Sexual Violence as a peacetime-wartime continuum: Part 3; The hidden story male victims of sexual violence in conflict
While my earlier two posts might have projected the notion that women are the sole sufferers of sexual violence in conflict, the intention was not to do so. In segregating a separate post exclusively to the male victims of sexual violence in conflict, my endeavor is to ensure that equal attention is focused on the lesser heard voices.
Men are as many victims of sexual violence as women are. The war-ravaged warlord-based impunity in Afghanistan allowed the age-old practice of bacha-baazi to thrive in abundance. The Bosnian war saw the vilest forms of castration take place. The protracted armed conflict in DR Congo created a thriving hotbed of sexual violence of men at the hands of the rebels. As the war in Syria continues, men are subjected to sexual violence in detention centers – including even the ghastly form of electric shocks to their genitals. At the outset, it is important to understand that sexual violence against men in a conflict setting is not something confined to being perpetrated by homosexual men exclusively, but by heterosexual men as well.
As it happens with women who suffer sexual violence in conflict, sexual violence towards men is not about lust. It is directed towards men with the same intention as it is directed towards women with that of dominance. The stakes are “higher” to the perpetrator if a man is subjected to sexual violence, for not only have they imposed dominance, but they have also emasculated their enemy, or have “feminized” the enemy. Sexual violence against women is a part of the policy of dominance, but this dominance is multiplied further if such violence is directed against men. It becomes a case of asserting dominance aggressively, as war is all about breaking society. By subjecting a man to sexual violence, an act of defilement is committed on their person with the intention of humiliating them. The purpose of using sexual violence against men is to break the men who are supposed to be guardians of society, the breadwinners of families in a social setting, and to erode the sanctity attached to their masculinity. In this backdrop, it is definitely true, therefore, that these are planned and anticipated results.
The consequences are a testimony to their reasoning. To men who suffer sexual violence or rape, coming out with their story is not just painful but also terribly difficult considering the taboo that surrounds the issue. To men who suffer sexual violence or rape, the situation they faced becomes a representation of how “incapable” they have been rendered, or how they failed in being the “men they should be”. From being stigmatized to being perceived as homosexuals by their xenophobic community, (the author wishes to assert that she uses the aforementioned term only to convey that in certain communities, homosexuals are stigmatized for their sexual orientation), men who survive sexual violence face the risk of being turned out of their homes and families. Sometimes, these men also run the risk of being called women.
About the Author:
Kirthi Jayakumar is an activist, artist, entrepreneur, and writer from Chennai, India. She founded and runs the Red Elephant Foundation, a civilian peacebuilding initiative that works for gender equality through storytelling, advocacy, and digital interventions. She also founded and runs fynePRINT, a feminist e-publishing imprint. She is a member of the Youth Working Group for Gender Equality under the UNIANYD.
Kirthi is an author and released her debut novel in 2017, titled The Doodler of Dimashq. Her second book, The Dove’s Lament, made it to the final shortlist for the Muse India Young Writers’ Literary Award.
Kirthi coded an app for survivors of gender-based violence called Saahas, which works as a web and mobile app. She taught herself to code and created a web app, a mobile app, and a Facebook ChatBot to support survivors of gender-based violence across 196 countries, and to assist bystander intervention.
In 2016, Kirthi was invited to Michelle Obama’s United State of Women Summit at the White House in Washington DC, as a nominated changemaker. In 2017, she was one of the youth activists invited to attend President Obama’s Town Hall at New Delhi.
Kirthi has spoken at TEDx Chennai, addressing Peace Education as a means to end Bullying. She has also spoken at FICCI FLO, as one of the youngest speakers to address the members. She was also a speaker at the Economic Times Women’s Summit 2018. Kirthi has also had the distinction of addressing the UNV Partnerships Forum on her work as an epoch-making online volunteer with the United Nations.
Kirthi is the recipient of the US Presidential Services Medal (2012) for her services as a volunteer to Delta Women NGO, from President Barack Obama. She is the two-time recipient of the UN Online Volunteer of the Year Award (2012, 2013). She received the 2016 Orange Flower Award from Women’s Web, the 2016 World Pulse Impact Leader Award and the 2017 Empowerment Leader Award from the Dais Foundation. Her work has been published in The Guardian and the TIME Magazine. She was recognized by EuropeAid on the “200 Women in the World of Development Wall of Fame in 2016.” She received the Digital Women Award for Social Impact in 2017, from SheThePeople, the Person of the Year (Social Entrepreneur) 2017 from The Brew Magazine. Kirthi is a recipient of the Yuva Samman from MOP Vaishnav College, in January 2018. The Red Elephant Foundation received the FICCI FLO Outstanding NGO of the Year Award 2018, and the UN Online Volunteering Award 2017. Kirthi was also among the six women featured on Facebook India on International Women’s Day in 2018.