger in their homeland; none of the males was asked a similar question (U.S. Justice Department Immigration Briefs, 1997-2001).”

“A hermeneutic reading of 360 transcripts from the U.S. Congress and State Department as well as British, German, and Canadian parliaments between 1977 and 1989 indicates that rape and sexual assault in wartime have been defined as exclusively heterosexual (more specifically, male-on-female) acts. The framework throughout was informed by a narrow definition of sexual assault stemming from a monolithic view of masculine power and a one-dimensional interpretation of female victimization.” 

“To our knowledge, no international organization or NGO has established a research program or policy initiative specifically focused on male victims of sexual violence in wartime; and not a single international NGO mentions wartime sexual violence against males in its annual report. These are oversights that in our view urgently need to be addressed and rectified.”

“There are currently 4,076 non-governmental groups that address war rape and other forms of political sexual violence (Del Zotto, 2001). Out of this number, only 3% mention the experiences of males at all in their programs and informational literature. About one quarter of the groups explicitly deny that male-on-male violence is a serious problem.” 

Topics: Gender, Men, Masculinity/ies, International Organizations, Justice, War Crimes, Rights, Human Rights, Sexual Violence, SV against Men

Year: 2002

Recognizing Gender-Based Violence Against Civilian Men and Boys in Conflict Situations


Carpenter, R. C. 2006. “Recognizing Gender-Based Violence Against Civilian Men and Boys in Conflict Situations.” Security Dialogue 37 (1): 83–103. doi:10.1177/0967010606064139.

Author: R. C. Carpenter


While gender-based violence has recently emerged as a salient topic in the human security community, it has been framed principally with respect to violence against women and girls, particularly sexual violence. In this article, [Carpenter] argue[s] that gender-based violence against men (including sexual violence, forced conscription, and sex-selective massacre) must be recognized as such, condemned, and addressed by civilian protection agencies and proponents of a ‘human security’ agenda in international relations. Men deserve protection against these abuses in their own right; moreover, addressing gender-based violence against women and girls in conflict situations is inseparable from addressing the forms of violence to which civilian men are specifically vulnerable.

Keywords: gender-based violence, sexual violence, conscription, humanitarian assistance

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Men, Gender-Based Violence, Security, Human Security, Sexual Violence, SV against Men

Year: 2006

Lost in Translation: UN Responses to Sexual Violence against Men and Boys in Situations of Armed Conflict


Sivakumaran, Sandesh. 2010. “Lost in Translation: UN Responses to Sexual Violence against Men and Boys in Situations of Armed Conflict.” International Review of the Red Cross 92 (877): 259-77. doi:10.1017/S1816383110000020.

Author: Sandesh Sivakumaran


This article considers the UN responses to sexual violence against men and boys in armed conflict - in particular, steps taken towards understanding this problem, measures of prevention and protection, and consequences for accused perpetrators. In so doing, the article assesses the state of knowledge and work in the field of male sexual violence and notes that although there have been many positive developments, the issue is not always moving in the right direction.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Men, Boys, International Organizations, Sexual Violence, SV against Men

Year: 2010

Sexual Violence among Men in the Military in South Korea


Kwon, Insook, Dong-Ok Lee, Elli Kim, and Hyun Young Kim. 2007. “Sexual Violence among Men in the Military in South Korea.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence 22 (8): 1024-42.

Authors: Insook Kwon, Dong-Ok Lee, Elli Kim, Hyun Young Kim


This research is about sexual violence among men in the military in South Korea. The authors investigated the frequencies, causes, and circumstances surrounding sexual violence and looked for characteristic features of sexual violence among men in the military in South Korea. They found a high frequency of physical sexual violence and a high level of repetition of sexual violence. Of perpetrators, 81.7% had themselves been victimized. However, the soldiers tended to minimize sexual violence, preferred not to address the issue if possible, criticized or ignored the victims, and did not trust the reporting procedures in place. The authors found that sexual violence was mobilized as a tool in the military to control hierarchy and to create certain masculinities. Regarding the relevance of masculinity, as a salient feature of militaries ingeneral, they believed it might emerge as a common feature across national and cultural differences.

Keywords: conscription, masculinity, military, sexual violence

Topics: Gender, Men, Masculinity/ies, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Sexual Violence, Male Perpetrators, SV against Men Regions: Asia, East Asia Countries: South Korea

Year: 2007


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