UNHCR provides guidance to improve identification and protection of men and boys who have survived sexual and gender based violence

by zoejardiniere

12.10.2012 For the first time, UNHCR have published a set of guidelines for working with men and boys who are survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in the context of forced displacement. Whilst the use of rape against women is increasingly being understood as a weapon of war, sexual violence against men has traditionally been little acknowledged.  Chris Dolan, director of the Refugee Law Project, has emphasised that, although the issue of sexual violence against women is far from being resolved, the protection of victims is not a ‘zero-sum game’ and more attention must also be paid to the male side of this tragedy.

Entrenched normative thinking as regards gender, as well as the intense religious and social stigma that can surround this issue makes the identification of male survivors particularly difficult, says the report. However, as in cases of sexual violence against women and girls, the effects of attacks gravely affect victims’ well-being.

The report also highlights that as well as being a form of persecution in countries of origin, SGBV can represent a threat in displacement and asylum situations. Men, women and children are at risk of sexual exploitation and abuse in the form of ‘survival sex’ for example in return for food, shelter or release from detention.

Finally the report warns that men and boys can be victims of different kinds of SGBV such as witnessing their family members’ rape, or being forced to commit rape themselves.

For further information:–                     Sandesh Sivakumaran, ‘Lost in translation: UN responses to sexual violence against men and boys in situations of armed conflict’ , International Review of the Red Cross, March 2010.

–                     Amnesty International, ‘I wanted to die’ Syria’s torture survivors speak out