Photo credit: Will Storr for The Observer:

Men are often victims of violent rape (by other men) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), particularly in the eastern Kivu region, where the Kivu Conflict has been raging since 2004, writes Maryline Dumas in an article from Rue89 (August 2, 2011).

Congolese men, traditionally perceived as protectors, are sometimes abandoned by their families after having been victimized, emasculated, or “feminized” in the pejorative, says Lara Stemple, Director of the Health and Human Rights Law Project at UCLA.  As a result of this severe stigmatization, a code of silence exists surrounding men who have been raped or who are victims of sexual violence, and not just in the DRC.

According to Stemple’s article, “Male Rape and Human Rights” (Hastings Law Journal, p.605, 2009), sexual abuse of men during conflict has been cited in Chile, Greece, Croatia, Sri Lanka, Iran, Kuwait, the former Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia.  In El Salvador 76% of male political prisoners interviewed during the 80s said they’d been victims of sexual torture (612-13).  80% of men in concentration camps in Sarajevo reported male rape, and sexual humiliation marked the scandal in Iraq at Abu Ghraib prison (614).

Stemple’s article points out that female-centric definitions of rape, created historically by the women’s rights movement that rallied around calls for illumination of and protection from male assailants, create the notion of “a perpetrating class of men” that make men “implausible victims” (634) and frame women as perpetual victims.  The ideological focus on women and girls as victims, the implausibility of men as victims, and a strong code of silence protecting male victims’ role as protectors in conflict-torn regions like Kivu in the DRC, have all perhaps contributed to the United Nation’s lack of preparedness to provide aid to male victims of rape and sexual violence.  Aid for female victims of the same is comparatively ample.

In Rue89, Dumas describes the story of a 28 year old Congolese man who, although already stark naked before his captors, only realized what was about to happen when several of them grabbed his arms, another his waist, and forced him to bend over.  He had not imagined that this could possibly happen to him.  Three men had a turn, after which he finally collapsed from pain and exhaustion.  Immediately, the next of their victims was brought in.  He eventually escaped and fled into Uganda with his brother and sister.  He bled for weeks from his anus, suffering from pain and fatigue from blood loss.  His brother and sister eventually abandoned him, as the smell of the blood was sickening and they were afraid he would give them diseases.  This young man finally found asylum with The Refugee Law Project, which “seeks to ensure fundamental human rights for all asylum seekers, refugees, and internally displaced persons within Uganda.”

Will Storr of The Observer broke this story for a worldwide audience on July 17.  Here, he quotes Stemple on the availability of UN aid for men like the above described Congolese rape victim:

International human rights law leaves out men in nearly all instruments designed to address sexual violence….  The UN Security Council Resolution 1325 in 2000 treats wartime sexual violence as something that only impacts on women and girls…. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently announced $44m to implement this resolution. Because of its entirely exclusive focus on female victims, it seems unlikely that any of these new funds will reach the thousands of men and boys who suffer from this kind of abuse. Ignoring male rape not only neglects men, it also harms women by reinforcing a viewpoint that equates ‘female’ with ‘victim’, thus hampering our ability to see women as strong and empowered. In the same way, silence about male victims reinforces unhealthy expectations about men and their supposed invulnerability.

In late July, Al Jazeera aired a feature on the subject (English):

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