Will Storr is a journalist and novelist. He has reported from the refugee camps of Africa, travelling to Uganda to meet traumatised survivors. He has written the article below to highlight that male rape is endemic in many of the world’s conflicts.
It is not only women that suffer from sexual violence during conflict. Nor is it, as many assume, only a tiny number of men that survive such terribly damaging acts. One study, Male Rape and Human Rights by Lara Stemple, notes incidents of male sexual violence as a weapon of wartime or political aggression in countries such as Chile, Greece, Croatia, Iran, Kuwait, the former Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia. Twenty-one per cent of Sri Lankan males who were seen at a London torture treatment centre reported sexual abuse while in detention. In El Salvador, 76% of male political prisoners surveyed in the 1980s described at least one incidence of sexual torture. A study of 6,000 concentration-camp inmates in Sarajevo found that 80% of men reported having been raped.
Meanwhile, a study, 2010 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.
Despite these numbers, the male experience in only just about acknowledged in aid, government and UN circles. It is often implied that simply the act of admitting that men and boys can suffer, in pamphlets, conferences and in legislation, is somehow proof that they are given equal consideration. It is not. On the ground, desperate and dying men are routinely ignored and rejected by international organisations, who have the funds and programmes to help women but not the men. Very often, the question of whether or not a survivor will receive help depends, simply, on whether or not they are a man or a woman. This is gender prejudice in it rawest form.
Listen to Will’s Report - Male rape: a weapon of war - audio slideshow