Posted by: trudecdgecs | June 25, 2009

SGBV, Men, and Gender: Ugandan Video Raises Important Questions

On June 12, a group of colleagues at headquarters watched a filmproduced by the Refugee Law Project in Uganda entitled “Gender Against Men.” As part of UNHCR’s NGO consultations, the video will be shown again in Geneva next Monday, June 29, from 17:00-18:00 (more info in the pdf flyer here).  From the flyer:

GENDER AGAINST MEN exposes the hidden world of sexual and gender based violence against men in the conflicts of the Great Lakes Region. The film demonstrates how male identities are under attack and how rape when used as a weapon of war affects husbands, fathers, brothers and the community.

Following the June 12 viewing, colleagues participated in an extensive discussion of the film that hit on the following topics (which do not necessarily represent the views of UNHCR or any specific person):

  • The title and message of the film are thought provoking but too combative and competitive: gender equality does not mean putting down men, but allowing people of both genders equality and freedom from oppressive gender roles. Men and women can work together towards this goal. It doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game as the film portrayed: when women are empowered, men are not automatically disempowered.
  • Related, funding should not be seen as zero-sum or competitive: additional funding and attention are needed for issues related to men, rather than taking away for funding of existing programs targeting women.
  • It is really important to consider the impact on men when their gender roles are dismantled by conflict, displacement, and life in a camp: Does this need to be redressed? Is it causing abuse of women? Can it liberating? Are our practices exacerbating the problem?
  • Interventions aimed solely at women for income generation and other empowerment may make men feel even more disempowered.
  • Protection colleagues must be aware that men can be victims of rape and other types of SGBV, and must be responsive, compassionate and professional when these crimes are reported.
  • Awareness is also needed to combat the stigma of this taboo crime.
  • Program planning must take into account that these issues and feelings do exist. The Participatory Assessment is important here.
  • There is also a great need to gather statistics on males as victims: the film emphasized that very little quantitative information is available.
  • Many countries (including Uganda) do not include males in their laws against rape and other SGBV crimes but specify that these crimes occur against women and children. These laws need to change as well.
  • Where are the men working on the issue? The film features a couple men speaking out about it, but men are needed to advocate about this issue and to raise awareness and support.
  • In the film, there was an association of male rape victims with a “woman” status or a conflation between male rape victims and homosexuality. There is a great need for awareness that male rape victims are neither women nor necessarily homosexuals, but it is essential that this message go hand in hand with messages that there is nothing wrong with being homosexual or being a woman. Otherwise the dialogue continues to put down those in society who do not conform to straight male gender roles, and that is counter productive.

If you are in Geneva, we invite you to come view this thought-provoking film. Either way, the discussion points above remind us that men and boys can be victims of SGBV requiring awareness, prevention and response in a sensitive manner; that concepts of gender can be oppressive to men and women both; that more men and boys need to join the fight against SGBV.

If you have seen the film or have comments on this very important topic, I hope you will engage in a dialogue in the comments of this post.

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