Conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence against men and boys

Uganda Case Study of men’s activism

As growing international attention is given to preventing and addressing sexual violence in conflict, the experience of such violence by men and boys is becoming more visible in policy discourse and international legislation (Dolan 2014a). Research suggests that between 1998 and 2008, 25 conflict-affected countries were reported as documenting sexual violence against men (Sivakumaran 2007). However understanding the scale and scope of this violence and its impact on human lives is impacted by a number of issues including underreporting by victims and lack of efforts to detect by service providers and duty bearers (Dolan 2014b, Sivakumaran 2007). 

Within the Ugandan context an evidence base is being built on the scale of the issue in the lives of male refugees. A Johns Hopkins–Refugee Law Project study (unpublished) screened 447 male refugees aged 18 years and older, residing in a refugee settlement in western Uganda found that 13.4 per cent had experienced an incident of sexual violence in the preceding 12 months rising to 38.5 per cent if looking at their whole lives. 99 per cent of participants originated from DRC and had lived a median of less than one year in the settlement (range: 0– 17yrs) (Dolan 2014b).

As the evidence base builds, the specific response and prevention mechanisms required to address this violence, and how this relates to the experience of refugees, also requires further consideration.



Personal video testimonies of the experience of male survivors of sexual violence highlighting their experience responding to the issue through collective action

August 2015

The production of a short film by male survivors of sexual violence from the support group Men of Hope

September 2015

Case study of men in collective action on SGBV through self-help organising produced by Refugee Law Project and IDS researchers

January 2016

What makes it possible for male survivors of conflict-related sexual violence to organise and become activists, challenging discriminatory social and gender norms? This question is addressed in a new study from IDS, the Refugee Law Project and Men of Hope Refugee Association Uganda which also looks at the the role of third-party service providers and non-governmental organisations.

A new IDS policy briefing summarises the key findings of a global research programme on effective organised activism against sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). It highlights the importance of addressing the underlying structural causes of violence showing that men are becoming more visible as partners in tackling SGBV, holding themselves and others accountable for maintaining harmful gender norms that perpetuate violence.

On Human Rights Day, Kabafunzaki Darius King and Dieudonne Maganya talk about their work in participatory filmaking in Uganda - the successes and challenges they've experienced and the impact that video can have on creating positive change. 


Our partner

We are working with the Refugee Law Project (RLP), based at Makerere University in Kampala. The RLP works to ensure that all people enjoy their human rights, irrespective of their legal status. It seeks to empower asylum seekers, refugees, deportees, internally displaced people and host communities in Uganda to enjoy their human rights and lead dignified lives.

Read more about RLP and their work

Uganda programme reports

Therapeutic Activism: Men of Hope Refugee Association Uganda Breaking the Silence over Male Rape in Conflict-related Sexual Violence. Edström, Jerker; Dolan, Chris; and Shahrokh, Thea with David, Onen (2016).

What makes it possible for male survivors of conflict-related sexual violence to organise and become activists, challenging discriminatory social and gender norms? This question is addressed in a new study from IDS the Refugee Law Project and Men of Hope Refugee Association Uganda.

Evidence report | Accompanying brief

Case study approach

This study will cover three main activities: to elicit perspectives of survivors of violence themselves on both the understanding and response to their experience, through personal video interviews; a collaborative in-depth case study of the dynamics and resilience of two survivor groups, in the context of the structural violence of the context they face; and a documentary film carried out by survivors themselves. These processes will enable activists to share their experiences of organising in support of survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, in the Ugandan context.

Photo: Filming at InterAid Uganda for the Men of Hope film (The Birth of an Activist). By Steven Kighoma

The first phase of the research renews a partnership with the Men of Hope Refugee Association Uganda (MOHRAU), a Kampala based association that brings together male survivors of sexual violence. It was first established on 15 September 2011 to build on Refugee Law Project’s prior work with individual survivors. The research team will be working with a sub-group of activists from the association to inform and ground the research process. The group was formed due to increasing numbers of men presenting with challenges resulting from sexual violence and the need to overcome these challenges. Since then the initial group of six men has grown to over 80. The group meets on a regular basis (once a week) to provide peer support, and has provided significant input into international advocacy initiatives of the Refugee Law Project, as well as working within the refugee community to change perceptions of survivors of sexual violence against men. Since 2011, the association has been actively engaged in number of activities ranging from self-help projects for group members, community awareness, sensitisations, advocacy and documentation on sexual violence against refugee men and boys.

Photo: Training Men of Hope Association members on video skills by Refugee Law project staff in preparation for the film (The Birth of an Activist).

Find out more about Men of Hope in this report (pdf) from the Refugee Law Project.