OPINION: U.N. resolution recognising wartime sexual violence against men and boys is historic

by Charu Hogg | All Survivors Project
Tuesday, 14 May 2019 10:42 GMT

A man looks at his personal device as he stands in the United Nations building in New York, New York, U.S., September 25, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

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While the resolution is imperfect, it places the survivor at the centre of the conversation

Charu Lata Hogg is founder and director of All Survivors Project, which acts on behalf of victims of sexual violence in situations of armed conflict and forced displacement. She is also an associate fellow of Chatham House, UK

Germany’s aspiration to craft a comprehensive United Nations Security Council resolution on sexual violence in conflict during its presidency, has been an open secret since late 2018. 

What followed were months of consultations, negotiations and debate. The outcome, which came on the heels of a high-level U.N. debate on sexual violence in conflict on April 23, was the adoption of Resolution 2467 with 13 votes in favour and two abstentions.  

However, the resolution is a mixed bag. 

The paragraph on sexual and reproductive health (SRH) was omitted in its entirety, following a threat by the United States to use its veto. This was, of course, no surprise given past uncompromising pushback by the US on issues relating to gender and women’s rights.  

Other important issues were plucked out from what started off as a resolution that perhaps tried to cover too many bases. 

Russia demanded references to LGBT+ rights be removed; the US insisted that acknowledgement of the role of the International Criminal Court be taken out; and the language surrounding the role of the Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security (IEG) relating to sexual violence in conflict was diluted.  

Discontent with Resolution 2467 is running high, not just on account of how it was negotiated and the implications of the backslide on previously agreed SRH language, but also on what it represents on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the Women, Peace and Security agenda in 2020.  

It has taken decades of advocacy, activism and painstaking work for these simple standards to be set. Undermining them now is lamentable. 

But it is equally regrettable that Germany and other members have largely gone uncredited for advancing the recognition of “hidden” survivors and victims of sexual violence, most notably, children born of sexual violence and men and boys who are victimised during conflicts.

Yet for all its shortcomings, Resolution 2467 places the survivor at the centre of the conversation.  

It recognises the pervasive nature and appalling consequences of conflict-related sexual violence against women, girls, men and boys.  

This is historic.  

To date, little attention has been paid to sexual violence against men and boys by U.N. bodies and experts. The U.N. General Assembly has addressed sexual violence in its resolutions but only with reference to women and children.  

In 2016, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution for the first time that stated that survivors of sexual violence committed by terrorist groups, including men and boys, should also benefit from relief and recovery programmes.  

Information about the extent and nature of sexual violence against men and boys is limited. It is often characterised as a form of torture, which may open avenues for accountability and reparation but fails to recognise the sexual and gender-based nature of the act or to take account of wider risks to men and boys and the multiple, often intersecting, factors that can contribute to their vulnerability.  

Gender stereotyping of men and boys as perpetrators of violence and not as victims, combined with taboos around discussing issues of male rape, sexual violence, stigma and shame among survivors reinforces the silence that surrounds the issue. 

There is a need to acknowledge that this blind spot on male vulnerability, at least within the U.N., has partly been lifted.