Marginalisation, torture, and gender-based violence: representations of conﬂict-related sexual violence against men in international law and human rights advocacy
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date06/07/2021
Charman, Thomas Alexander
This thesis examines how the issue of sexual violence against men during armed conﬂict is discursively constituted through both international law and the human rights advocacy activities of international non-governmental organisations (INGOs). Starting from a feminist and poststructuralist International Relations (IR) standpoint, the thesis posits that both international law and human rights INGOs play a signiﬁcant role in informing both understandings of the problem and responses to it. Building on an established literature that recognises the comparative absence of sexual violence against men from the activities of these two groups of organisations, the thesis goes beyond this to establish a detailed account of how the issue is marginalised or excluded and how it is talked about when it is included. In addition, it examines the extent to which existent articulations of sexual violence in armed conﬂict more broadly are conﬁgured in such a way as to exclude the possibility of including sexual violence against men. Drawing on a variety of documentation produced by human rights advocacy INGOs and several international criminal tribunals, the thesis uses a poststructuralist-informed discourse-theoretical methodological approach derived principally from Laura Shepherd’s Discourse-Theoretical Analysis (DTA) model. It analyses advocacy reports drawn from twelve of the largest human rights advocacy INGOs that work on sexual violence in armed conﬂict, as well as the texts of key international human rights treaties and instruments, and judgement documentation produced by the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda (ICTR) and the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), and the International Criminal Court (ICC). The thesis ﬁnds that sexual violence against men in armed conﬂict has been represented in three principal ways by both human rights advocacy INGOs and international criminal law: (1) it is marginalised and either rendered as a secondary subject of concern or obscured entirely through a variety of discursive practices; (2) it is instead represented as a form of non-sexual torture rather than sexual violence; (3) it is constituted as a form of sexual and gender-based violence. The ﬁrst two representations, the thesis argues, have signiﬁcant implications for how we understand both sexual violence and gender in armed conﬂict. Firstly, they threaten to obscure the potential extent of the problem, and, in doing so, perpetuate misconceptualisations about sexual violence against men in particular and sexual violence in conﬂict more broadly. Secondly, they perpetuate problematic and essentialist understandings of gender the elide the ways in which both women and men can occupy various and overlapping roles and identities in armed conﬂict. The third representation, it is argued, avoids these problems and provides a much deeper conceptual understanding of sexual violence against both women and men. Care, however, must be taken to not slip back in to habits of privileging men as the subject of concern or obscuring the ways in which gender hierarchies inform violence against women.