Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: March 2019

Male Victims and Female Perpetrators of Sexual Violence in Conflict




For a long time, sexual violence in conflict has been seen and largely prosecuted as crimes committed by men against women. Only recently, the international community is becoming aware of the brutality of sexual violence perpetrated against men in conflict situations, and that the number of these atrocities is much higher than has always previously been assumed. Similarly, like men, women and girls are capable – and indeed have done so – of committing atrocious forms of conflict-related sexual violence against men, boys, women and girls alike.

According to Rosalind Petchesky, ‘acts of sexual violence against men, women … are named and experienced differently, which is what it means to say they are gendered’. Building on this insight, this chapter deals with the two oft en marginalised categories of conflict situations with regards to sexual violence, namely male victims and female perpetrators. It first explores the lack of awareness and knowledge surrounding both male victims and female perpetrators of sexual violence and the underlying reasons for such violence. It then discusses how gender norms regarding sexual violence impact on all aspects of the international justice process. In the case of male victims of sexual violence, attention is drawn to the tendency to erase the sexual nature of the crime by using a more general label, such as torture. It will be argued that this state of affairs derives from gender norms, which make male victimisation, and especially male sexual victimisation, inconsistent with ideals of masculinity. In the case of female perpetrators of conflict-related sexual violence, it will be argued that the existence of female perpetrators of sexual violence in conflict is at odds with ideals of femininity. Attention will, inter alia, be drawn to the tendency of these women to deny their ability – as women – to commit sexual violence. The chapter ends with some concluding remarks on the ways forward in understanding and prosecuting male sexual victimisation and sexual violence perpetrated by women.