Sexual Violence Against Men and Boys in Conflict and Displacement


Refugee Law Project Written evidence (SVC0037). 18 September 2015 

Evidence submitted on behalf of Refugee Law Project ( - Kampala, Uganda

This evidence lends support to the importance of sustaining the position clearly established in the course of the Global Summit of June 2014, namely that the experiences and needs of male survivors of conflict-related sexual violence be given much needed humanitarian and human rights attention in synergy with those of women and girls.

Refugee Law Project Description

1. Refugee Law Project (RLP) works directly with refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and other forced migrant groups to provide legal aid, psycho-social counselling, referrals for treatment of SGBV, and access to medical care, housing and education. RLP’s clients come from the Great Lakes region including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, Kenya, and Somalia.

2. Our systematic screening of both male and female refugees for experiences of sexual violence establishes that sexual violence affects an average of 3 out of 10 refugee men, alongside the 6 out of 10 women. In short, men constitute 1/3 of the total SGBV caseload we deal with. These figures are in line with existing data from other conflict-affected settings (e.g. Liberia, DRC) which suggest a broad ratio of one male victim to every two female victims.

3. RLP provides direct services to all survivors of SGBV but – confronted with a ‘GBV’ discourse that prior to the 2013 G8 Declaration and the 2014 Global Summit was concentrated almost entirely on women and children we have focused our SGBV related advocacy work on drawing attention to the humanitarian needs and legal challenges faced by male survivors.

4. Key moments in our research and advocacy include i) as a co-author on UNHCR’s first Need to Know Guidance Note on Working with Men and Boy Survivors of Sexual Violence in Forced Displacement ii) as partner in a joint research project to develop the first screening tool for male survivors in humanitarian settings iii) as a founding member of the South- South Institute on Sexual Violence Against Men & Boys in Conflict & Displacement418 iv) as a unique resource for policy leaders in SGBV (such as by presenting at the first workshop on male victims convened by the SRSG-SVC’s office in July 2013 and at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in June 2014) and key institutions involved in the prosecution of sexual violence crimes (International Criminal Court). RLP’s knowledge has directly shaped UNHCR’s first ever three-day training on working with male survivors held in Amman, Jordan, from 15-17 September 2015 as a necessary step in responding to the Syrian crisis in the region.

Response to the Call for Evidence International Policy Agenda

1 a. How can the commitments and aspirations set out in documents such as the G8 Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict... be coordinated and monitored?

5. One of the most striking aspirations of the G8 Declaration was that “further action at the international level is imperative to end sexual violence in armed conflict, to tackle the lack of accountability.” For greater accountability to be possible requires that:

(a) the Rome Statute be domesticated in a number of countries affected by conflict-related sexual violence

(b) the OSRSG-SVC be mandated beyond its origins in the Women Peace & Security agenda to fully monitor crimes against men and boys

(c) a second edition of the 2014 Investigations Protocol be produced to include the additional guidance on investigating sexual violence crimes against men and boys (this has already been prepared with PSVI funding support)

(d) the Special Rapporteur on ending Violence Against Women work in line with the gender- inclusive position of the G8 declaration, namely to recognise victims, be they women, girls, men or boys.”

6. To make it possible to coordinate the provision of comprehensive support services to victims (again, be they women, girls, men or boys) requires revisions to key structures such as the Inter-Agency Standing Committee to ensure that a gender-inclusive rather than the current women and girls perspective is given priority.

1 c. How can the UK use its position as a permanent member of the UN Security Council ... ?

7. In the Security Council’s High-level Review of resolution 1325, the UK must seek to use its position to ensure that either the G8 language of ‘women, girls, men and boys’ is adopted, OR catalyse discussion about whether an additional UN Security Council Resolution is required that generates a similar level of policy and practice momentum around the humanitarian, human rights and strategic (peacebuilding and security) grounds for recognising and working with male survivors of conflict-related sexual violence.

1 d. How might the UK use the World Humanitarian Summit that will take place in May 2016?

8. Untreated medical, psychological and psychosocial trauma prevents male survivors from engaging in economic livelihoods, maintaining healthy relationships with their family members, and recovering from traumatic experiences of sexual violence in conflict. This aggravates already acute humanitarian crises.

9. The fact that civilian men and boys continue to be largely excluded from necessary medical, legal, psychosocial, and protection interventions in conflict settings represents an attack on the core principles of humanitarianism, namely to respond to human need in an impartial manner. One of the 2016 Summit’s themes, Serving the Needs of People in Conflict, provides an opportunity for the UK government a) to promote a gender inclusive model of humanitarian response to the needs of SGBV survivors b) to make a strong call for the core principles of humanitarianism to be foregrounded c) to emphasise the close interconnections between women’s and men’s victimisation and the related need to address them in a synergistic fashion rather than seeing them as competing interventions d) to argue the case for further revision of policy documents and gender policies along with the need to develop guides on how to recognise, respond, and prevent SGBV against men and boys e) make a call to medical schools in countries that send large numbers of humanitarian workers to include modules on working with female AND male survivors of conflict-related SGBV as standard in their training curricula.

10. Strong advocacy by the UK government can play a crucial role in convincing humanitarian actors of the need to mainstream male survivors, thereby strengthening response to sexual violence in conflict for all survivors.

11. Other key fora include a) the UN Security Council b) the Inter-Agency Standing Committee c) NATO d) supporting efforts to make the reports of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict (SRSG-SVC) gender-inclusive e) funding of training to peace-keepers and humanitarians.

2. What evidence is there on the effectiveness of the UK’s work with other States, multinational, regional and international bodies to prevent sexual violence in conflict?

12. In our work we can identify at least two instances in which other States have sought to maintain the momentum generated by the PSVI:  the Swedish Embassy in Uganda convened a high level discussion about Uganda’s SGBV action plan in August 2015; and the panel on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict at the Bled Strategic Forum in Slovenia, September 2015

Causes of sexual violence in conflict

3 a. To what extent are cultural and societal factors responsible for sexual violence in conflict?

13. The most important cultural and societal factors that give sexual violence its considerable capacity to harm are gender norms of masculinity and femininity and related power imbalances. Our work with male survivors indicates that sexual violence is generally understood by perpetrator and victim alike as feminising the victim and thereby contributing to his subordination. Prevention efforts have focused on preventing the subordination of biological females and ignored the subordination of those who have been ‘feminised’ by being subjected to sexual violence.

3 b. To what extent is sexual violence in conflict used as a deliberate tactic?

14. Both male and female victims are targeted through acts of sexual violence as a deliberate tactic in warfare though the extent of violence inflicted on men is underreported. By inflicting sexual violence on the males of a community feminise and degrade their victims allowing the perpetrators to fracture community cohesion, shame the community, and attack the ethnicity or social identity of a group.

15. Acts of sexual violence against men and boys can include: person to person rape (including gang rape), coerced participation in acts of sexual violence (such as forced to commit rape), rape with objects, sexual torture particularly genital torture (including beatings, electrocution, tying, and burning), forced to observe and/or listen to sexual violence inflicted on others, threats of rape against the individual or the individual’s family and friends, forced nudity, sexual humiliation, targeting of reproductive organs (e.g. Snipers shooting men in the groin), forced marriage (e.g. Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, Lord’s Resistance Army (Uganda)), forced to bite off another man’s testicles or penis (multiple cases at ICTY), forced circumcision (documented in Kenya and Iraq), being used as a mattress while perpetrators rape their family members on top of them (Northern Uganda), being held for lengthy periods of time as sexual slaves. 419 Many of the forms that target the male genitalia are coupled with expressions of genocidal intent.


4 b. PSVI recognised that men and boys can be victims as well as perpetrators of sexual violence in conflict. To what extent are prevention programmes targeted at men and boys, and are existing approaches effective?

16. Prevention programmes deal almost exclusively with men and boys as actual or potential perpetrators who need to engage in conscious behavioural and attitudinal modification to ensure prevention of SGBV against women and girls. Prevention programmes working with men and boys as potential and actual victims are non-existent and actual strategies to prevent SGBV against men and boys are rare and underdeveloped.

17. Given that 1/3 of male refugees coming to Uganda from DRC are themselves victims rather than perpetrators, the existing approaches that fail to recognise their victim status are inevitably ineffective for this section of the male population. Men and boys deserve prevention programmes that consider their vulnerability and actually address their protection risks.

18. Prevention programmes for men and boys should address: the forms, locations, and perpetrators of sexual violence against men and boys; the situations where men and boys are at risk, the impacts of sexual violence on men and boys (physical, psychological and psychosocial); and the obstacles to disclosure including both security risks and social dimensions such as stigma. These programmes should also consider how gender norms and cultural taboos affect survivors. page609image26552

19. Valuable prevention programmes can include training targeted at key stakeholders: police and security forces; prisoners, medical practitioners, legal students, community groups, and humanitarian workers. For example, in 2015 RLP has been working with UNHCR on trainings for protection officers on conflicted-related sexual violence against men and boys to inform protection staff how to recognise male survivors of sexual violence. Such trainings can be further strengthened by better considering how to increase protection for men and boys in conflict and situations of forced displacement.

The needs of survivors

5 a. What can be done to lessen the stigma that is often experienced by survivors of sexual violence in conflict?

20. Men and boys are silenced by “deeply entrenched cultural assumptions about male invulnerability”420 in addition to being met with disbelief and outright rejection by service providers when they do seek assistance. If male survivors do come forward they are typically denied access to services, are accused of homosexuality, and may be rejected by their communities. Revealing experiences of sexual violence also greatly impacts the interpersonal relationships of men and boys with their family members. Male survivors can be ostracised by their own wives and children just as with female survivors. Furthermore, survivors’ sense of sexuality and masculinity are distorted through experiences of sexual violence. Most male survivors are not aware that sexual violence can happen to men and boys so they experience acute feelings of shame and fear that they are alone in these experiences.

21. Acknowledging the existence of male survivors can do a great deal to address the stigma men and boys face. RLP conducts community outreach sessions in Kampala in order to sensitive refugee communities about the existence of male survivors among the refugee populations living in the city. This work is imperative in challenging social stigma and is especially important in regions such as East Africa where perceptions of homosexuality associated with male survivors are stigmatising -- if not life threatening.

22. To further combat stigma, sensitisation programmes instructing communities and service providers how to recognise and treat male survivors of sexual violence are acutely needed. Such initiatives are crucial for ensuring that men’s and boys’ relationships with their family members and their communities are reinforced so that these survivors are not further stigmatised. Male survivors need to be supported by being granted access to necessary service provision (medial, legal, psychological, psychosocial, and security) and being targeted by outreach programmes to help them reintegrate to their communities. The UK’s Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative can accomplish much by supporting organisations and/or associations who undertake outreach mechanisms (such as community sessions or radio shows) that sensitise communities regarding the existence of male survivors.


9 c. To date, there have been no convictions at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes of sexual violence in conflict situations. What lessons can be learned from the prosecutions of sexual violence at the International Criminal Tribunal of the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the International Tribunal for Rwanda (ITR) and the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL)?

23. Strengthening accountability for conflict-related sexual violence requires prosecution of SGBV crimes against all victims including men and boys. Significant evidence of SGBV against men and boys has been presented as evidence in international tribunals but these crimes have not been adequately prosecuted as crimes against men and boys nor have the gender elements of these acts been sufficiently covered. Experiences at the ICTY, ICTR, ICC, and SCSL demonstrate that evidence of SGBV crimes against men and boys are used as evidence to prosecute crimes against female victims but not the male victims. Furthermore, when incidents of sexual violence against men and boys are included in charges they are not prosecuted as sexual violence but fall into other categories such as torture. This means that the gender elements of the crimes committed against men and boys are not considered.

24. For example, at the ICTY in Prosecutor v. Zdravko Mucic (aka the Celebici case) there was a charge of rape as torture for female victims but the act of forcing two brothers to perform fellatio while also tying a burning fuse around their genitals was prosecuted as a grave breach of inhumane treatment as a war crime - not as rape.421 The Prosecutor in the ICC trial Prosecutor v. Kenyatta did seek to adequately prosecute sexual crimes by charging forcible circumcision as a form of sexual violence but the pre-trial chamber found that “not every act of violence which targets parts of the body commonly associated with sexuality should be considered an act of sexual violence” and the act was categorised as other inhumane acts.422

25. International tribunals must ensure that when evidence of sexual violence against men and boys is brought forward in legal cases that the indictment charges these crimes as crimes as sexual violence. International law provides a strong basis for prosecuting acts of sexual violence against men and boys. The Rome Statute widened the scope of sexual violence addressed in international criminal law to include rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilisation, and other forms of sexual violence while also framing the crimes in gender neutral terms so that each act can apply to both female and male victims (with the exception of forced pregnancy).

26. To utilise this strong foundation, prosecutors must ensure that their charges reflect the gendered nature of crimes against men and boys so that there is no impunity for such crimes and jurisdiction on sexual violence in conflict is strengthened for all victims.

27. International prosecution of cases of sexual violence against men and boys is critical considering that domestic legal systems afford very little protection to male victims; 90 per cent of men in conflict-affected countries are in situations where the law provides no protection for them if they become victims of sexual violence: 62 countries which represents almost two-thirds of the world’s population only recognise female victims of rape, 67 states criminalise men who report abuse, and in 28 countries only males are recognised as perpetrators of sexual violence.423

418 The South-South Institute is brings practitioners, government representatives, academics, male survivors, service providers, students, and activists together from across the global south to respond to the needs of male survivors. The report of the first South-South Institute held in Kampala-Uganda in 2013 available at: report-of-1st-south-south-institute-on-sexual-violence-against-men-and-boys.html

419 List compiled from RLP systematic screening of SGBV, RLP work documenting past human rights abuses in Northern Uganda, and international documentation such as the Commission of Inquiry Reports on Libya and the Syrian Arab Republic.

420 “Report of Workshop on Sexual Violence Against Men and Boys in Conflict Situations New York.” Office of the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary- General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. (2013) available at: boys-final

421 ICTY. Prosecutor v. Zdravko Mucic. IT-96-21-T. Trial Judgement. (16 November 1998) para 1066. 

422 ICC. Prosecutor V. Francis Kirimi Muthaura And Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta. Case No. Icc 01/09-02/11 (24 July 2012) para 10


We had some video come in from Moise who filmed a beheading (with machetes) in a village. Raymond, Moise’s peer-mentor, was shocked to his core. This time the less experienced boy is teaching the more experienced boy. The word experience implies a one-way street. Life is not like that. Real learning is an animal of some reciprocity. Raymond has decided to only show some stills. It is enough. The beheading is too horrific.

This is for Moise. I am Raymond. I am your peer-mentor. The video you have sent me is shocking. I have never seen a human being beheaded before. At first, I did not know what to say. I do not see how we can show a human being beheaded by soldiers. I am sorry. I am sorry you had to see this. I am sorry you are trying to run from these soldiers. Here is what I think we can do. I think we can try to get some still photography from your video. We can still tell the story that you are fleeing soldiers, who are raping and killing people village to village. I am praying for you to live. You need to know that I will always tell you the truth. This project was designed for something less than this. But we need to know this is happening in your part of the world. Please be as safe as possible. I am in awe of your ability to survive this. Your friend, Raymond.

A form of violence specifically perpetrated against males is forcing them to rape family members, a practice known as forced incest, where both the rapist and the victim suffer the violence. (SHATTERED LIVES: Immediate medical care vital for sexual violence victims. A report by Médecins Sans Frontières. March 2009).

Moise was the one forced to rape and kill his mother in front of the family. Then Moise was gang raped in front of his family, while they were forced to watch. Or be killed. They were killed anyway. Moise was cut with machetes and left for dead by the males (some were boys themselves) who committed this crime.

In March 2011 Moise died from his machete wounds. He might have lived, but his HIV status rendered him at-risk for infection. There were no antibiotics available that may have have dealt with the infections.

Sexual violence in humanitarian emergencies, such as armed conflict and natural disasters, is a serious, even life-threatening, public health and human rights issue. Growing concern about the scale of the problem has led to increased efforts to learn more about the contexts in which this particular form of violence occurs, its prevalence, risk factors, its links to HIV infection, and also how best to prevent and respond to it. [see, World Health Organization (WHO), WHO Ethical and Safety Recommendations for Researching, Documenting and Monitoring Sexual Violence in Emergencies (2007)].

The conflict in République Démocratique du Congo is particularly vicious. We would argue that it is a crime against humanity to use rape as a weapon of war and as a mechanism to conduct biological warfare in the form of HIV. Before he died, Moise disclosed. He had been raped repeatedly his entire life by soldiers; some were from neighbouring countries. 

Raping a boy will easily perforate his bowel. Rape causes tears and legions that, along with a compromised immune system in times of trauma, increase the transmission of HIV.

Moise contacted Show Me Your Life (SMYL) from the République Démocratique du Congo, and wanted to know if he could tell his story. He wants to show us his life: “Il pourrait faire une différence. Je ne sais pas.”

Moise's SMYL peer-mentors were from Russia and France. Moise was eleven years old.

**Note the colour of the hand


National Anthem 

Debout Congolais (Arise Congolese) by Joseph Lutumba

Debout Congolais, 
Unis par le sort,
Unis dans l'effort pour l'indépendance,
Dressons nos fronts, longtemps courbés
Et pour de bon prenons le plus bel élan, dans la paix,
O peuple ardent, par le labeur, nous bâtirons un pays plus beau qu'avant, dans la paix.

Citoyens, entonnez, l'hymne sacré de votre solidarité,
Fièrement, saluez, l'emblème d'or de votre souveraineté, Congo.

Don béni (Congo) des aïeux (Congo),
O pays (Congo) bien aimé (Congo),
Nous peuplerons ton sol et nous assurerons ta grandeur.
(Trente juin) O doux soleil (trente juin) du trente juin,
(Jour sacré) Sois le témoin (jour sacré) de l'immortel, serment de liberté
Que nous léguons, à notre postérité, pour toujours.


English Translation

Arise, Congolese,
United by fate,
United in the struggle for independence,
Let us hold up our heads, so long bowed,
And now, for good, let us keep moving boldly ahead, in peace.
Oh, ardent people, by hard work we shall build,
In peace, a country more beautiful than before.

Countrymen, sing the sacred hymn of your solidarity,
Proudly salute the golden emblem of your sovereignty, Congo.

Blessed gift (Congo) of our forefathers (Congo),
Oh beloved (Congo) country,
We shall people your soil and ensure your greatness.
(30 June) Oh gentle sun (30 June) of 30 June,
(Holy day) Be witness (holy day) of the immortal oath of freedom
That we pass on to our children forever

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