Sexual Violence Against Men

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It happens in conflicts all over the world, yet nobody is talking about it: The rape of men. This investigation wants to explore this topic in the refugee settings of the Rohingya in Bangladesh and Syrians in Jordan.

  • €14,990 Budget in Euros
  • 2020 Final release date
  • 5 Round winner
  • 2 Locations
  • 4 Durations in months

When independent researcher Sarah Chynoweth last year asked NGO workers in Bangladesh if they had encountered sexual violence against Rohingya men, they would shake their heads. But "As soon as I asked if they had treated men with genital trauma, the answer was: Yes, of course".

A 2013 report by the Office of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict notes that “the disparity between levels of conflict-related sexual violence against women and levels against men is rarely as dramatic as one might expect.” Sexual violence against men exists. But it is largely dismissed as such. One of the reasons is a shocking lack of awareness - something that this project aims to tackle.

The rape of men is a taboo, an under-researched and complex topic. Those suffering are the survivors whose health related needs are largely neglected. The debilitating consequences on these men's mental health and specialised services such as reparative surgery or diapers are usually not being taken care of by anyone.

Why is that? The NGO sector is stuck in a vicious circle.

Because health professionals don't ask refugees and are not sensitised to identify victims (who out of fear of being considered gay don't come forward otherwise), there is a lack of data on the prevalence of sexual violence. And because of lacking data, nobody acknowledges the need to provide services. Which is in return why aid workers tend to refrain from trying to identify male survivors. "Where would I even refer them to? Nobody is really skilled to take care of them.
It's a dead-end-road", one health officer said in Cox's Bazar. Overwhelmed humanitarians are scared of making mistakes. They, too, need support - that eventually only policy-makers can set in motion.

A dozen interviews with survivors themselves, their relatives and aid workers conducted in the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox's Bazar in June unfortunately confirmed: The aid world has in the response to the Rohingya crisis missed yet another chance to do justice to male victims of sexual violence. This project aims to expose the failures of the health sector and explore the underlying reasons by interviewing more survivors, doctors, aid workers and psychologists in the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. The project also reports about Syrian refugees in Jordan where some progress has been made over the past couple of years. The Institute for Family Health (IFH) and the Center for Victims of Torture (CVT) in Jordan, for example, have worked with Syrian survivors and can serve as a good example for what can be done.

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