When No One Calls It Rape: Sexual Violence Against Men and Boys

8 Dec 2016 0:0

By the International Center for Transitional Justice 

South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) sought to grapple with the legacy of over 40 years of apartheid rule, a period in which the National Party brutally enforced segregation. It was widely known that rape and other forms of sexual violence against women were a common apartheid-era practice, but when the TRC solicited testimony from victims of sexual violence, the demographics contradicted conventional wisdom: men testified about sexual violence in higher numbers than women did. Their testimony pointed to a state that had sexually violated men and women alike, and revealed hundreds of instances of men enduring genital electric shocks, rape, forced nudity and other hideous abuses targeting their sexuality.

The findings presented the TRC with an important opportunity to address the sexual dimensions of men’s suffering and set a precedent for future truth commissions. However, it failed in this regard: it categorized sexual violations against men as “torture,” and only officially recognized the physical nature of the crimes, not their sexual components. This failure had cascading effects: male victims of sexual violence were not able to testify in closed hearings, as their female counterparts were, nor did the commission offer a detailed analysis of sexual violence against men, as it did for similar crimes against women.

A new report issued by ICTJ, titled “When No One Calls It Rape: The Tough Truth About Sexual Violence Against Men and Boys in Transitional Contexts,” seeks to create such opportunities by providing recommendations to practitioners. It draws on a wide variety of contexts to assess best practices for truth-seeking bodies, criminal justice institutions, and reform initiatives.

To read the full report, please click here.