I warn you, the next fragment is too gruesome to read:
The rape of men | Society | The Observer
I’ve come to Kampala to hear the stories of the few brave men who have agreed to speak to me: a rare opportunity to find out about a controversial and deeply taboo issue. In Uganda, survivors are at risk of arrest by police, as they are likely to assume that they’re gay – a crime in this country and in 38 of the 53 African nations. They will probably be ostracised by friends, rejected by family and turned away by the UN and the myriad international NGOs that are equipped, trained and ready to help women. They are wounded, isolated and in danger. In the words of Owiny: “They are despised.”
But they are willing to talk, thanks largely to the RLP’s British director, Dr Chris Dolan. Dolan first heard of wartime sexual violence against men in the late 1990s while researching his PhD in northern Uganda, and he sensed that the problem might be dramatically underestimated. Keen to gain a fuller grasp of its depth and nature, he put up posters throughout Kampala in June 2009 announcing a “workshop” on the issue in a local school. On the day, 150 men arrived. In a burst of candour, one attendee admitted: “It’s happened to all of us here.” It soon became known among Uganda’s 200,000-strong refugee population that the RLP were helping men who had been raped during conflict. Slowly, more victims began to come forward.
I meet Jean Paul on the hot, dusty roof of the RLP’s HQ in Old Kampala. He wears a scarlet high-buttoned shirt and holds himself with his neck lowered, his eyes cast towards the ground, as if in apology for his impressive height. He has a prominent upper lip that shakes continually – a nervous condition that makes him appear as if he’s on the verge of tears.
Jean Paul was at university in Congo, studying electronic engineering, when his father – a wealthy businessman – was accused by the army of aiding the enemy and shot dead. Jean Paul fled in January 2009, only to be abducted by rebels. Along with six other men and six women he was marched to a forest in the Virunga National Park.
Later that day, the rebels and their prisoners met up with their cohorts who were camped out in the woods. Small camp fires could be seen here and there between the shadowy ranks of trees. While the women were sent off to prepare food and coffee, 12 armed fighters surrounded the men. From his place on the ground, Jean Paul looked up to see the commander leaning over them. In his 50s, he was bald, fat and in military uniform. He wore a red bandana around his neck and had strings of leaves tied around his elbows.
“You are all spies,” the commander said. “I will show you how we punish spies.” He pointed to Jean Paul. “Remove your clothes and take a position like a Muslim man.”
Jean Paul thought he was joking. He shook his head and said: “I cannot do these things.”
The commander called a rebel over. Jean Paul could see that he was only about nine years old. He was told, “Beat this man and remove this clothes.” The boy attacked him with his gun butt. Eventually, Jean Paul begged: “Okay, okay. I will take off my clothes.” Once naked, two rebels held him in a kneeling position with his head pushed towards the earth.
At this point, Jean Paul breaks off. The shaking in his lip more pronounced than ever, he lowers his head a little further and says: “I am sorry for the things I am going to say now.” The commander put his left hand on the back of his skull and used his right to beat him on the backside “like a horse”. Singing a witch doctor song, and with everybody watching, the commander then began. The moment he started, Jean Paul vomited.
Eleven rebels waited in a queue and raped Jean Paul in turn. When he was too exhausted to hold himself up, the next attacker would wrap his arm under Jean Paul’s hips and lift him by the stomach. He bled freely: “Many, many, many bleeding,” he says, “I could feel it like water.” Each of the male prisoners was raped 11 times that night and every night that followed.
The excerpt of the article above is just too gruesome to read, as is the whole article in fact. But it points to a underreported issue in many conflicts; that of male rape.
The rape of men | Society | The Observer
t’s not just in East Africa that these stories remain unheard. One of the few academics to have looked into the issue in any detail is Lara Stemple, of the University of California’s Health and Human Rights Law Project. Her study Male Rape and Human Rights notes incidents of male sexual violence as a weapon of wartime or political aggression in countries such as Chile, Greece, Croatia, Iran, Kuwait, the former Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia. Twenty-one per cent of Sri Lankan males who were seen at a London torture treatment centre reported sexual abuse while in detention. In El Salvador, 76% of male political prisoners surveyed in the 1980s described at least one incidence of sexual torture. A study of 6,000 concentration-camp inmates in Sarajevo found that 80% of men reported having been raped.
Stemple, I think rightly so, does not argue for a separate protection in human rights against male rape since that would not only be conceptually problematic but would also mean that the whole issue falls into the trap of identity politics and relegating gender as something that only pertains to women. In the article linked above she states:
Definitions of rape and other forms of sexual abuse must always leave room for male victims. Any gender analysis of sexual violence must tease out the ways in which harmful masculinity norms serve to render certain groups of men (men who are perceived to be gay, weak, small, or effeminate)
vulnerable to such violence.
Furthermore, she concludes (and I have nothing to add to that):
In a world in which, one hopes, compassion is not a finite resource, new concern for one type of victim, in this case, men and boys, need not signify the lessening of concern for women and girls. It is not a zero-sum game. Indeed, the total undoing of women’s sexual subordination must include an accurate understanding of rape and a thorough critique of gender assumptions—and should not and cannot come at the expense of failing to account for other victims.