Distinguished panelists and guests, I am grateful for this opportunity to discuss the issue of justice for all survivors of conflict-related sexual violence with a focus on  men and boys.

During my field missions, I always endeavored to meet with all survivors and I have indeed met and talked with several male survivors of sexual violence. I have also invited male survivors as guests speakers in events I have organized including at the commemoration event of the 10 years of the mandate last October. Among the  key demands of  male  survivors are -access to services and  justice and reparations for the harms suffered.

The  survivor-centred approach to CRSV which I have been advocating, precisely,   seeks to empower the survivor by prioritizing his/her rights, needs and wishes. It means ensuring that all survivors have access to appropriate, accessible and good quality services including:

  • Health care
  • Psychological and social support
  • Security
  • Legal services

Like sexual violence against women and girls, sexual violence against men and boys has a long history and a much higher number of incidents than has always been recorded; yet attention to and recognition of this phenomenon is fairly recent. It was in 2013 that for the time, Security Council Resolution 2106 explicitly mentioned men and boys as victims of sexual violence in conflict.

Although women and girls are disproportionately impacted by conflict-related sexual violence, men and boys are especially vulnerable in certain conflict situations, such as during detention, when forcibly recruited, in refugee or internally displaced persons camps, and during military operations in civilian areas.

Of the  nineteen country situations, covered in the last annual report of the Secretary General, which was debated last Friday in the Open Debate of the Security Council, eleven reported sexual violence against men and boys.

It is also an undeniable fact that the plight of men and boys remain largely hidden and ignored, neglected in terms of recognition, resources and policy provision. Their exclusion from assistance and support, and near absence from judicial recourse, compounds the injustice experienced by male survivors.

Unfortunately, we still have much to do to provide justice and support to male survivors of conflict-related sexual violence,  and to bring perpetrators to justice.

The paucity of both domestic and international prosecutions for these crimes and the scale worldwide of crimes of sexualized violence, in situations of armed conflict, continue to leave an impunity gap  which is even worse  for male survivors.

Overall, the challenges to justice  are multiple and multidimensional and they  relate mainly to reporting, investigating, and prosecuting sexual violence.

The extreme shame and stigma surrounding the issue, causes many victims to remain silent, while those who do report often mask their experiences in the more masculine language of ‘torture’ rather than ‘rape’.

Furthermore, in many countries the domestic legal framework does not recognize men as potential victims of sexual violence, with legal definitions of rape  applying  to females only. And in countries where same-sex acts are illegal, survivors who come forward risk criminalization and homophobic backlash.

However, we are a critical juncture with new momentum to our efforts, following  the adoption of resolution 2467 (2019).

After resolution 2331 of 2016, which recognized sexual violence against men and boys as a tactic of terrorism, resolution 2467 of 2019 marked a real paradigm shift.  In its operative paragraph 32, it “recogniz[ed] … that men and boys are also targets of sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict settings” in particular in the context of detention settings, as well as men and boys associated with armed groups. The resolution “urge[d] Members States to protect victims who are men and boys through the strengthening of policies that offer appropriate responses to male survivors and challenge cultural assumptions about male invulnerability to such violence.” The Security Council also requested increased monitoring and reporting in all situations of concern for conflict-related sexual violence for all affected populations including men and boys.

The recent  judgments of the ICC in the Bemba case followed by the Ntaganda case last year, also demonstrate  that sexual violence against men and boys is receiving increased attention.

From the start, my office has  always ensured that Monitoring, analysis and reporting arrangements are in place to ensure that the Security Council receives accurate and reliable gender disaggregated information.

In addition, when I negotiate agreements (in the form of Joint Communique or Frameworks of Cooperation) with Governments and other parties to conflict on the prevention and response to CRSV, I always ensure that such agreements spell out that survivors include women, girls, men and boys, as well as those from the LGBTI community and that each survivors’ needs are distinct.

On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the mandate, my office launched a legislative Guidance which  is currently the subject of internal consultation within the UN system. It is a tool intended to support national jurisdictions in  bringing survivor-centred justice for grave crimes involving sexual violence.  The Legislative Guidance sets out crimes such as sexual violence as an act of genocide and sexual violence as an act of terrorism, reflecting the most advanced standards.  It allows for the widest range of possible violations that survivors may wish to have adjudicated in cases which are brought on their behalf.  This tool contains all those elements that are truly necessary to prosecute all perpetrators of these crimes and empower all the victims.

The Team of Experts is also working on a range of interventions to:

  1. Support   member states in having an adequate legislative framework-which include  definitions of sexual violence in line with international norms and standards; domestication of Rome Statute; adequate victim and witness protection legislation.
  2. Improve survivors’ ability to report crimes of sexual violence by creating an enabling environment;
  3. Invest  more in specialized health, police, prosecution, and judicial units which have the  potential to optimize accountability for sexual violence including  as an international crime.
  4. Work with  the  health sector which plays a critical role in response to, and accountability for CRSV through their documentation of  injuries which  are vital sources of evidence.


In conclusion, I would like to say that all  survivors deserve justice close to home; justice which involves and includes them; justice which empowers rather than sacrifices them; justice which honors their courage and respects their constraints;  justice which considers their needs as a core consideration rather than an afterthought; justice which uplifts them rather than further victimizes  them; justice which paves the path for other victims to come forward; justice which is accessible, tangible, visible, and transformative.

All survivors must be seen as the holders of rights that need to be respected and enforced. We cannot fail them.