Rape and other forms of sexual violence are prevalent in most contemporary armed conflicts and, whilst disproportionately affecting women and girls, conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) involving men and boys has been documented by All Survivors Project (ASP) and others in over 25 different situations of armed conflict, as well as in other situations of political and/or ethnic violence in recent decades. CRSV specifically targeting people with diverse sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) has also been documented, but because of widespread discrimination and other barriers to gathering data about them, information remains scant.
CRSV can take many forms and is perpetrated by different actors with different motivations but which is often a manifestation of broader gender-based discrimination rooted in hetero-patriarchal power dynamics and ideologies. In the case of males, CRSV is frequently used to disempower or emasculate victims/survivors and is aimed at punishing, humiliating, terrorising and repressing victims and their communities.
Contexts in which CRSV against men and boys occurs
Rape and sexual violence against males by parties to armed conflict (state security forces and armed groups) has been documented during armed attacks, house searches and at checkpoints. ASP’s research points to situations of heightened risk for men and boys including in situations of deprivation of liberty, or in military contexts, where boys associated with armed forces and armed groups in particular are vulnerable to sexual violence. In these and other contexts, men and boys (as well as others) with diverse SOGIESC may also be targeted, including to punish real or perceived “non-compliance” with prevailing gender norms.
CRSV in the context of forced displacement
CRSV or the risk thereof can be a cause of displacement which, in turn, exacerbates existing vulnerabilities and creates new risks, including for men and boys. CRSV against males in displacement and refugee settings has been documented, including by parties to armed conflict, peacekeepers, humanitarian workers, members of organised crime groups (such as human traffickers), smugglers, community members and others. Separated and unaccompanied children, including boys, are particularly vulnerable in such contexts. Men and boys with diverse SOGIESC, in addition to facing discrimination on account of their migratory status, can also face discrimination and violence in displacement settings because of their SOGIESC.
The impact of CRSV
Profoundly damaging physical and mental health consequences, as well social and economic harms, are commonly experienced by sexual violence victims/survivors which typically require emergency medical care and longer-term mental health and psychosocial support. The implications and consequences of CRSV can differ according to an individual’s gender and other identities. Identities and the broader context in which victims/survivors live can also impact on the availability of and access to appropriate care and support. Negative social and cultural attitudes toward sexual violence involving males, structural discrimination against people with diverse SOGIESC, and discriminatory laws that criminalise consensual same-sex relations, diverse gender identities and diverse gender expressions, contribute to discouraging disclosure by male victims/survivors and to seeking medical care and other support.