Sexual Torture of Men in Croatia and Other Conflict Situations: An Open Secret


Oosterhoff, Pauline, Prisca Zwanikken, and Evert Ketting. 2004. "Sexual Torture of Men in Croatia and Other Conflict Situations: An Open Secret." Reproductive Health Matters 12 (23): 68-77.

Authors: Pauline Oosterhoff, Prisca Zwanikken, Evert Ketting


Sexual torture constitutes any act of sexual violence which qualifies as torture. Public awareness of the widespread use of sexual torture as a weapon of war greatly increased after the war in the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. Sexual torture has serious mental, physical and sexual health consequences. Attention to date has focused more on the sexual torture of women than of men, partly due to gender stereotypes. This paper describes the circumstances in which sexual torture occurs, its causes and consequences, and the development of international law addressing it. It presents data from a study in 2000 in Croatia, where the number of men who were sexually tortured appears to have been substantial. Based on in-depth interviews with 16 health professionals and data from the medical records of three centres providing care to refugees and victims of torture, the study found evidence of rape and other forced sexual acts, full or partial castration, genital beatings and electroshock. Few men admit being sexually tortured or seek help, and professionals may fail to recognise cases. Few perpetrators have been prosecuted, mainly due to lack of political will. The silence that envelopes sexual torture of men in the aftermath of the war in Croatia stands in strange contrast to the public nature of the crimes themselves.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Men, Health, Mental Health, Reproductive Health, International Law, International Humanitarian Law (IHL), Sexual Violence, SV against Men, Torture, Sexual Torture Regions: Europe, Balkans Countries: Croatia

Year: 2004

Torture, Sex and Military Orientalism


Owens, Patricia. 2010. "Torture, Sex and Military Orientalism." Third World Quarterly 31 (7): 1041-56.

Author: Patricia Owens


This article revisits the debate about recent American torture practices, particularly the use of discredited anthropological texts to validate long-held Orientalist assumptions about the sexual vulnerability of Muslim males. Such practices are placed in an historical context of older imperial constructions of sexually deviant Muslims as well as of more general forms of gendered and sexual subordination required for war. American torturers intended to produce very particular objects of torture—ones willing and able to confess their 'true' orientation in terms of a binary hetero/homo sexual code established in 19th-century Europe. The torturers had the power to confirm through confession and re-enactment their crude assumptions, irrespective of the actual sexualities of those being tortured, with consequences for the transnational and reactionary politics of sexual identity.

Keywords: torture, military, orientalism

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Men, LGBTQ, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Religion, Sexuality, Torture

Year: 2010

Rights of the Body and Perversions of War: Sexual Rights and Wrongs Ten Years Past Beijing


Petchesky, Rosalind P. 2005. "Rights of the Body and Perversions of War: Sexual Rights and Wrongs Ten Years Past Beijing." International Social Science Journal 57 (184): 301-18.

Author: Rosalind P. Petchesky


The Beijing Platform for Action (1995) and its companion documents – those of the Vienna Conference on Human Rights (1993) and the International Conference on Population and Development (1994) – took important steps toward securing recognition for what we might call human rights of the body. These are affirmative rights relating to sexual expression, reproductive choice and access to health care and negative rights pertaining to freedom from violence, torture and abuse. But ten years later, the violated male bodies of Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo, and Gujarat seem to mock certain of Beijing's most basic premises: that women are primarily the victims rather than the perpetrators of bodily abuses; and that, as such, women are, or should be, the privileged beneficiaries of bodily integrity rights. This paper re-examines these premises in the shadow of the “war on terrorism”, religious extremism, and practices of racialised, sexual, and often homophobic violence against men that emerge in wars and ethnic conflicts. In particular it looks at the war in Iraq and how that war configures such practices in both old and new ways. My purpose is not to repudiate feminist visions but rather to challenge the exclusive privileging of women as the bearers of sexual rights and to open up discussion of new, more inclusive coalitions of diverse social movements for rights of the body.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Health, International Human Rights, Peace Processes, Religion, Rights, Human Rights, Sexual Violence, Torture, Sexual Torture Regions: Asia, East Asia Countries: China

Year: 2005

On Torture: Abu Ghraib


Puar, Jasbir K. 2005. "On Torture: Abu Ghraib." Radical History Review 93: 13-38.

Author: Jasbir K. Puar

Keywords: prisons, torture

Topics: International Law, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Rights, Human Rights, Terrorism, Torture, Sexual Torture Regions: MENA, Americas, North America, Asia, Middle East Countries: Iraq, United States of America

Year: 2005

Somali and Oromo Refugee Women: Trauma and Associated Factors


Robertson, Cheryl L., Linda Halcon, Kay Savik, David Johnson, Marline Spring, James Butcher, Joseph Westermeyer, and James Jaranson. 2006. "Somali and Oromo Refugee Women: Trauma and Associated Factors." Journal of Advanced Nursing 56 (6): 577-87.

Authors: Cheryl L. Robertson, Linda Halcon, Kay Savik, David Johnson, Marline Spring, James Butcher, Joseph Westermeyer, James Jaranson


Aim: This paper reports a study identifying the demographic characteristics, self-reported trauma and torture prevalence, and association of trauma experience and health and social problems among Somali and Oromo women refugees.

Background: Nearly all refugees have experienced losses, and many have suffered multiple traumatic experiences, including torture. Their vulnerability to isolation is exacerbated by poverty, grief, and lack of education, literacy, and skills in the language of the receiving country.

Method: Using data from a cross-sectional population-based survey, conducted from July 1999 to September 2001, with 1134 Somali and Oromo refugees living in the United States of America, a sub-sample of female participants with clearly identified parenting status (n = 458) were analysed. Measures included demographics, history of trauma and torture, scales for physical, psychological, and social problems, and a post-traumatic stress symptom checklist.

Finding: Results indicated high overall trauma and torture exposure, and associated physical, social and psychological problems. Women with large families reported statistically significantly higher counts of reported trauma (mean 30, P < 0·001) and torture (mean 3, P < 0·001), and more associated problems (P < 0·001) than the other two groups. Women who reported higher levels of trauma and torture were also older (P < 0·001), had more family responsibilities, had less formal education (P < 0·001) and were less likely to speak English (P < 0·001).

Conclusion: These findings suggest a need for nurses, and especially public health nurses who work with refugee and immigrant populations in the community, to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the range of refugee women's experiences and the continuum of needs post-migration, particularly among older women with large family responsibilities. Nurses, with their holistic framework, are ideally suited to partner with refugee women to expand their health agenda beyond the biomedical model to promote healing and reconnection with families and communities.

Keywords: female refugees, trauma, torture, posttraumatic stress disorder, mental health

Topics: Age, Displacement & Migration, Refugees, Gender, Women, Gender-Based Violence, Health, Mental Health, PTSD, Trauma, Torture Regions: Africa, East Africa Countries: Somalia

Year: 2006

Rape, Torture, and Traumatization of Bosnian and Croatian Women


Kozaric-Kovacic, Dragica, Vera Folnegovic-Smalc, Jarmila Skrinjaric, Nathan M. Szajnberg, and Ana Marusic. 1995. "Rape, Torture, and Traumatization of Bosnian and Croatian Women." American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 65 (3): 428-433.

Authors: Dragica Kozaric-Kovacic, Vera Folnegovic-Smalc, Jarmila Skrinjaric, Nathan. M. Szajnberg, Ana Marusic


The first 25 Bosnian women admitted to the Zagreb Obstetrics and Gynaecological Clinic or its associated regional psychiatric centers were assessed using both clinical and post-traumatic stress disorder interviews. Most of the women had been multiply traumatized; all had been repeatedly raped. Psychological status was assessed for those women who were not impregnated, for those impregnated who received abortions, and for those impregnated who carried the fetus to term.

Keywords: war rape, torture, trauma, mental health, posttraumatic stress disorder

Topics: Gender, Women, Gender-Based Violence, Health, Mental Health, PTSD, Reproductive Health, Trauma, Sexual Violence, Rape, SV against Women, Torture Regions: Europe, Balkans, Eastern Europe Countries: Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia

Year: 1995

Refugee Women and Their Mental Health: Shattered Societes, Shattered Lives


Cole, Ellen, Olivia M. Espin, and Esther D. Rothblum. 1992. Refugee Women and Their Mental Health: Shattered Societies, Shattered Lives. New York: Haworth Press.

Authors: Ellen Cole, Olivia M. Espin, Esther D. Rothblum


Currently, there are over 15 million legally designated refugees all over the world and it is documented that 75 percent of those refugees are women, yet most of the existent literature does not focus on this group as women. Most of the literature focuses on political, economic, and social issues with very little reference to the mental health implications of the refugees’ experiences as women. Refugee Women and Their Mental Health begins to fill this paucity of information on female refugees’ experiences.

A book of immediate interest, Refugee Women and Their Mental Health focuses on understanding the plight of women refugees around the world, with an emphasis on mental health. The book adds successful and innovative treatment and recovery models for these women survivors.

Some of the chapters are written by women who are therapists/psychologists now and who have been refugees themselves. This adds additional insight into the plight and resulting mental health problems of refugee women. The chapters cover a vast range of topics:

  • torture and sexual abuse as refugees/victims of state violence
  • elderly women refugees
  • immigration law and women refugees
  • first-person narratives
  • the transformation of identity
  • successful creative treatment programs

It becomes clear that women refugees from all over the world under different political events and circumstances share common values and have similar mental health needs. Refugee Women and Their Mental Health explores processes of recovery from the traumas experienced by these women and offers a variety of models for the application of feminist theory to the plight of women refugees. Experienced therapists of women and those in training to be therapists will want to read this book. The topics of refugees women rarely comes up in training programs, so the information in this book is vital for therapists, policy makers, and other service providers and professors of psychology of women, immigration and social work issues, and women and mental health issues. (Amazon Book Description)

Keywords: female refugees, mental health

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Refugees, Gender, Women, Health, Mental Health, Torture

Year: 1992

Ancient Hatred and Its Contemporary Manifestation: The Torture of Lesbians


Hawthorne, Susan. 2006. "Ancient Hatred and Its Contemporary Manifestation: The Torture of Lesbians." The Journal of Hate Studies 4 (1): 33-58.

Author: Susan Hawthorne


This paper looks at a number of different elements that make up the experience of torture by lesbians in the contemporary world. I draw together elements of popular culture, along with testimonies by lesbians, concerning torture in diverse countries, as well as citing some historical sources. I examine the justifications and excuses given for torture, including the view that rape is a normal part of heterosexual activity. I argue that domination is exemplified in the punishment of lesbians as outsiders in patriarchal culture, in particular when groups and nations go to war. I also look at the way in which arguments for the legalization of torture share similarities with arguments in favor of prostitution, pornography, and consensual BDSM. I challenge the defenders of these acts and argue that such defense is a case of moral neglect. I conclude with the contention that the freedom of lesbians from torture and violence may be an indicator of the social health of a society.

Topics: Gender, Women, LGBTQ, Rights, Human Rights, Sexual Violence, Sexuality, Torture, Sexual Torture

Year: 2006


© 2023 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at

Subscribe to RSS - Torture