Originally posted on July 2, 2013
The Guardian published an article titled Male rape: the last human rights taboo. Rich McEachran questions why NGOs pay so little attention to sexual violence against men and boys despite growing concern for the problem:
There is a disconcerting disparity between how various aid organisations and NGOs are dealing, or are failing to deal, with the issue. On a macro-level, organisations may not be aware of what they’re looking for and may not see how male rape fits into the bigger picture. It may come as a surprise that the UN only changed its own definition of rape to cover male victims, in 2011; this followed the publication of an article in The Observer.
NGOs at a micro-level, some of whom are already working with male survivors – the Refugee Law Project for instance – face major obstacles, such as acquiring funding and carrying out field work or accessing survivors in remote areas. The author of the aforementioned article spoke to Chris Dolan, the director of RLP, who claimed that one of the project’s donors refused to provide future funding if 70% of the client base wasn’t female.
Despite the fear of losing funding, the pervasiveness of the problem (academic Lara Stemple writes that male sexual violence has been used as a weapon of war from Chile to Iran, Kuwait to Uganda) means that the humanitarian community needs to challenge perceptions of rape, improve understanding and create awareness.
Yet that may be difficult to do given the gendered focus on sexual violence. As McEachran notes in the article, many NGOs use gendered language to refer to victims of sexual violence. Even in instances in which NGOs acknowledge the existence of abused men and boys, little of their literature mentions those experiences. Continue reading