LONDON (AlertNet) - New guidelines have been issued to help a group of men whose suffering is rarely chronicled in conflict reporting - the victims of rape and sexual violence.
The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said it had for the first time issued advice for its staff and other aid workers on how to identify male victims of sexual violence in areas where there is fighting or displacement.
Rape and other forms of sexual violence have long been used as a weapon of war. While much of the world's attention has focused on women and girls who account for the majority of such victims, much less is said about men and boys.
"SGBV (sexual and gender-based violence) against men and boys has generally been mentioned as a footnote in reports," Sandesh Sivakumaran, a law professor at Britain's Nottingham University, was quoted by UNHCR as saying in a statement.
"Rape is not limited to traditional notions, it is not limited to gender … we must recognise rape as torture, rape as rape," said Sivakumaran, one of the many academics, aid workers, women's rights activists, lawyers and diplomats called to Geneva to discuss the issue.
Although there are no detailed statistics on the number of male victims of sexual and gender-based violence, the phenomenon is increasingly being recognised as a protection concern, UNHCR said.
In a paper published in February 2009, U.S. academic and human rights specialist Lara Stemple noted the sexual abuse of men as a weapon of war or an act of political aggression in a host of countries including in Chile, Croatia, Sri Lanka, El Salvador, Iran, Kuwait and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
She cited forced nudity, forced sex acts and various forms of genital mutilation as examples of sexual abuse against men.
More recently, in 2010, nearly 400 men, women and children were sexually assaulted during attacks carried out by Rwandan FDLR rebels and a local Congolese armed group in the Walikale region of North Kivu in eastern DRC.
The U.N. lead agency dealing with the issue of protection said the publication Working with Men and Boy Survivors of Sexual and Gender-based Violence in Forced Displacement should be essential for aid workers and organisations helping refugees and internally displaced people.