The world has made progress against the abuses of women, but sexual violence often targets men, who still have little recourse
Today, the Internationalist would like to draw your attention to a disturbing phenomenon ignored by the foreign policy community but all too common in global conflict zones: The pervasive sexual abuse of men in war.
Women, of course, bear the main brunt of wartime sexual violence--as they always have. Last December, my CFR colleague Mark Lagon hosted a sobering meeting with the eminent legal scholar and activist Catharine MacKinnon. Now the special gender adviser to the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, Mackinnon in 2000 argued the path-breaking legal case Kadic vs. Karadzic--about mass Serbian rape of Bosnian women--which for the first time established mass rape as an act of genocide.
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Over the past two decades, international attention to rape as a weapon of war has been growing. Documentary filmmakers have often been in the forefront. In 2006 Lisa F. Jackson traveled to DRC to interview thousands of rape victims, and their perpetrators. Her resulting film, The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo, won the Special Jury Prize at Sundance in 2008 and subsequently inspired a UN resolution condemning rape as a weapon of war. Several of my CFR colleagues--including Laurie Garrett, Isobel Coleman, and Matthew Waxman--have spoken and written eloquently on the scope of such atrocities and the need to hold perpetrators accountable.
At the same time, as the Guardian reported on Sunday, the United Nations (UN) and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) "barely acknowledge" the pervasive sexual violence against men that occurs in modern war. The article documents the terrible suffering of a Congolese refugee who was captured by rebels and raped multiple times per day, and watched countless other men be similarly brutalized. 22% of men in Eastern Congo reported being victims of sexual violence, compared to 30% of women. One victim reported the crime to police, and was laughed at. A doctor in whom he confided merely gave him Panadol (a local equivalent of Tylenol). He described: