Essays English 2011 - Gender, Sexuality and Violent Conflict Sexual Violence Against Men in Armed Conflicts

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Sexual Violence Against Men in Armed Conflicts

Sexual Violence Against Men in Armed Conflicts

Renata Ćuk (Zagreb, Croatia)
Course: Gender, Sexuality and Violent Conflict: Beyond Oppositional Imagination

Sexual Violence Against Men in Armed Conflicts

Introduction

Many people connect war time sexual violence to the images of the raped Bosnian (Muslim) women that appeared in the news all over the world back in the 1992. Even though sexual violence against women in war times is not a specificity of the armed conflict in ex-Yugoslavia it is exactly this conflict that has brought the issue out in the open. Due to the pressures of the feminists sexual violence against women in wartime became an important issue and more important, it became punishable 1. So, the space for the issue of sexual violence in armed conflicts was definitely created. However, some forms of sexual violence were left invisible, including sexual violence against men. It is interesting to see how little research has been done on this topic.

Only few authors are writing on the issue and it is hard to find any relevant data on the numbers of the victims. In this essay I will try to explore the factors that explain invisibility of the sexual violence against men in armed conflict in ex-Yugoslavia and provide answers to several questions: in a time when sexual violence against women in armed conflicts received great public attention, what makes sexual violence against men in armed conflict such a taboo? Are the incidents of sexual violence against men so rare that they don’t deserve larger attention? What are the types of sexual violence against men in armed conflicts? How sexual violence against men corresponds with the dominant notion of masculinity in the society? Has sexual violence against men other meanings or should we treat it as a method of torture?

First part of the essay will focus on the different forms of sexual violence against men in armed conflict 2 and their presentation, especially in front of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (hereafter ICTY). This part of the essay will largely rely on the article by Sandesh Sivakumaran in which different types of sexual violence against men in armed conflict have been discussed. Also I will use the Final Report of the UN Commission of Experts related to rape and sexual assaults in Ex-Yugoslavia 3, as well as the testimonies in front of the ICTY 4. In the second part of the essay I will discuss intersections between gender, sexuality and power. After clarifications of these relations I will try to put these relations in the context of armed conflict in ex-Yugoslavia. I will use various authors that wrote on sexual violence against men such as Žarkov, Lončar, Weiss and Stemple.

1. ‘Rape’ or ‘torture’

Horrific incidents of sexual violence against women during the conflict in ex-Yugoslavia are well-known. Testimonies about the crimes committed in camps such as Omarska caught international attention. However, testimonies gathered for the purpose of prosecution in front of the ICTY show that men were victims of sexual violence as well. This part of the essay first wants to define different types of sexual violence against men and then analyze the interpretations of the violence in front of the ICTY. Media was not interested to write about incidents of sexual violence against men. Little is known about the violations that happened during the conflict. I chose to describe the violence so I can decrease the level of abstraction of the terms such as ‘forced castration’ etc. Moreover, I want to point out the ‘sexual’ in the violence that is usually overlooked in the representation of these crimes.

Sandesh Sivakumaran in his article explores different types of sexual violence against men in armed conflict; rape, enforced sterilization and other forms of sexual violence such as genital violence, enforced nudity and enforced masturbation. 5 All these types of violence were present during the conflict in ex-Yugoslavia. Moreover, according to Sivakumaran, the most thorough investigation of the sexual violence in armed conflict is that of the conflict in ex-Yugoslavia 6. In order to illustrate these types of violence I will use the case brought in front of the ICTY.

We have quite a number of witnesses, but I would mention the example of one witness who speaks of a serial rape of men, sexual abuse of men. He describes that it was horrific. There were about 170 detainees there. There were uniformed men who called out eight of the detainees, fathers and sons. Our witness was not with his father, so they took his uncle. And they forced them to climb onto the stage and to strip. Then they forced them to do sexual abuse of various kinds. Afterwards, the detainees were forced to bite off each other's penises, and all this was under the control of men in uniform on the stage. And when they found that three detainees did not fulfill their assignment, they were sentenced to death. 7 

Several cases of sexual violence against men were prosecuted at ICTY such as Tadić case, Mucić et al 8. The case of Duško Tadić was “the first international war crime trial involving charges of sexual violence” 9. One of the incidents Tadić was found guilty included sexual violence against men (forcing a detainee to bite of the testicles of another detainee). Tadić was convicted for “cruel treatment (violation of the laws and customs of war) and inhumane acts (crime against humanity) for the part he played in this and other incidents”. 10 

These cases together with the Report of the UN Commission of Experts reveal many incidents of rape conducted with or without objects and in broad range of brutality, cases of forced sterilization or genital violence. Detainees were forced to perform fellatio on each other in front of the others (which made the humiliation bigger), they were assaulted with different objects, they were beaten on their testicles, etc. 11 

It goes beyond saying that the ICTY played an important role in raising the awareness of the sexual violence committed during armed conflict in ex-Yugoslavia on both men and women and in punishment of those crimes. However, it is interesting to see how these crimes are presented in front of the ICTY. Sivakumaran notes that sexual violence against men is often “buried under the rubric of ‘abuse’ or ‘torture’. Why is that important? According to Sivakumaran “the way of expressing these crimes in legal terms is important – legal language ‘reinforces certain world views and understandings of events 12”. Rosalind Petchesky underlines the differences between the treatment of female and male sexual violence in front of the ICTY. 13 She notes that sexual violence against women was treated almost solely as sexual and only after the hard work of the feminists and women’s organizations it was recognized as torture. However, in cases of sexual violence against men sexual component is often neglected. 
If we address sexual violence against men as torture and abuse, we address sexual violence only as violence and we are ignoring the sexual element of the violence. More important, we are ignoring the meaning of the sexual violence in the conflict. 

2. ‘Real man are unrapable’

As I mention in the previous chapter, without exploring all the elements of the violence (including sexuality) we are unable to find the meaning of the violence (and reasons for its invisibility). That is why this part of the essay will first discuss the intersections of gender, sexuality, power and ethnicity. Then I will put these relations in the context of the armed conflict in ex - Yugoslavia in order to try to explain the invisibility of sexual violence against men.As Weiss states, masculinity and femininity present the social ideas about gender. These ideas confirm existing gender hierarchies that associate men with domination, power and public space while it associates women with reproduction and family (private space). It is interesting to observe the intersection between gender and sexuality. As I mentioned women are associated with reproduction, but their role is also to provide sexual pleasure to men. Male sexuality however is linked with dominance and pleasure. While women are sexually vulnerable, men are not. They are dominant and powerful. Therefore, sexual victimization is not connected to men, only to women. Moreover, as Weiss points out, “men’s victimization undermines the dominant ideals of masculinity”.

When discussing sexuality another key element has to be mentioned – heteronormativity 14. Dominant masculinities in the Balkans 15 are based on the heteronoramtivity and power. ‘Real men’ are heterosexual and sexually potent. Homosexual men are feminized, weak, vulnerable and powerless. In order to put these relations in the context of armed conflict in ex-Yugoslavia I will add another element – ethnicity. As Zarkov notes, in the conflict manhood also symbolized ethnic identity. 16 During the armed conflict in ex-Yugoslvia Serbian press often labeled the ones that were against the war as pederi (pederast) which was a way to express that they are not ‘real Serbs’. 17 Zarkov notes that Serbian press represented the ‘real Serbs’ “through the notions of virtility and fertility”. 18 It is clear that certain type of the masculinity was a part of the ethnic identity. So what is the meaning of sexual violence against men in the conflict? As I mentioned earlier in the essay, sexual victimization is connected to women, not men. Sexual assault de-masculinizes men, makes him vulnerable, powerless. Since manhood is part of one’s ethnic identity as well, de-masculinization does not affect only the individual but it affects the whole ethnic community.

We can conclude that sexual component of the violence is crucial for understanding the meaning of it. As Zarkov points out, “the cultural meanings of violence predefine the violent act as well as their representation, while political context – in this case the context of the ethnic war – makes some victims visible, while obscuring the others”. 19 Due to the limits of this essay I will not go into depth explaining the meaning behind the act of forced sterilization or genital mutilation. I will rather turn back to the question: why is sexual violence against men still invisible? On the one hand heteronormative is so strong that neither the victims nor the perpetrators are willing to undermine it by bringing out incidents of sexual violence against men. It was interesting to see how even some experts defined different acts of sexual violence against men in conflict as homosexual 20 (rape) or heterosexual (genital mutilation). 21 On the other hand existing gendered hierarchies leave no room for treating man as sexual victims, no more as they left room for treating women as perpetrators of war crimes. 
The same existing gendered intersectionalities that feminists were fighting against in order to bring out the issue of sexual violence against women in armed conflict 22 are the obstacles in bringing up sexual violence against men.

Conclusion

I am aware that this topic cannot be properly addressed in an essay. It deserves deeper and more comprehensive analysis. However, after our discussions at the course I felt that sexual violence against men in armed conflict is a perfect example of the question we were dealing with during the course. So my goal was to use what I knew and what I learned at the Peace Academy to answer the question: why is sexual violence against men invisible?

First I wanted to explore the dimensions of the violence; types of violence, their frequency in the armed conflict in ex-Yugoslavia, etc. Also, since I have learned there have been cases of these crimes in front of the ICTY I wanted to learn more about their representation in front of the court. I learned that we can only assume the extent of these crimes since victims are not willing to speak out. Testimonies of the events are given by witnesses or medical experts which indicates the level of the taboo of the topic. Representation of the crimes differs from the representation of crimes committed on women. Sexual component of the crime is overlooked and the focus is on torture which ignores the meaning of the act.

In the second part of the essay I wanted to discuss intersections between gender, sexuality and power in the context of armed conflict. The goal was to understand the meaning of the violence. What became clear after this short analysis is the strength of the existing gendered inetersectionalities and the need to break this settled gender hierarchies in order to create space for victims to speak out.

Endnotes: 

1. The ICTY took groundbreaking steps to respond to the imperative of prosecuting wartime sexual violence. Together with its sister tribunal for Rwanda, the Tribunal was among the first courts of its kind to bring explicit charges of wartime sexual violence, and to define gender crimes such as rape and sexual enslavement under customary law.  The ICTY was also the first international criminal tribunal to enter convictions for rape as a form of torture and for sexual enslavement as crime against humanity, as well as the first international tribunal based in Europe to pass convictions for rape as a crime against humanity, following a previous case adjudicated by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.(http://www.icty.org/sid/10312
2. I will refer to the armed conflict in ex-Yugoslavia. 
3. Final Report of the United Nations Commission of Experts Established to Pursuant to Security Council Resolution 780 (1992), UN Doc. S/1994/674 and UN Doc. S/1994/674/Add.2, v. Annex IX. Rape and Sexual Assault 
4. International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) website http://www.icty.org/ (last viewed on September 29, 2011)
5. Sivakumaran, S. 2007. Sexual Violence Against Men in Armed Conflict.European Journal of International Law 18, no. 2: 253-276. http://ejil.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/doi/10.1093/ejil/chm013.
6. Sivakumaran, S. 2007. Sexual Violence Against Men in Armed Conflict.European Journal of International Law 18, no. 2: 253-276. http://ejil.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/doi/10.1093/ejil/chm013.,p 259
7. ICTY website http://www.icty.org/x/cases/slobodan_milosevic/trans/en/030310ED.htm
8. ICTY website http://www.icty.org/sid/10314
9. ICTY website
10. „Two years later, on appeal, Tadić was additionally sentenced for grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva conventions: inhumane treatment and wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to the body or health. In the Judgement, the Appeals Chamber set out that “Through his presence, DuškoTadić aided and encouraged the group of men actively taking part in the assault. Of particular concern here is the cruelty and humiliation inflicted on the victim and the other detainees”. In January 2000 Tadić was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment.“ ICTY website
11. „The Trial Chamber considered a number of sexual violence charges during the trial. EsadLandžo, a camp guard, forced two brothers to commit fellatio on each other in full view of other detainees, and placed a burning fuse around their genitals. He also placed a burning fuse around the genitals of another male detainee and forced him to run between rows of prisoners.“ case:Mucić et al. (http://www.icty.org/sid/10314)
12. Sivakumaran, S. 2007. Sexual Violence Against Men in Armed Conflict.European Journal of International Law 18, no. 2: 253-276. http://ejil.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/doi/10.1093/ejil/chm013. p 256,257
13. Petchesky, Rosalind P. 2005. Rights of the body and perversions of war: sexual rights and wrongs ten years past Beijing. International Social Science Journal. http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?eid=2-s2.0-33745210114&partnerID=40&md5=f5bbf5643d1cce8bb67f984951d15178
14. Heteronormativity – privileging and institutionalizing heterosexuality (D. Zarkov)
15. but also in other countries, including Western countries. 
16. Zarkov, D. (2007) The Body of War: Media, Ethnicity and Gender in the Break – up of Yugoslavia. Durham: Duke University Press. Chapter 8: The Body of the Other Man, p 164 
17. Zarkov, D. (2007) The Body of War: Media, Ethnicity and Gender in the Break – up of Yugoslavia. Durham: Duke University Press. Chapter 8: The Body of the Other Man, p168 
18. Ibid. 
19. Zarkov, D. (2007) The Body of War: Media, Ethnicity and Gender in the Break – up of Yugoslavia. Durham: Duke University Press. Chapter 8: The Body of the Other Man, p161 
20. Lončar at all also addresses sex. violence against men as homosexual act. (3. Loncar M, Henigsberg N, & Hrabac P. (2010). Mental health consequences in men exposed to sexual abuse during the war in Croatia and Bosnia. Journal of Interpersonal Violence 25(2):191-203.) 
21. Zarkov, D. (2007) The Body of War: Media, Ethnicity and Gender in the Break – up of Yugoslavia. Durham: Duke University Press. Chapter 8: The Body of the Other Man, p161 
22. For example: the view that sexual violence against women in armed conflict is natural due to the mens' high sexual energy; rape seen as sex, etc.

Reference list:

1. Final Report of the United Nations Commission of Experts Established to Pursuant to Security Council Resolution 780 (1992), UN Doc. S/1994/674 and UN Doc. S/1994/674/Add.2, v. AnnexIX. Rape and Sexual Assault
2. International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) website http://www.icty.org/ (last viewed on September 29, 2011)
3. Loncar M, Henigsberg N, & Hrabac P. (2010). Mental health consequences in men exposed to sexual abuse during the war in Croatia and Bosnia. Journal of Interpersonal Violence 25(2):191-203.
4. Petchesky, Rosalind P. 2005. Rights of the body and perversions of war: sexual rights and wrongs ten years past Beijing. International Social Science Journal. http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?eid=2-s2.0-33745210114&partnerID=40&md5=f5bbf5643d1cce8bb67f984951d15178.
5. Sivakumaran, S. 2007. Sexual Violence Against Men in Armed Conflict.European Journal of International Law 18, no. 2: 253-276. http://ejil.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/doi/10.1093/ejil/chm013.
6. Stemple, Lara (February 2009). "Male Rape and Human Rights".Hastings Law Journal 60 (3): 605.
7. Weiss, K G. 2008. Male Sexual Victimization: Examining Menʼs Experiences of Rape and Sexual Assault. Men and Masculinities 12, no. 3: 275-298.http://jmm.sagepub.com/cgi/doi/10.1177/1097184X08322632.
8. Zarkov, D. (2007) The Body of War: Media, Ethnicity and Gender in the Break – up of Yugoslavia. Durham: Duke University Press. Chapter 8: The Body of the Other Man, pp-155-1699.
9. Zarkov, D. 1997, ‘War Rapes in Bosnia: On Masculinity, Femininity and Power of the Rape Victim Identity’, in Tijdschrift voor Criminologie, 39(2):140-151 10.
10. Zarkov, D.  4th Post-Yugoslav Peace Academy, Sarajevo from July 17th – 26th, 2011.- notes from the lectures