Category Archives: Africa

Why don’t we care? Do we blame them?

There are many disturbing parts to this desperately sad Guardian story about one hidden group of victims of rape in war – men who are raped by other men, who cannot reveal what has happened to them without being even more victimised – but there’s one that we can apply immediate pressure to reform:

As part of an attempt to correct this, the RLP produced a documentary in 2010 called Gender Against Men. When it was screened, Dolan says that attempts were made to stop him. “Were these attempts by people in well-known, international aid agencies?” I ask.

“Yes,” he replies. “There’s a fear among them that this is a zero-sum game; that there’s a pre-defined cake and if you start talking about men, you’re going to somehow eat a chunk of this cake that’s taken them a long time to bake.” Dolan points to a November 2006 UN report that followed an international conference on sexual violence in this area of East Africa.

“I know for a fact that the people behind the report insisted the definition of rape be restricted to women,” he says, adding that one of the RLP’s donors, Dutch Oxfam, refused to provide any more funding unless he’d promise that 70% of his client base was female. He also recalls a man whose case was “particularly bad” and was referred to the UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR. “They told him: ‘We have a programme for vulnerable women, but not men.'”

That’s not good enough. Oxfam? The “cake” might be too small, but you are adding to the problem by artificially excluding from help one group of victims with even fewer avenues for assistance.

It’s funny – peculiar, not ha ha – how selective compassion can be. Because the perpetrators of most violence are men, we ignore it when other men are the victims of violence – as if they deserve less sympathy because, hell, they already had the gender identity to be the givers rather than receivers of violence, so really it’s somehow their own fault that they fell into what we’ve defined as the woman’s role?

There’s a lot of nasty and destructive gender thinking in that last sentence. And you’ll see in the article just what it does in practice.

UPDATE: Not that you can imagine male rape being treated in the West with as much indifference.