Friday, July 29, 2011

Male victims of sex crimes in war 'almost equal' number of female victims

In recent years, there's been quite a bit of press coverage of the rape and sexual assault against women during war time, and rightly so. However, there's virtually no awareness of such crimes against men. Both al-Jazeera (here) and the UK Observer (here) have done pieces on this mostly ignored scourge.

Both news outlets report the claim that sex crimes against men during war is nearly as common as those against women, some of the victims having been gang raped repeatedly for months or even years.

But The Observer points out that the problem is so little thought of that such statistics are hard to find. Because there has been so little research into the rape of men during war, it's not possible to say with any certainty why it happens or even how common it is – although a rare 2010 survey, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that 22% of men and 30% of women in Eastern Congo reported conflict-related sexual violence.


They note that, in addition to the taboos (and in some places, laws) preventing many such men from getting help, many non-governmental organizations are set up to help female victims of sex crimes but not males.

"The organisations working on sexual violence don't talk about it," says Chris Dolan, director of the Refugee Law Project (RLP) at the Makerere University in Uganda.

But it goes beyond not talking about it to an active muzzling of reality.

"I know for a fact that the people behind [a 2006 United Nations] report insisted the definition of rape be restricted to women," [Dolan] says, adding that one of the RLP's donors, Dutch Oxfam, refused to provide any more funding unless he'd promise that 70% of his client base was female.

The Observer article concludes depressingly: Before receiving help from the RLP, one man went to see his local doctor. He told him he had been raped four times, that he was injured and depressed and his wife had threatened to leave him. The doctor gave him a Panadol.

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