Breaking the Silence of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence against Men and Boys: The Case of the Democratic Republic of Congo

Sexual violence has been around for as long as humanity and the history of warfare. It has been shrouded in a cloak of denial and often treated as incidental to conflict, thereby understating its terrible impact on victims and their communities. However, it has been systematically used as a tactic of war and terrorism, as recognized by the UN Security Council in Resolution 1820 (2008) and 2242 (2015). The extent to which sexual violence is being used by parties to conflict in recent years has not only contributed to prolonged conflicts, but has undermined efforts at the national, regional and international levels to ensure peace and security. Incidents of sexual violence continued to be under-reported partly because of, stigmatization and other socio-cultural stereotypes, lack of adequate response by authorities, fear of reprisals from perpetrators and lack of confidence in the available systems of response. While the impact of under reporting cannot be over-emphasized, it is clear that it undermines a full understanding of the depth of the problem in every given situation, adversely impacts the analysis on the scope, nature and root causes of the crimes as well as measures to develop specific response measures for victims. Women and girls have become more vulnerable due to increased insecurity, displacement, marginalization and poverty but what is less widely known and documented is the degree to which this scourge affects men and boys. This is due to the fact that the predominant discourse on conflict related sexual violence focuses on women and girls as victims. However as significant effort was put into breaking the silence and reducing the stigma surrounding reporting the phenomena, more women and girls began reporting such abuses. This paper therefore makes a similar case for breaking the silence of sexual violence against men and boys. Based on field research conducted in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2017, the research studies the nature of the problem, the policy environment for sexual violence, the key stakeholders who aid victims, the social/economic costs of violence against men and boys; and proffers ways to prevent sexual violence as a weapon of war.