Essays English 2011 - Gender, Sexuality and Violent Conflict Masculinities and Gender-Based Violence in Conflict and Post-Conflict Settings

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Masculinities and Gender-Based Violence in Conflict and Post-Conflict Settings

Masculinities and Gender-Based Violence in Conflict and Post-Conflict Settings

Sabine Piccard (Pristina, Kosovo)
Course: Gender, Sexuality and Violent Conflict

Masculinities and Gender-Based Violence in Conflict and Post-Conflict Settings – Addressing the Gap in Violence Against Men 

1. Introduction

The concept of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) generally refers to “violence that occurs as a result of the normative role expectations associated with each gender, along with the unequal power relationships between the two genders, within the context of a specific society” 1. Although the term is subject to different interpretations, GBV targets women and girls, but also men and boys, and includes different types of sexual violence. 2 As Bloom underlines, men and boys can experience violence and suffer from discrimination if “they are deviating from expectations around masculinity” 3. This leads us to the concept of masculinity, developed and theorized by Connell as “a place in gender relations, the practices through which men and women engage that place in gender, and the effects of these practices in bodily experience, personality and cultures” 4. As she points out, masculinities are multiple and intersect with other relations of power within a society, such as class, race and age. Each society has developed through its history specific patterns or stereotypes referring to men and women. The Western society, with its patriarchal legacy, carries a hegemonic masculinity associated to “the dominant position of men and the subordination of women.” 5 Consequently, men that deviate from these normative standards risk oppression and marginalization. Moreover, as a result of the western dominant stereotype of the strong man, usually seen as the bread-winner and protector of his family and homeland, the tendency of viewing a male victim of GBV as a loser more than as a victim seems to be widely spread in Western society.

Violence Against Women (VAW) has been thoroughly theorized and addressed by international organizations and development practitioners during and in the aftermath of conflicts. However, scientific literature reveals a gap in addressing Violence Against Men (VAM) 6, notably in conflict situations. In this essay, I argue that there is a gap in addressing Gender-Based Violence against men not only in conflict settings, but also in post-conflict situations. After a review of the literature on masculinities and GBV against men during armed conflict, I address the gap in tackling gender-based violence in the post-conflict setting of Kosovo, by analyzing two reports on Domestic Violence in Kosovo published in 2009 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

2. Masculinities and Gender-Based Violence in Conflict Settings
2.1. Masculinities and War – the case of Kosovo

Hegemonic masculinity in war time is generally associated with the stereotype of men acting as “defender[s] of freedom, honor, homeland and of their women.” 7 In this framework, women remain in “supportive, symbolic, often suppressed, and traditional roles” 8. In the case of the Kosovo conflict, Munn suggests that these roles were fixed in a way that “if fighting-aged men did resist the call to fight they risked the disdain or worse of their communities and families – sometimes including their mother.”  In addition, the national military strength in war time tends to be highly masculine, and often associated with sexual virility. Therefore homosexuality is viewed as a “sexual practice that endanger[s] national military strength.” 10

These arguments suggest that in war time, discrimination and oppression against men that deviate from the dominant role associated to them is very likely. This hegemonic masculinity reduces the scope of men’s possibilities, as suggested by the Kosovo example, since men risk eviction from their community and family if they do not conform to the expectations associated with their role of protector, and has many implications in terms of Gender-Based Violence in conflict settings. 

2.2. Violence against Men in Conflict Situations

Beyond the risk of discrimination and eviction, several authors underline the fact that men experience different forms of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in conflict situations. Carpenter argues that during war time, men are more likely than women to be targeted and executed, and most likely subjects to forced recruitment, which are two forms of GBV 11. Moreover, men often experience sexual violence, such as women do. According to Carpenter, sexual violence against men comprises rape and sexual mutilation, civilian men forced to rape, and a secondary type of victimization which refers to the trauma experienced by men forced to watch their relatives being raped. 12

Violence against men has been reported in 25 armed conflicts over the last decade. Although GBV against men is a reality, there is a serious lack of data related to this issue, as “given the disruption caused by armed conflict, it may be particularly difficult to ascertain precise figures.” 13 Moreover, the attention generally tends to focus on VAW, as Sivakumaran stresses out: “Although the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, which gave rise to renewed attention to female sexual violence, was also the scene of so much sexual violence against men and boys, the attention paid to male sexual violence still languishes behind”. 14 

Moreover, general ignorance remains on the impact this type of violence has in the aftermath of a conflict. As Russell points out, “We do not understand its impact on post-conflict reintegration of adult or child combatant, or of civilian men forced to rape family or community members. We are unaware of how it affects the incidence of sexual and other violence against women and children, including refugees and child soldiers, during and after conflicts.” 15 This observation is crucial, as it stresses the interlinkages between violence against men and violence against women during and after armed conflicts, or in other terms, the consequences that Gender-Based Violence has regarding both genders. 16 As such, it constitutes a primary argument towards international organizations and development practitioners for addressing not only VAW, but also VAM when tackling with the issue of GBV in conflict and post-conflict settings.

3. Gender-Based Violence in Post-Conflict Settings – the case of Kosovo
3.1. Masculinities in Post-Conflict Kosovo

In the aftermath of conflicts, both genders have to redefine their role within the society. In the case of sexual violence committed during conflicts, certain societies tend to reject the victims, such as women being raped by the enemy. The concept of emasculation is often used to describe the feeling of feminization experienced by men returning from war and witnessing harm done to their relatives, as they were unable to exert their role of protector. This phenomenon tends to explain the increase in domestic violence 17 in post-conflict societies like Kosovo 18. Moreover, economic, political and social situation prevailing after conflicts can lead men to feel disempowered and in a feminized position 19. Domestic violence can therefore constitute a means to reaffirm their power over women, in accordance with the hegemonic role attributed to them. In the case of Kosovo, Munn observes that “soldiers and former KLA militiamen (…) are not only defending tradition but are defending a particular racial, gendered, and sexual conception of self: a white, male, heterosexual notion of masculine identity loaded with all the responsibilities and benefits that go along with the hegemonic male.” 20 If the concept of emasculation constitutes one explanation to the increase of domestic violence in post-conflict societies, the question about the role played by VAM during conflict in domestic violence is rarely mentioned in literature. Moreover, very little attention is being paid to the social implications for male victims of sexual violence during the conflict in a recovery context. In addition, one should not forget that men cannot be reduced to this hegemonic masculinity, which constitutes one pattern among many other types of masculinities. As mentioned previously, men that deviate from the expectations related to a certain type of masculinity can therefore be subjects to gender-based violence outside of armed conflicts contexts.

3.2. Violence against Men in Post-Conflict settings – the UNDP and Domestic Violence in Kosovo

The issues of gender and gender-based violence are tackled by many international organizations in development cooperation. As an example, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) mainstreams gender in all its programmes and projects as a cross-cutting issue. In Kosovo, the UNDP has one on-going project specifically gender-related, called Women Safety and Security Initiative (WSSI). One of WSSI’s roles is to advocate the issue of GBV and to provide expertise to the government in drafting primary and secondary legislation on Domestic Violence. In another UNDP project called Kosovo Small Arms Control (KOSSAC), masculinities are taken into consideration, notably regarding the social status conferred to men who carry weapons.

By taking the example of these two projects, I was interested in knowing how gender-based violence is described and how masculinities and feminities are represented in an international organization such as the UNDP. In other words, I wanted to see if victims of gender-based violence in a post-conflict situation are commonly understood as women, and perpetrators as men, or if attention is paid to both genders as potential victims of violence. My analysis is based on two particular documents and specifically focuses on Domestic Violence (DV). The first document is a survey focusing on the response of justice providers to DV in Kosovo, published by WSSI in autumn 2009. The second one is a report on Community Safety in Kosovo, supported by the KOSSAC project and published in 2009. 

Domestic violence constitutes one form of gender-based violence which occurs in private dwellings. Victims of DV comprise women and children, but as the first report stresses, also men: “While most acts of domestic violence are committed against women and children, violence in private dwellings can be directed against other cohabiting individuals, such as men and elderly persons.” 21 Throughout the report, victims of DV are commonly understood by the authors as women and children. This is justified in the first chapter by the fact that “[i]nternational conventions addressing the human rights of women and children directly apply when dealing with issues of domestic violence as most domestic violence victims are women and children 22.” 23 However, a footnote at the beginning of the document mentions that according to Kosovo Police data, 79% of DV are women and 21% are men. Although this percentage of violence against men is fairly high, the methodology of the report barely takes this fact into account, as out of 96 interviewed victims, only 7% are male. As a justification for this imbalance, the footnote indicates that “male victims willing to speak about domestic violence were also extremely difficult to locate.” 24 This underlines one of the main issues regarding violence against men: a lack of data due to unwillingness to speak, most probably linked to the quoted above stereotype of man’s toughness, which prevent many male victims to share their experience. Moreover, although most parts of the report usually use the term “victim”, a shift in meaning appears p. 43: “better conditions for women (and men)” 25 are mentioned 26 but a few lines after, in the same paragraph, proper prosecution and sentencing are mentioned as means to “address some of the concerns expressed by judges in regards to the alternatives available to women 27 after accessing justice.” As a matter of fact, male victimization is completely vanished from the whole picture.When looking at the KOSSAC Community Safety report, the same type of shifting appears. Indeed, the document reports that according to a survey, more than 46% of women experience violence at home and “[l]ess known or publicized, the high number of males (39.6%) who have experienced violence at home doesn’t even appear in crime statistics.” 28 However, when it comes to describing who the targets of DV are, the report indicates that “domestic violence everywhere mostly affects women, but not only because boys and girls 29 are also involved”. 30 Here, men are not mentioned at all: the potential victims of DV are women, boys or girls.This brief analysis of two institutional documents shows a trend, which tends to focus on one gender, without equally addressing the other one. In this sense, there seems to be a gap in theorizing and addressing violence against men and particularly DV affecting men from a development perspective in post-conflict settings such as in Kosovo.

4. Conclusion 

Although gender-based violence against women has been theorized and addressed in conflict and post-conflict settings, this essay underlines the gap in addressing violence against men (VAM) in conflict and post-conflict situations, with the example of domestic violence against men in Kosovo. Several causes can explain this gap. Among them, data on the issue are lacking, probably linked to the aforesaid issues of hegemonic masculinity and honor, which prevent male victims to share their experience. Moreover, as underlined by Sivakumaran, a tension exists in addressing VAM, as it can be seen as a means for opponents to women’s cause to hijack the debate on violence against women. 31 But one shall not forget that gender is about women and men, which justifies taking into consideration both genders when tackling the issue of gender-based violence in development, in theory as well as in practice.

Endnotes: 

1. Shelah S. Bloom, Oct. 2008, Violence against women and girls – A compendium of Monitoring and Evaluation indicators, USAID, p. 14. 
2. GBV comprises rape, sexual slavery, forced impregnation, sexual mutilation, and forms of harassment or humiliating treatment such as being forced to disrobe publicly. Human Rights Watch, 2003, We’ll kill you if you cry: Sexual violence in the Sierra Leone conflict, NY.  
3. Shela S. Bloom, Ibidem, p. 14. 
4. Connell, R.W., 1999, “The Social Organization of Masculinity” (Chapter 3) in Masculinities, London: Polity Press, p. 71. 
5. Connell, Ibidem, p. 77. 
6. Literature sometimes makes a distinction between Violence Against Women and Girls (VAW/G) and Violence Against Men and Boys (VAM/B). In this article, I focus on Violence Against Men (VAM), as I consider that boys are often put under the category of children, together with girls and women, notably in the case of Kosovo. 
7. Jamie Munn, 2007, “The Hegemonic Male and Kosovar Nationalism, 2000 2005” in Men and Masculinities, 2008, Vol. 10, Number 4, Sage Publications, p. 442. 
8. Jamie Munn, Ibidem, p. 446. 
9. Ibid. p. 445. 
10. Ibid., p. 450. 
11. R. Charli Carpenter, March 2006, “Recognizing Gender-Based Violence Against Civilian Men and Boys in Conflict Situations” in Security Dialogue, Vol. 37, Number 1, pp. 88-93. 
12. Carpenter, Ibidem, pp. 94-97. 
13. Sandesh Sivakumaran, March 2010, “Lost in translation: UN responses to sexual violence against men and boys in situations of armed conflicts” in International Review of the Red Cross, Vol. 92, Number 877, p. 263. 
14. Sandesh Sivakumaran, Ibidem, p. 261. During the conflict of Ex-Yugoslavia, “[o]f 6’000 concentration camp victims in the Sarajevo Canton, 5’000 were men and 80% of them had reportedly been raped”. Zeljka Mudrovcic, 2001, “Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Post-Conflicts Regions: The Bosnia and Herzegovina Case” in The Impact of Armed Conflict on Women and Girls: A Consultative Meeting on Mainstreaming Gender in Areas of Conflict and Reconstruction, UNFPA, pp. 60-76 (s. p. 64). 
15. Wynne Russell, May 2010, “Sexual Violence Against Men and Boys” in Together for Transformation – Men, Masculinities and Peacebuilding, IFOR Women Peacemakers Program, p. 43. 
16. As an example, psychology theory stresses the fact that victims of violence tend to reproduce later violence against others. 
17. Domestic Violence is one form of Gender-Based Violence which “occurs in a private dwelling between spouses”. Ariana Qosaj-Mustafa and Nicole Farnsworth, October 2009, More than Words on Paper? The response of justice providers to domestic violence in Kosovo, Kosova Women’s Network, UNDP, Prsitina, p. 9. 
18. Munn, Op. cit., p. 449. 
19. Ella Page, “Men, Masculinities and Guns – Can we break the link?” in Together for Transformation – Men, Masculinities and Peacebuilding, IFOR Women Peacemakers Program, pp. 26. 
20. Munn, Ibidem., p. 451. 
21. Ariana Qosaj-Mustafa and Nicole Farnsworth, Op. cit., p. 9. 
22.  Underlined by me. 
23. Ariana Qosaj-Mustafa and Nicole Farnsworth, op. cit., p. 17. 
24. Ibidem, p. 11. 
25.  Ibid. p.43. 
26.  The use of parentheses could also be seen as a lack of attention paid to male victims compared to female victims… 
27. Underlined by me. 
28. Anna Di Lellio, 2009, Community Safety, UNDP, Pristina, p. 15. These statistics date from 2008 and stem from a different source than in the previous report, which can explain the difference in percentage. 
29. Underlined by me. 
30. Ibidem. 
31. Sandesh Sivakumaran, Op. cit., p. 276.

Bibliography

1. Shelah S. Bloom, October 2008, Violence against women and girls – A compendium of Monitoring and Evaluation indicators, USAID, 252 p.
2. R. Charli Carpenter, March 2006, “Recognizing Gender-Based Violence Against Civilian Men and Boys in Conflict Situations” in Security Dialogue, Vol. 37, Number 1, pp. 83- 103.
3. Connell, R.W., 1999, “The Social Organization of Masculinity” (Chapter 3) in Masculinities, London: Polity Press, pp. 67-86.
4. Anna Di Lellio, 2009, Community Safety, UNDP, Pristina, 41 p.
5. Human Rights Watch, 2003, We’ll kill you if you cry: Sexual violence in the Sierra Leone conflict, New York.
6. Zeljka Mudrovcic, 2001, “Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Post-Conflicts Regions: The Bosnia and Herzegovina Case” in The Impact of Armed Conflict on Women and Girls: A Consultative Meeting on Mainstreaming Gender in Areas of Conflict and Reconstruction, UNFPA, pp. 60-76 (s. p. 64).
7. Jamie Munn, 2007, “The Hegemonic Male and Kosovar Nationalism, 2000 2005” in Men and Masculinities, 2008, Vol. 10, Number 4, Sage Publications, pp. 440-456.
8. Ella Page, “Men, Masculinities and Guns – Can we break the link?” in Together for Transformation – Men, Masculinities and Peacebuilding, IFOR Women Peacemakers Program, pp. 24-28.
9. Ariana Qosaj-Mustafa and Nicole Farnsworth, October 2009, More than Words on Paper? The response of justice providers to domestic violence in Kosovo, UNDP, Pristina, 84 p.
10. Wynne Russell, May 2010, “Sexual Violence Against Men and Boys” in Together for Transformation – Men, Masculinities and Peacebuilding, IFOR Women Peacemakers Program, pp. 43-44.
11. Sandesh Sivakumaran, March 2010, “Lost in translation: UN responses to sexual violence against men and boys in situations of armed conflicts” in International Review of the Red Cross, Vol. 92, Number 877, pp. 259-277.