Sexual violence against boys and men on the rise in Sudan amid conflict, UN says

UN sexual violence services are mostly geared towards women and girls due to high stigma

Buses carrying Sudanese people near the Nile River in May. Sexual violence against boys and men is not new in Sudan, a UN co-ordinator said. EPA
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Sexual violence against boys and men has risen during the ongoing crisis in Sudan, a UN official told The National on Wednesday.

Exact figures are not available to ensure confidentiality, but incidents have worsened amid the crisis, said Akiko Sakaue, co-ordinator of the gender-based violence sub-sector at the UN Population Fund.

Ms Sakaue is in charge of providing services for survivors of gender-based violence including medical, psychosocial and support in the form of shelters and safe spaces.

“We do receive male and boys survivors in conflict-affected states, although the majority of our services are designed for women,” she said.

Ms Akiko added that there are designated safe spaces for women and girls where they can go to talk about their experience and get assistance, but such spaces are not available to male victims.

“Due to the stigma, we don’t have such spaces for men and even if we did, it’s highly unlikely that they’d come to these spaces,” she said.

Sexual violence against boys and men is not a new phenomenon in Sudan, particularly in Darfur and Kordofan, she said.

Ms Akiko said she received a call from a colleague who told her of a male victim of sexual violence who refused to speak to anybody about his experience, except to “one friend”.

“They also have high suicidal tendencies,” she said, referring to male victims of sexual violence.

Female victims of sexual violence are usually hesitant to reach out for assistance at local hospitals, women’s shelters or the police, Ms Akiko said.

“Survivors hesitance and fear of being discovered by the perpetrator is extremely high so we have to take care of making sure that survivors will be treated in a safe and confidential manner and the will of survivors will be respected,” she said.

Since April 15, when the war between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and Sudanese army broke out, the number of people in need of gender-based violence assistance rose from 3.1 million to 4.2 million.

Less than 12 per cent of the funding needed to provide the $62.8 million in assistance for these people has been fulfilled, the UN said.

Updated: August 17, 2023, 5:08 AM