by Elena Marda
Sexual violence during conflicts is not exactly news. Rape has been thoroughly used as a weapon of power in several cases in the Balkans and Africa. While in Syria the eyes of the international community have focused mainly on the on-going clash between Assad’s regime and the opposition forces, there is a hidden dimension that only few have paid attention to.
Different reports from humanitarian organizations stress the increasing number of rape incidents in Syria, not only against women, but against men as well. According to Human Rights Watch, Syrian security forces have consistently assaulted men detainees, while the Women under Siege project reports that 20% of the sexually harassed victims in Syria are boys and men.
Nevertheless, with sexual violence being automatically linked to females, men are ignored as sexual victims. They are traditionally viewed as the perpetrators of sexual violence and often overlooked as targets of assaults.
To this regard, underreporting remains the biggest challenge. Due to the fact that sexual assault is highly considered a taboo issue for men, aid agencies do not possess the expertise and the tools to efficiently address the specific needs for men victims.
Committed to its role of a major humanitarian actor in the region and already offering EUR 428 million in humanitarian assistance, the EU could put forward a comprehensive plan for systematic research and data collection which would significantly assist aid agencies in their work to provide medical and psychological services to victims. While trying to find its stand in the conflict, the EU could be the one to start breaking the taboo.
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