June 13, 2018

The Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination's Project on Gender in the Global Community co-sponsored a workshop, "Gender Inclusive Responses to Conflict Related Sexual Violence," on May 4, 2018, at Princeton University. The workshop was co-sponsored with the All Survivors Project and brought together academics, policy makers, and key UN and NGO actors to discuss the issue of sexual violence against males, and a framework for tangible measures that can be adopted to ensure a gender-inclusive and gender-competent approach to sexual violence in conflict.


Conference participants


The workshop consisted of three working sessions. The first session featured presentations that explored the current understanding and knowledge of sexual violence against men and boys, critically examining the gaps in research and responses, and articulating the rationale for further work. Panelists included Lara Stemple, Director of the Health and Human Rights Law Project at UCLA; Tonderai Chikuhwa, Chief of Staff and Senior Policy Advisor for the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict; and Andrew Painter, Senior Policy Advisor at UNHCR. Kaitlyn Pritchard, Second Secretary for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs at the Permanent Mission of Canada to the UN, moderated the session. Stemple framed the session by presenting research on gender stereotypes of masculinity and femininity and how, in practice, these often function to hide male victims of conflict related sexual violence and therefore problematize responses to conflict related sexual violence against men. She further noted that the male victims of conflict related sexual violence are commonly overlooked due to a number of factors including lack of appropriate outreach, fears of stigmatization and/or prosecution of the victims, and framing sexual violence against men solely as torture. Chikuhwa focused his presentation on the reasons why conflict related sexual violence against men is "underreported, under-documented, under-acknowledged, and under-understood," and potential avenues for addressing gaps in both policy and practice. Painter discussed his field experiences with male victims of conflict related sexual violence, focusing especially on vulnerabilities created by conflict related displacement. 


Conference participants in discussion around conference table


The second session included presentations that focused on how international legal instruments have excluded male victims, the use of sexualized torture to inflict deep humiliation on collective and individual gendered identities, and the co-relation between sexual violence against men and boys and violence mitigation. Panelists included Patricia Sellers, Visiting Fellow at Oxford University and Special Advisor to the International Criminal Court; Veronica Laveta, International Services Clinical Advisor for Mental Health at the Center for Victims of Torture; and Joachim Theis, a former Chief of Child Protection at UNICEF. Emily Keehn, Associate Director of the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School moderated the session. Sellers discussed jurisprudence related to male sexual violence in conflict, specifically related to the International Criminal Tribunal of the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Special Court for Sierra Leone, Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, and Extraordinary African Chambers in Senegalese Courts. Laveta's presentation discussed the Center for Victims of Torture's (CVT) programs for male victims of conflict related sexual violence in Syria, Jordan, and Iraq, and the successes and challenges of CVT's community- and family-focused model of survivor assistance. Theis rounded out the panel with a presentation on sexual violence and the cycle of violent conflict. Thesis discussed the interconnectedness of pre-conflict, conflict, and post-conflict/state-building phases in the cycle of violence, and on potential interventions and examples of mitigation of sexual violence, especially during the conflict and development phases.


Conference participants in discussion around conference table


The third session explored feminist principles and theoretical frameworks that may underpin intersectional approaches to male conflict related sexual violence, and the specific example of Bacha Bazi in Afghanistan. Panelists in this session included Abigail Ruane, Director of the PeaceWomen Programme of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom; Marysia Zalewski, Professor of International Relations at Cardiff University; and Katrin Tiroch, a Kabul-based Human Rights Officer and Child Protection Team Leader with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). Lisa Davis, Associate Professor of Law at the City University of New York School of Law, moderated the session. Ruane addressed spectrums of violence as it relates to gendered notions of masculinities, the gendered political economy of war, and potential ways to address existing structural obstacles that have contributed to the "scarcity myth" of resources for assisting victims of conflict related sexual violence. Zalewski outlined problems with the concept of gender inclusivity, noting that gender inclusivity is necessary but should not come at the risk of "flattening" the experiences of men and women in the context of conflict related sexual violence. Tiroch complemented the panel's conceptual and theoretical presentations with a discussion of Afghanistan's Bacha Bazi, its deep soci-cultural and economic roots in Afghanistan, and the reasons why current law in Afghanistan criminalizing the practice and increased international attention to the issue have been ineffective in addressing Bacha Bazi.  


Conference participants in discussion around conference table


The workshop closed with a final, wrap-up session in which, based on discussions from the previous sessions, participants provided input for building a framework agenda toward gender inclusive responses to sexual violence in conflict. A workshop summary and conclusions will be published.