Wartime Sexual Violence against Men – a conversation with Elise Feron

Five out of ten resolutions in the United Nations Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) policy architecture are focused on sexual violence in conflict. The United Nation Security Council (SC) has shown particular interest (with caveats that will be discussed in some of the upcoming episodes) in sexual violence when it is used as “a weapon of war”, or strategic rape of women when it happens in conflicts that are already at the agenda of the SC. Even though this high political and legal action around ‘rape as a weapon of war’ is very important and has increased visibility of some forms of sexual and gender-based conflict-related violence – namely, wartime rape of women, it still leaves much to be desired. The Security Council’s definition of sexual violence and how it has approached the issue through WPS resolutions have been criticized for being narrow, prescriptive, and for omitting to tackle what lies beyond the strategic use of wartime rape of women. What this visibility of (certain types of) sexual violence has done for the past 20 years? What has been overlooked?

This time on Opinion Peace, Dr. Elise Feron and I tackle one of, until recently, overlooked dimensions of sexualized conflicted related violence: sexual violence against men. This conversation is based on Elise Feron’s book “Wartime Sexual Violence against Men: Masculinities and Power in Conflict Zones” (2018, Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield). Drawing upon several years of fieldwork and more than 80 in-depth interviews conducted in the Great Lakes region (DRC, Burundi, Rwanda), Northern Ireland, and asylum-seeking centers, Elise Feron looked at the patterns of sexual violence against men in different contexts. She sought to reflect upon what triggers this type of violence, why such violence has been neglected, what are its effects on survivors, etc..

On today’s episode with Dr. Elise Feron, you will be hearing about:

  •  Sexual and gender-based conflict-related violence is wider than (strategic) wartime rape;
  •  Call for uncovering the silences and queering approaches to sexual violence in conflict;
  •  Wartime sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is performative and deeply embedded in patriarchal values that sustain the conflict dynamics themselves.
  • Continuum of violence and intersectional analysis. Sexual violence is not a stand-alone category, it is of great importance to take into consideration the broader context of conflict and relate sexual violence with patterns of other types of symbolic and structural violence that are taking place during, but also before and after, the conflict.
  • Three main takes from the book for a) scholarship and academic community; b) policymakers; and c) practitioners.

Dr. Elise Feron is a docent and a senior researcher at the Tampere Peace Research Institute (TAPRI) in Finland. She is also a visiting professor at the University of Louvain (Belgium), at the University of Turin (Italy), at the University of Coimbra (Portugal), at Sciences Po Lille (France) and at the Université Lumière de Bujumbura (Burundi). Some of Elise Feron’s research interests include conflict-generated diaspora politics, gender and peace negotiations, masculinities and conflict, sexual violence in conflict settings, and post-colonial interstate relations.

In collaboration with Tarja Väyrynen, Peace Medie, Swati Parashar, and Catia C. Confortini, Elise Feron has edited the Handbook of Feminist Peace Research that is forthcoming later this year with Routledge.

Host: Sladjana Lazic

Post-production & text: Sladjana Lazic