The Human Security Report Project just published their 2012 report on Human Security and it’s already creating quite a storm!

The first e-mails of the morning were from Australia where the papers had, I assume, the advantage of getting the report below before anyone else. It must have generated huge interest as we have been trying to download it all day but it is just not happening! They probably know what we would say!

Read the report.

So, lets be generous and not make judgments until we have had time to really analyse the evidence that the report contains which leads to the following conclusions:

1. There is no reliable evidence

  • to support assumptions that sexual violence in war is on the rise or
  • that rape is increasingly used as a weapon of war.

2. That sexual violence against males in war is largely ignored.

3. That female perpetration of sexual violence is ignored.

4. That there is a huge increase in domestic sexual violence in wartime which is far more pervasive than that perpetrated by combatants.

To be objective let us say this: data on any form of sexual violence in conflict is extremely difficult to obtain for obvious reasons. What we do know is that there is a substantial amount of documented evidence from the “old” conflicts of Bosnia, Kosovo and Rwanda that there was massive use of sexual violence, which has been adjudicated upon.

In the “new conflicts”, from Libya to Syria, there is sufficient information, even now, to assert that there has been a massive use of rape and sexual violence. So what does the following paragraph, taken from the report, mean?

“Although there are no reliable cross-national trend data on sexual violence in wartime, indirect evidence suggests that its incidence has declined worldwide over the past two decades. It is likely that conflict-related sexual violence decreased along with the decline in the number and deadliness of armed conflicts.”

What a massively wrong assumption!! What is “indirect evidence” when juxtaposed against the testimony and data collected from women, from hospitals et al?

Photo of Senegalese and Malian State soldiers

Senegalese and Malian State soldiers: the Report notes State violence as over-reported

I would agree on point 2. Male rape has been ignored because we are looking at all rapes from a patriarchal, heterosexual framework which ignores gender and misses the truth of rape as a violent act demonstrating power. And, as power relations are gendered it is the male who is normally the perpetrator and is likely to use sexual violence against anything that he wishes to assert his power over.

That largely deals with 2 and the assertion of women as perpetrators…. First, it’s much more nuanced and linked to gendered dynamics as the cases in Abu Ghraib showed, and second, it is superficial to ignore the power dynamics at play when women are involved….. and how many are we talking about here anyway?

And 4? Yes, there is evidence, for example from the DRC, that there is a massive increase in sexual violence in areas which are not actually in conflict. But all this does is show that there is indeed a continuum of violence and counters the assumption in the report that when conflicts end, conflict-related sexual violence generally also stops, or at the very least declines appreciably.

Much more research is needed on the issue of sexualized violence, its causes and how gender plays out in the analysis. We know a lot, we even know a little bit about why men, (and it is mainly men despite what some would like to believe), are able to commit the atrocities that are committed in their homes and in war zones. But we do not know enough and whilst it is good to have provocative studies and different views in the public domain, a report like this I find irresponsible.

It will find support amongst all the gainsayers who will grab onto anything in order to deny the reality of sexualised violence: who do not want to address the political economy, cultures of masculinity and religious fundamentalism of all kinds, which are at the root cause of most of it…. and they do not want to recognize it or address it as it would lesson the power that they enjoy.