Strengthening Access to Services for Male Rohingya Sexual Violence Survivors in Bangladesh
Teaser: Sexualised and gender-based violence in peace times as well as during conflicts affects women and girls disproportionally. Although at a lower scale, men and boys also suffer from sexualised violence during conflicts. It is therefore important to pay attention to why it happens and how support services can be catered also to male survivors.
Globally, in contexts of conflicts and forced displacement, sexualised and gender-based violence (SGBV) is exacerbated. Women and girls are the most affected amongst civilians. This was dramatically illustrated by the grave human rights violations against the Rohingya in Myanmar in 2017. However, this reality often tends to obscure the fact that sexualised violence is also perpetrated against men and boys. Male survivors are often marginalised, not only because of their under-representation among survivors of sexualised violence, but also because of gender stereotypes and narratives that portray men as perpetrators and women as victims. As a consequence, the support services offered by NGOs and humanitarian organisations are mostly designed for female survivors and tend to exclude male survivors.
The GIZ Sector Programmes “Promoting Gender Equality and Women’s Rights” and “Forced Displacement” provided a 13-month grant to the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) for the pilot project “Strengthening access to services for male Rohingya sexual violence survivors in Bangladesh”. WRC has partnered with Legal Action Worldwide (LAW) to implement the project in the refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar (Bangladesh) between November 2018 and December 2019. The main objectives were to improve the access to services for male survivors of sexualised violence in Cox’s Bazar and to empower male Rohingya to address this kind of violence especially against men and boys in their community. The project and the observations made during its implementation confirmed the urgent need of sensitised psychosocial, medical, and legal aid services for male survivors.
The project was strongly based on the approach of peer support. LAW delivered trainings and ongoing mentoring on sexualised violence, psychosocial support skills, protection and advocacy skills to 24 Rohingya men. These Survivor Advocates established trustful relationships with survivors in the camp and continue to support them to access available services. The project provided an opportunity to better understand the gender-specific effects and perception of sexualised violence as well as the particular needs of male survivors, including the LGBTI community. Surveys completed by organisations supporting survivors of sexualised violence in the camp and by Survivor Advocates before and after their training, as well as interviews of survivors provided a valuable source of knowledge about this still little-known issue.
This pilot project helped us to improve the knowledge base on supporting survivors of sexualised violence and provides important lessons learned for future projects and approaches. By improving support and protection for survivors of sexualised violence in contexts of conflict and forced displacement, this project made important contributions to the goals and objectives of the German National Action Plan for the implementation of the agenda “Women, Peace and Security” (NAP II 1325). Moreover, training Survivor Advocates from within the community rather than employing external experts to conduct community sensitisation proved to be a promising model. Important progress was made in raising awareness on this issue amongst the Rohingya refugee community as well as progress in accessing justice for male Rohingya survivors.