Indexed on: 10 Mar '09Published on: 10 Mar '09Published in: Social Science & Medicine
Gender-based violence during conflict and post-conflict situations has received increased attention in research and in the work of development agencies. Viewed primarily as a form of violence against women, this commentary questions whether male civilians have also been victims of gender-based violence during conflict, invisible due to stereotypes surrounding masculinity and a culturally permissive approach towards violence perpetrated against men, especially at times of war. The experience of civilian males of violence, including sexual violence, during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and other contemporary wars, suggests that the discourse on gender-based violence and public health research should begin exploring the specific needs of men. Drawing on Nancy Krieger's (Krieger, N. (2003). Genders, sexes, and health: what are the connections-and why does it matter? International Journal of Epidemiology, 32, 652-657) analysis on the differential role of 'sex' and 'gender' on a given exposure-outcome association, this commentary suggests that the impact of gender-based violence on health during conflict may be different for men and women and may require distinct therapeutic approaches. Given that perpetrators are often male, an extra level of stigma is added when heterosexual men are sexually violated, which may lead to underreporting and reduced health-service seeking behavior. Further public health research is needed to guide the work of humanitarian agencies working with survivors of gender-based violence in conflict and post-conflict settings to ensure equal access to appropriate health services for men and women.