ArticlePDF Available

Subversive Victims?: The (non)Reporting of Sexual Violence against Male Victims During the War in Bosnia-Herzegovina


Abstract and Figures

This article measures and evaluates the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten’s coverage of the extensive use of sexual violence during the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, with a particular focus on sexual violence against men. According to an extensive report written by a UN Commission of Experts, the use of sexual violence against men as well as women was widespread and took place on all sides of the conflict. Yet what we heard about sexual violence in the media concerned women victims almost exclusively. The purpose of this study is to analyse the coverage with respect to gender from a feminist, critical constructivist perspective. The present argument is that the coverage of male victims is insufficient. According to the framework, this involves several constraints related to the power of dominant masculinity constructs and the social stigma attached to sexual violence, as well as some poor journalism, or lack of knowledge on the part of journalists.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Nordicom Review 29 (2008) 1, pp. 63-78
Subversive Victims?
The (non)Reporting of Sexual Violence against Male
Victims During the War in Bosnia-Herzegovina
This article measures and evaluates the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten’s coverage of
the extensive use of sexual violence during the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, with a par-
ticular focus on sexual violence against men. According to an extensive report written by
a UN Commission of Experts, the use of sexual violence against men as well as women
was widespread and took place on all sides of the conflict. Yet what we heard about sexual
violence in the media concerned women victims almost exclusively. The purpose of this
study is to analyse the coverage with respect to gender from a feminist, critical
constructivist perspective. The present argument is that the coverage of male victims is
insufficient. According to the framework, this involves several constraints related to the
power of dominant masculinity constructs and the social stigma attached to sexual vio-
lence, as well as some poor journalism, or lack of knowledge on the part of journalists.
Keywords: Bosnia, sexual violence, gender constructs, masculinities, peace journalism,
content analysis
During the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, thousands of women were raped and sexually
tortured as part of a war strategy to passivize, frustrate and demoralize the enemy and
also to build a ’brotherhood of men’ among allied soldiers and increase one’s own popu-
lation through forced pregnancies1. Public awareness of these war crimes was tremen-
dous, and the mass media’s continuous attention to the crimes and to the women victims
of them probably helped put the Bosnian war on the international agenda and, further,
illuminate and question a military tactic of extending the battlefield onto female bod-
ies. As a response, several studies2 have been undertaken that deal with the extensive
abuse of women during wartime, and the feminist stand that ’the personal is political’
has received wider endorsement. Although these points mark the outset of this article,
the focus of attention is on a rather unknown group of victims of sexual violence in war
– men and boys.
According to the UN Commission of Experts’ Final Report (CEFR)3 on the atroci-
ties in Bosnia, sexual abuse was also, to a great extent, aimed at male prisoners at de-
tention sites on all sides (see also Gutman 2001:x; Zarkov 2001:71). Why did the media
fail to present these violations described in CEFR, when they generously unveiled and
denounced the atrocities committed against women? One immediate and ungendered
answer could be that these incidents must have been few and isolated, or at least that the
extent to which this affected men must have been much smaller than the extent to which
this affected women. And true, there was no pure all-male rape camps, as was the case
for women. Nevertheless, these types of abuses and assaults were hardly uncommon and
no less planned than were the assaults perpetrated against women. Further, the brutal-
ity of the sexual violence committed against men during the war in Bosnia fulfilled
without a doubt the criteria underlying the infamous journalistic proverb ‘if it bleeds –
it leads’.
The present article will suggest that the answer is indeed gendered, and that it has to
do with masculinity constructs and a lack of gender sensitivity as well as some poor
journalism. Thus, the analysis will be performed within a framework of critical
constructivism, feminism and peace journalism, and the question the following pages
will attempt to answer is: How and to what extent did the Norwegian newspaper
Aftenpostens coverage of the sexual violence perpetrated during the war in Bosnia-
Herzegovina encompass male victims?
Structure of the Article
The article begins with a presentation of background literature on sexual assaults and
the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, followed by a presentation of the analytical and theo-
retical framework in which the research question will be addressed. Accordingly, the
methodological approach will be introduced, the findings from the content analysis
presented and the results from the content analysis of texts from Aftenposten discussed.
In the same ways that the media portray worthy and unworthy victims based on, inter
alia, ethnicity, culture and religion, the argument of this article is that there also exists
a gendered division, as the stories of female victims of sexual violence were reported
extensively, whereas those of male victims were not, or at least not to the same extent.
The preceding section is intended to show how media representations of sexual violence
are gendered in themselves, and finally, to stress the importance of a gendered perspec-
tive when doing peace journalism.
Sexualized Violence as a War Strategy
During the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, over 20,000 women were raped (Skjelsbæk,
2001:54). Historically, the raping of women has been accepted as a natural, inevitable
consequence of war4. Feminists and human rights activists have fought for years to make
women’s experiences from war and conflict matter when building peace and doing post-
war justice. Thus, when sexual abuse was recognized as a crime against humanity fol-
lowing the extensive, organized use of sexual violence in the war in the former Yugo-
slavia, part of a substantive – however overdue – battle was won. The mass media’s
exposure of the atrocities put pressure on the international society to recognize this.
What is more, by creating public awareness about the rapes, the media made it possi-
ble for NGOs to raise money to start reconciliation projects and crisis centres for the
women directly affected (Crowo, 1994). Further, the CEFR suggests that the media at-
tention might have caused a real-time decline in the number of incidents of sexual vio-
lence (Bassiouni, 1994b)5.
The UN Commission of Experts’ Final Report
According to CEFR, the use of sexual violence aimed at men in detention camps was
a widespread phenomenon in Bosnia. Yet to my knowledge, no estimates of the number
of male victims of sexual violence exist, as they do for women. This paragraph provides
some insight into the findings of the Commission.
During the years in which the Commission of Experts travelled around Bosnia6 to
gather testimonies for the CEFR, they received information about a total of 715 camps.
Out of these, 162 were continually reported to be sites in which detainees were sexu-
ally assaulted, the perpetrators being “guards, police, special forces, and others”
(Bassiouni, 1994a). The report states that the Serbian side held almost 55% of these
sites, and that these were the camps in which the worst assaults were committed against
the largest number of detainees. The Croatian camps – approximately 10% of all camps
– were then again worse than those run by the Bosnian side, who ’only’ comprised about
5% of the camps. Fourteen, or almost 9% of the camps in which sexual violence took
place were run by Croats and Muslims together (Bassiouni, 1994a)7. The reports of
sexual violence seem countless, and involve prisoners being forced to rape women,
prisoners being forced to perform sex and same-sex acts on guards and each other, and
prisoners being subjected to castration, circumcision and other sexual mutilation. The
excerpts hereunder, none of which are exceptional compared to the rest of the report,
are included to illustrate some of the assaults, and hence also to verify the aforemen-
tioned allegation about the ‘if it bleeds…’ proverb.
Men were subject to genital beatings and castration. [A] victim reported that he
was repeatedly beaten in the genital area (…) and that a group of male prisoners,
including himself, were lined up, their genitals were tied together with wire,
and they were forced to walk around the room in which they were held (Bassiouni,
Another ex-detainee told of suffering electric shocks to the scrotum and of seeing
a father and son (…) forced by guards to perform sex acts with each other
(Bassiouni, 1994b).
Male prisoners were forced to rape women and each other (…). In another inci-
dent, one man was forced to bite off the testicles of four men, reportedly after
performing oral sex (…). In another incident, one man’s testicles were tied with
a wire. The other end of the wire was tied to a motorcycle. A guard drove the
motorcycle off, castrating him (Bassiouni, 1994a).
The practice of castrating and assaulting men sexually during war and conflict is not new
to history – it was “practiced by Chinese, Persian [and] Egyptian (…) armies”
(Goldstein, 2001:357). The purposes might be manifold, but one repeated reason is that
such practice serves the purpose of un-masculinizing, or feminizing, the enemy
(Goldstein, 2001:357; see also von der Lippe, 2004:277). In a phallocentric culture,
taking away the symbol of a man’s manhood, i.e., his penis or his testicles, corresponds
to taking away his power. Zarkov (2001:71-78), whose analysis deals with constructions
of masculinity in Croatian and Serbian newspapers during the war, argues additionally
that notions of masculinity and heterosexuality are inextricably linked to notions of
ethnicity. Other commentators emphasize the “reciprocal relationship between milita-
rism and masculinity” (Hopton 2003:113) and that “[m]ilitary masculinities are embed-
ded into discourses of nationalism” (Higate 2003:209). Accordingly, forcing a man of
another ethnic affiliation to perform same-sex acts or castrating him is “a proof not only
that he is a lesser man, but also that his ethnicity is a lesser ethnicity” (Zarkov, 2001:78).
Analytical Approach
This analysis is based on a feminist, critical constructivist approach to international
relations (IR) in general, and to war and peace journalism in particular. The combina-
tion of a feminist, critical constructivist approach sees patriarchy, the social context in
which we live, as responsive to change. This makes the understanding of gender con-
structs, especially that of masculinity, essential for understanding and changing the
political culture and hence also IR. In short, the critical constructivist approach empha-
sizes the possibilities we have to change the world. It understands the social world as
one we construct and comprise as individuals through our intersubjective understand-
ing of the social world, of its norms and its rules – hence, all social knowledge and social
reality are socially constructed, and thus, amenable to change.
The feminist approach emphasizes the importance of a gendered perception of the
world – of seeing gender everywhere – and recognizes the relation between – and within
– the genders as power relations. Further, the approach is based on a belief that “the
sources of discrimination against women [are embedded] in the economic, cultural, and
social structures of society” (Tickner, 1992:15). These structures compose a larger
patriarchal social reality, which is understood as a system that in various ways perpetu-
ates the privileging of some men, associated with certain types of masculinities, over
other men and women who fail to meet those ‘standards’ (Skjelsbæk, 1997a:23)8. Here
‘masculinity’ refers to the socially constructed gender identities of male human beings,
i.e., it is built on a non-essentialist understanding of the term ’gender’9. In most socie-
ties, the hegemonic masculinity identities – that is, the dominating ideals of what is
masculine – besides their being white and heterosexual, contain characteristics such as
autonomy, strength, and to some extent aggressiveness. Finally and central to theory is
the conception that ‘the personal is political’.
It must be emphasized that this focus on men is not intended to challenge the focus
on women victims or to shift the focus away from women victims, who in the world
society at large, during peacetime as well as in war, comprise the largest demographic
group of victims of sexual violence. Yet, based on the feminist approach advocated
above, focusing on all the victims of sexual violence during the Bosnian war, including
men, can provide valuable insights into the understanding of masculinities and patriar-
chy. As such, it does not oppose the framework presented, but rather enforces it. Also,
the goal of feminism, as I see it, is to achieve de facto political, economic and social
equality for all, regardless of race, ethnicity, culture, and gender10 – not to replace a
patriarchal society with a matriarchal one. Thus, taking male victims of sexual violence
seriously is a righteous execution of the aphorism that what is personal – to women and
to men – is also political. Further, the non-reporting of such violence is as detrimental
to the ‘feminist agenda’ as it is to the stigmatized men who have been subject to the
violence, as it sustains the very masculinized ideals and identities that continue to un-
dermine women (and men) in patriarchal societies and ‘lock’ men into ideal hegemonic
masculinity constructs.
Feminist Constructivism and Peace Journalism
Peace journalism (PJ) is in many ways to journalism what feminist constructivism is to
IR theory. Just as constructivism does, PJ advocates a people-centred focus, emphasiz-
ing complexity and process, and is solution-orientated. Just as feminist constructivism
is considered a ‘softer’ form of theory, a minor niche stand of IR – so is PJ cut off from
the mainstream, and not implemented in typical reporting (Lynch & McGoldrick,
2004:195). Just as feminist constructivism is pushed aside by realpolitik – which sees
the world in a more static and dichotomous way with winning and losing states, with fear
and deterrence politics – PJ is also pushed aside by war journalism – which is war, vio-
lence and victory oriented (Galtung, 2002:261). Consequently, starting from a feminist
constructivist perspective on IR, it is not hard to choose PJ to be the journalistic out-
look for the media analysis in question.
One of the main focuses of PJ is that it has to be people-oriented. This involves,
quoting Galtung (2002:261), a “focus on suffering all over; on women, aged, children,
giving voice to the voiceless”. In contrast, war/violence journalism is elite-oriented and
thus focuses “on ‘our’ suffering; on able-bodied elite males” (Galtung, 2002:261; Lynch
& McGoldrick, 2005:6). Thus, “[p]eace journalism is a ‘journalism of attachment’ to all
actual and potential victims” (Galtung, 2000:262), and hence, reporting on sexual vio-
lence committed in detention camps during the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina should also
include male victims. But, when Galtung (2000:263, 267-268) acknowledges the impor-
tance of gender in his presentation of PJ, it appears that by ‘gender’ he actually means
‘women’, and by the differentiation between male/female he seems to be referring to
biological sexes, not socially constructed genders amenable to change. For PJ to under-
take a conscientious understanding and adaptation of gender perspectives in analysis and
reporting, it has to define gender as comprised of various constructs of femininity and
masculinity, which affect and construct both women and men. Having a gender perspec-
tive involves more than just reporting the suffering of ‘women, children and elderly’
men possess gender too. In other words, “[s]tereotypical essentializing of women as
‘victims’ and men as ‘perpetrators’ of political violence and armed conflict assumes
universal, simplified definitions of such phenomena” (Moser & Clark, 2001:4). When
writing about PJ, and more important, when doing it, this should be emphasized to avoid
the essentialist fallacy of gender. Accordingly, this article can also be read as a well-
intended criticism of peace journalism’s (poor) gender perspectives.
Methodological Choice
The research question is addressed through the use of content analysis of relevant news-
paper texts from a period of 13 years, from January 1st 1992 until December 31st 2005,
with a heavy focus on relatively straightforward quantitative measures. According to
Weber (1990:9), “[c]ontent analysis is a research method that uses a set of procedures
to make valid inferences from text. These inferences are about the sender(s) of the
message, the message itself, or the audience of the message” – the discussion in this
article will involve, to a varying extent, inferences about all these aspects.
The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten was chosen for the analysis based on consid-
eration of several aspects. First and foremost, a written media was chosen for the sake
of convenience; a comparable analysis of TV news or radio broadcasts would be too
time-consuming, considering the time-span of the analysis. Second, Aftenposten was
favoured above English and/or international newspapers on account of availability.
Atekst11, the web-based archive from which the textual units for the analysis were gath-
ered, consists of Norwegian newspapers, and is easily available to students enrolled at
Norwegian Universities. Third, due to limits of space, the analysis is restricted to only
one newspaper, and Aftenposten was favoured because it is the largest national non-tab-
loid newspaper in Norway.
Atekst allows specification of universe, time-span and search variables. To ensure
that all articles relevant to the analysis were included in the search, several ‘pilot
searches’ were performed using different defining variables. In this way, the variables
finally used for analysis are believed to include all texts reporting on the war in Bosnia
that specifically involve some sort of sexual violence12. To ensure accuracy, sexual vio-
lence is defined according to the definition provided in the Final Report as rape or any
other “forced or coerced sexual acts [and] sexual mutilations” (Bassiouni, 1994a).
The search variables turned out to possess some ambiguity in terms of meaning, and
were not specific enough to exclude all excess texts that were irrelevant to the analy-
sis. This made more in-depth reading of the articles necessary to define which were
relevant, in this way compensating for the insufficient variable validity. This makes
replication of the analysis more laborious, yet these criteria were kept, out of concern
that some relevant articles might otherwise be excluded. When the articles relevant for
analysis were set, their content was divided into mutually exclusive categories of gen-
der and ethnicity specified for both victim(s) and perpetrator(s), and then the type of
sexual assaults were counted. The results are presented in the next section.
The analysis is complemented by information obtained through short e-mail inter-
views with journalists who wrote some of the analysed texts. The selection of journal-
ists was made based on the relevance of their articles’ content.
Gendered Victims or Gendered Women?
The immediate search result in Atekst was 421 texts. A qualitative content check13 of
these texts results in a final number of 193 texts. Articles that implicitly bring up sexual
assaults using terms such as ‘atrocities’, ‘war crimes’ etc. are not among the final 193
unless they also contain one or more of the defined search variables (see endnote 12).
The 193 texts were divided into two categories: one in which the subject of sexual
assaults is essential to the content, which was the case for about 30% of the text units;
and the other category, the ‘mention only’ category, consists of texts in which the sexual
assaults are simply mentioned without the topic being critical to the content or further
developed. The latter category includes the remaining 70% of texts.
Furthermore, the texts were examined with respect to gender and ethnicity presen-
tations of both victims and perpetrators of sexual violence. The ethnicity variable is
included to see whether the analysis showed any difference in the gender presentation
in relation to ethnicity of victim and/or perpetrator. The analysis encompasses presen-
tations of perpetrators to see whether these are more or less gendered than are victims.
This will help in making inferences about masculinity constructs in the media in the
discussion part of this article.
The results reveal that in the vast majority of texts, the victims of sexual violence are
women, or the gender is not defined (see bottom horizontal line, Table 1 below). Gen-
der is defined in 54.9% of the texts. Eighty-five of the 87 texts in which gender is not
defined belong to the ‘mention only’ category above. The residual two texts that do not
define gender and that have sexual violence as a main subject are, respectively, a debate
contribution from a reader and an article dealing with forced nudity, and as such, not
‘typical’ sexual violence. In only four text units are the victims of sexual violence ex-
clusively men, out of which one text is a note, and the remaining three texts are under
the ‘mention only’ category. In contrast, 90 texts mention women exclusively. Some-
times sexual violence is listed as one of several assaults or means of torture to which
‘men and women’ were exposed, without specifying which assaults were perpetrated
against women and which were perpetrated against men. These texts comprise the ‘Both’
category, together with the texts in which the crimes are specified for both genders.
The quantitative analysis of the ethnicity variable in Table 1 (column furthest to the
right) shows that in about 50% of the texts, the victims of sexual assaults are Bosnian,
Bosnian/Muslim or Muslim, out of which 60% are Bosnian women. Bosnian women com-
prise 63.3% of all texts exclusively reporting female victims, who again comprise 46.6%
of all victims. Thirty percent of the analysed texts do not define the ethnicity of victims
of sexual assaults. Out of the four text units that exclusively mention male victims of
sexual assaults, two refer to Bosniaks, whereas the remaining two are not defined and
under the ‘Other’ category, respectively. None of the victims are reported to be Croatian.
Table 1.
Female Male Both Not defined Ethnicity
Ethnicity NP
Bosnian 57 63.3 60.0 2 50.0 2.1 5 41.7 5.3 32 36.8 33.7 96 (49.7)
Croatian ––– ––– ––– –––
Serbian 2 2.2 50.0 1 8.3 25.0 1 1.1 25.0 4 (2.1)
Non–Serbian 1 1.1 25.0 – – – – – – 3 3.4 75.0 4 (2.1)
Any Combination 10 11.1 66.7 2 16.7 13.3 3 3.4 20.0 15 (7.8)
All Parties 6 6.7 40.0 4 33.3 26.7 5 5.7 33.3 15 (7.8)
Not Defined 14 15.6 24.1 1 25.5 1.7 43 49.4 74.1 58 (30.1)
Other14 – – – 1 25.5 100 – – – – – – 1 (0.5)
Gender, NTot 90(46.6) 4 (2.1) 12 (6.2) 87(45.1) 193(~100)
Note: Specification of victims’ gender and ethnicity in all text units. Explanation of entries: ’Bosnian’
refers to any of the three references ’Bosnian’, ’Bosnian Muslim’ and/or ’Muslim’; ’Serbian’ refers to
’Serbs’ or ’Bosnian Serbs’; ’Any Combination’ refers to any text in which two different ethnicities are
presented in combination as victims; and ’All Parties’ equals ’Serb’, ’Croats’ and ’Bosniaks’. ’N’ equals
absolute numbers, whereas numbers under ’PX are percentages. ’Pf is, thus, the percentage female victims
of a given ethnicity comprise out of all texts mentioning female victims. The total of female victims can
be read from the bottom horizontal line, with the percentage these comprise out of all victims in all
texts in parenthesis. The same applies to all categories of gender. Numbers under ’PEB give the percentage
the given gender comprises of all victims of the given ethnicity. In the right hand column, the total of
victims belonging to a given ethnicity can be read, with the percentage these comprise out of all victims
in all texts in parenthesis15.
As for the perpetrators, none of them are explicitly said to be women, and most of them,
71.1%, are not defined to any gender (see bottom horizontal line, Table 2 below). Out
of the five texts in the ‘Both’ category, one refers to an incident in which demonstrat-
ing Serbian women denied UN forces access to a mental hospital abandoned by the
employees. Several patients in the hospital were wandering around naked in the cold,
and needed care. The sexual assault was indirect and not caused by these women, but
is nevertheless included (NTB et al., 1993). Another text states that women were also
perpetrators (Andenæs, 1994), and the latter three refer to women who became pregnant
after rape and subsequently abandoned their newborns, hated them and/or killed them.
Although these actions are not sexual in any way, they are the direct results of sexual
violence and therefore included. These women are also defined as victims of sexual
violence in Table 1.
The quantitative analysis of the ethnic variable for perpetrators of sexual violence in
Table 2 (column furthest to the right) shows that 46.1% of the texts define the perpe-
trators as Serbian or Bosnian Serbs, out of which 46% are male Serbs. Texts referring
to male Serbian perpetrators comprise over 80% of all references made to male perpe-
trators. About 35% of the texts do not define the ethnicity of the perpetrators and one
explicitly identifies the perpetrators as Bosnian. Of the 14 texts (7.3%) stating that all
parties were involved in sexual atrocities, 11 emphasize that the worst atrocities were
committed by the Serbian side, and that the Serbian warring fractions were responsible
for the largest number of such atrocities.
Table 2.
Female Male Both Not defined Ethnicity
Ethnicity NP
Bosnian – – – 1 2.0 100 – – – – – – 1 0.5
Croatian – – – 2 3.9 50.0 – – – 2 1.5 50.0 4 2.1
Serbian 41 80.4 46.0 1 20.0 1.1 47 34.3 52.8 89 46.1
Any Combination 4 7.8 26.7 3 60.0 20.0 8 5.8 53.3 15 7.8
All Parties 1 20.0 7.1 13 9.5 92.9 14 7.3
Not Defined 1 2.0 1.5 66 48.2 98.5 67 34.7
Other16 – – – 2 3.9 66.7 – – – 1 0.7 33.3 3 1.6
Gender, NTot PTo t 51(26.4) 5 (2.6) 137(71.0) 193 (~100)
Note: Specification of perpetrators’ gender and ethnicity in all text units. Table 2 is to be read as Table
1, only change ’Victim’ for ’Perpetrator’.
In sum, gender is more visible for victims than it is for perpetrators – the ‘Not Defined’
category constitutes 45.1% and 71%, respectively – and as expected, women victims are
by far more exposed than are male victims. Further, the ethnicity variable is to a slightly
higher extent defined for victims than for perpetrators (the ‘Not Defined’ category con-
stitutes 30.1% and 34.7%, respectively). Notwithstanding, the most prevalent group of
victims presented corresponds relatively well with the most frequently reported ethnicity
of perpetrators; 49.7% of the victims are identified as Bosnian, Bosnian/Muslim or
Muslim, whereas 46.1% of the perpetrators are defined as Serbian or Bosnian/Serbs in
the analysed texts from Aftenposten.
Finally, the kinds of sexual assault Aftenposten reported during the defined time period
were counted and the results are listed in Table 3 below. The table also includes a gender
specification of victims of the sexual assaults defined. Several assaults are sometimes
mentioned in the same text, and if they are gender specific but different assaults, and vic-
tims of both genders are mentioned, Table 1 above presents the victims’ genders under the
category ’Both’. Here, this is largely avoided because the assault itself is specified. Thus,
the numbers presented here do not correspond completely to those in Table 1, as a total
of 214 references to sexual violence were made in the 193 conferred texts.
Table 3 reveals that 183 out of the 214 reports (85.5%) deal with rape as sexual vio-
lence, and that 83 out of the 89 text units for which the victims’ gender is not defined
concern rape. In addition, this table reduces the ‘Both’ category in Table 1 from 12 text
units to six reports. One of the six assaults that are removed from the ‘Both’ category
deals with male victims, whereas the other five were moved to the ‘Female victim’ cat-
egory. Out of the six cases that still involve victims of both genders, three do not spe-
cifically state that men were subject to the sexual violence, but list sexual violence as
one of several assaults to which ’men and women’ were exposed. Out of 214 reports of
sexual violence, in 193 text units, nine (4.2%) are specifically reports about men who
have been subjected to sexual assault. One involves a man who refused to rape a woman,
one involves only external military personnel, one mentions forced nudity and six re-
port sexual mutilation.
Compared to Table 1, where each individual text unit determines the gender presen-
tation and not each specific report of sexual assault, there is a moderate shift towards
a higher gender specification for victims, evident in the change in percentages under
‘Not Defined’ – from 45.1% to 41.6%. Also, the percentage share of male victims of
sexual assault was doubled, from 2.1% to 4.2%, which still is a low number (nine re-
ports). Overall, the relative shares of the different genders are not substantially changed
when the assaults are specified compared to Table 1’s presentation of text units.
Table 3.
Type of Assault N Victim (F) Victim (M) Both Gender (ND)
Forced Prostitution 2 2
Forced Rape and
subsequent killing 2 1 1
Mass Rape 29 14 15
Rape 120 51 1 217 66
Rape Camps 1 1
Rape as WOW18 14 12 119 1
Revenge Rapes 2 2
Systematic Rape 13 12 1
Castration 2 2
Circumcision 1 1
Forced Nudity 4 2 1 1
Forced Pregnancy 11 11
Mutilation 1 1
Prisoners forced to bite
off the testicles of other
prisoners 2 2
Prisoners forced to
castrate each other 2 2
Sexual Assault 6 2 4
Sterilization 1 1
Witness to Rape 1 1
NTotal 214 (100) 110 (51.4) 9 (4.2) 6 (2.8) 89 (41.6)
Note: The 214 sexual assaults to which the 193 text units refer, with sub-categories of the victims’ gen-
der (Female = ‘Victim (F)’; Male = ‘Victim (M)’; Both = ‘Both’; and incidents for which no gender are
identified = ‘Gender (ND)’). The bottom horizontal line presents the cumulative actual (absolute numbers)
and relative (percentages) representations of gender for all sexual assaults. Numbers in parenthesis in
the bottom horizontal line give the percentage the specific gender of victim comprises of all reports on
sexual violence.
The two articles in the category ‘Forced rape and subsequent killing’ in Table 3 re-
port two specific events related to the practice of forcing prisoners to rape each other.
The first article briefly mentions that a Bosnian man was killed in detention at the
Omarska camp because he refused to rape a young woman (Haabeth, 1993:2). The other,
which is an article about the conditions at Omarska, reports on a Muslim man who was
forced to undress together with a young girl and then told to rape her, which he refused
to do. Consequently the guards beat him and then told him to rape her with his fingers.
The man did so, and was then killed (Nordstrøm, 1996:7). The first article is included
even though no actual rape took place, because the killing was a direct result of the
practice of rape and forced rape.
Lack of Information
Three journalists responded and reflected on my request concerning the issue of sexual
violence towards men during the war in Bosnia. None of them knew about the sexual
assaults directed against men at the time they were reporting and two said they could not
remember if they had read the Final Report. One said that if she had heard of extensive
sexual abuses of men, she would not have hesitated to further investigate them, or to
write about them, nor would the newspaper in general (Nordstrøm, 2006, pers. comm.).
The other interviewee limited her role in the coverage of Bosnia, as she was working
in another office at the time. Because of her position, she did not participate in the cur-
rent discussions about Aftenposten’s coverage and priorities on the subject, thus she
spoke on behalf of herself, not the paper (Harbo, 2006, pers. comm.). She emphasized
that she did not know, at the time of her reportage trip, about the extent to which sexual
violence was committed against men, and further that there was little focus on this phe-
nomena in general. Of the three respondents, she was the only one whose articles on
sexual assault had been published prior to the release of the Final Report. She still re-
flected on the issue of a potential taboo in the media related to sexual violence against
men, but rather suggested that there probably is a greater stigma attached to being a male
victim than a female, which makes reporting on such violations more difficult for jour-
The last journalist who responded had not read the Final Report and he could not
remember it being mentioned in any other media. The interviewee concluded that
Aftenposten had not made a conscious decision not to focus on sexual violence against
male victims, and asserted that there are no constraints whatsoever that make male vic-
tims to sexual assaults less ‘attractive’ to media institutions than female victims
(Willersrud, 2006, pers. comm.).
Negotiating Gender
Evaluation of Findings
This analysis started from a few underlying assumptions: i) that the media, as repre-
sented by Aftenposten, gave a poor presentation of male victims of sexual assault in
coverage of the war in Bosnia; and ii) that the poor presentation had to do with, inter
alia, masculinity constructs and a lack of gender sensitivity. The CEFR provides valu-
able information about the practice of sexual violence towards both women and men.
Anyone who questions the assertion made here about the extensive and institutionalized
abuse of men can take a thorough look in this report20. However, as no estimates exist
on the number of men who were subjected to sexual violence during this war, it is hard
to approximate what would be a fair presentation of these victims in news coverage.
Nevertheless, I still hold that the actual presentation evident in Aftenposten, based on
this analysis, was poor. For instance, not a single article dealt in-depth with male vic-
tims of sexual assault. The longest report on the issue was about the man who was forced
to finger-rape the young girl; this only amounted to seven lines (in Atekst format).
As mentioned, the analysis encompassed presentations of perpetrators to see whether
these were more or less gendered, i.e., presented as holders of sex, than were the vic-
tims. The results are clear: In Aftenposten victims were more gendered than were per-
petrators. Whereas 71% of the presentations of perpetrators were neither specified as
male nor female, and about a quarter of them identified the perpetrators as men, only
45.1% of the victims were not gendered, and 46.6% of the victims were identified as
women (41.6% and 51.4%, respectively, if using Table 3). According to the presented
framework this finding can be interpreted as asymmetrical gender sensitivity, sustain-
ing the acceptance of dominant masculinity constructs that undermine women and men
who fail to meet that standard.
It could be argued that the 89 reports of sexual violence for which no gender is speci-
fied, or the 87 texts in which no gender is mentioned, also include male victims, pre-
cisely because of their gender neutrality. Even so, there are some linguistic connotations
to be addressed that can substantiate the counter-argument that these 87 texts (45.1%)
did not leave readers with the impression that they also concerned men. To illustrate,
some of the analysed texts listed several assaults that men and women were subjected
to, among which one was ‘rape’ or ‘rape as a weapon of war’. For instance, one report
about the prosecution of a war criminal in ICTY states: “Dusan Tadic (41) is charged
with murder, torture and rape of Muslim (…) women and men” (Mathismoen, 1996, my
translation). The immediate perception of this statement is likely to be that Tadic raped
(and murdered) women and murdered and tortured men. Correspondingly, when reports
of rape and mass rape do not report the gender of victims, it is likely that the reader
unconsciously perceives the victims of the sexual violence to be women.
Thus, from a critical constructivist and feminist perspective, it can be argued that the
(female) gendering of victims and the overall non-gendering, or non-reporting, of male
victims reinforce the traditional gender roles feminists try to escape – roles in which
women are innocent, inherently peaceful, passive victims, and men are the opposite:
independent and inherently aggressive actors, and thus left out of the role of victims of
sexual assault. Aftenposten demonstrates its failure to report ‘suffering all over’ in its
neglect of male victims, a central prerequisite of PJ.
The lesser extent to which perpetrators are presented as gendered would seem to
contain at least two aspects. First, ‘man’ often represents the norm, i.e., the natural gen-
der, when it comes to positions of power. Accordingly, “he can appear to be asexual or
gender neutral in language usage” (Eide & von der Lippe, 2003:266, my translation).
For instance, we rarely read or hear about ‘male lawyers’, ‘male Supreme Court advo-
cates’ or ‘male Secretaries of State’, as these would be considered pleonasms. On the
contrary, presentations of a ‘female lawyer’ or a ‘female Supreme Court advocate’ would
hardly make anyone wonder about the terminology. Correspondingly, it is no surprise
that presentations of perpetrators of sexual violence are ungendered more often than not,
because they are expected to be male. In contrast to this, ‘female victims of rape’ is not
as apparent a pleonasm, when comparing the gendering of victims to that of perpetra-
tors (Table 3 + 4). Again, this supports the traditional ‘women as victims’ gender role,
and is therefore not unexpected from the perspective of a theoretical framework that sees
most societies as patriarchal structures with self-interests in keeping this tradition.
Second, when the media present a perpetrator of sexual violence as gender-neutral,
this obscures an action that is gendered per se. After all, it is as possessors of gender that
perpetrators commit these violations and victims are exposed to them. Hence, in accord-
ance with the feminist approach emphasized here, both perpetrators and victims should
always be identified with their gender. Such a simple terminological move could serve
the purpose of reminding both the writer and the reader of gendered power relations
(Eide & von der Lippe, 2003:277). Further, it would ensure that both female and male
victims (as well as perpetrators) become visible in media, and none neglected due to
ignorance of their gender.
The ethnicity variable was included to see whether the analysis showed any differ-
ence in the gender presentation in relation to ethnicity of victim and/or perpetrator. As
mentioned, the CEFR estimated that the Serbian side held over half of the camps in
which it was reported that the largest number and worst kind of sexual atrocities took
place. Table 2 shows that 46.1% of the analysed texts present the perpetrators as Ser-
bian or Bosnian Serbs. As for Bosnian-run and Croat-run camps, they comprised respec-
tively 5% and 10% of the total of 162 camps. In Table 2, only 0.5% of the texts iden-
tify perpetrators as Bosnian and only 2.1% are identified as Croats. Because no num-
bers of actual, individual perpetrations of women and men are given in the report or in
the texts from Aftenposten, no further comment will be made on this finding.
In relation to both perpetrators and victims, definitions in ethnical terms are used to
a higher extent than is the gender variable. In 63.8% of the text units, the perpetrators
are associated with their ethnicity, and the corresponding number for victims is 69.5%.
As stated, only 29% of the perpetrators are gendered, compared to 54.9% of the victims.
Hence, in sum, ethnicity – a socially constructed identity – is valued more in describ-
ing victims and perpetrators of sexual violence than is their gender. In light of the overall
presentations of this particular war in the media as a whole – i.e., as a nationalistic and
ethnic war – the emphasis on ethnicity is nothing more than expected. Yet, if one accepts
that it is as carriers of gender that perpetrators rape or otherwise sexually assault, is it
not conspicuous that their gender is not deemed at least equally important?
Possible Explanations
Given that the coverage of male victims of sexual violence is poor, what might be the
reasons for this? According to the three journalists who covered the sexual violence,
there is no explanation they can give for the lack of coverage other than the fact that they
did not know about the extensive abuses of men. There is no reason to question them
on their comments, and it is possible that their comments are generalizable to all jour-
nalists covering the war. Obviously, a reporter cannot write about something she or he
has never heard of. Notwithstanding, considering that the CEFR was publicly available
from May 1994, not knowing about the sexual violence against men in the succeeding
years of coverage may serve as an explanation for the actual, deficient coverage, but not
as a justification for it. Yet, if that report, and a few articles, were (and still are) the only
sources of evidence that extensive assaults of men took place, one needs to consider the
reasons for this, as the literature base on sexual violence against women is extensive.
Following Kempf and Luostarinen (2002:8), the issues that get reported in the news
are generally those with “easy access, journalistically interesting material, dramatic
David-and-Goliath constellations and public relations effort”. Two of these four de-
mands are not fulfilled when it comes to sexual violence against men; the access issue
has already been addressed, and second, to some extent, the “David-and-Goliath con-
stellations” are not prevalent, as it is mostly men raping or performing sexual acts on
other men. Further, as “journalists suppressed news stories that satisfied all criteria for
newsworthiness but did not fit the image of the enemy” (Kempf, 2002:60) during the
wars in the former Yugoslavia, one might wonder whether they, or some of them, have
also unconsciously suppressed stories that do not fit the image of masculinity.
Another and less controversial reason for the insignificant reporting of male victims
of sexual violence is the social stigma attached to rape and other forms of sexual abuse.
Potentially, and probably, there is an even greater social stigma attached to men than to
women, as men risk the association to homosexuality. Indeed, one commentator stresses
that “[s]hame is the glue that holds the man-making process together. Males who fail
tests of manhood are publicly shamed, humiliated, and become a negative example for
others (…). The power of shame should not be underestimated” (Goldstein, 2001:269).
As mentioned previously, homosexuality does not correspond to the dominant mascu-
linity construct standard of what is deemed ‘a real man’ and what it is to be ‘masculine’.
In addition, men probably choose not to come forward, as there generally are few who
share the same experience (Skjelsbæk, 1997b). Thus the ‘gatekeepers’ who decide
whether or not these forms of violence reach the news are not exclusively or necessar-
ily the journalists or the editors, but the victims themselves – an acknowledgement that
makes the very reporting in the media even more valuable. Not only can the media be
“regarded as social tools to construct gender” (Eide & von der Lippe, 2003: 278, my
translation) in the ways they emphasize and present news and individuals. Also, media
“give signals not only about what is important, but about who is important, who mat-
ter in society” (Eide & von der Lippe, 2003: 279, my translation). Thus, if the media also
take male victims of sexual violence seriously, and report about them, the social stigma
will probably be relieved, at least to some extent, by making these individuals visible
and worthy of reporting.
Concluding Remarks
At the core of this paper was a postulation about the importance of a fair understand-
ing and adaptation of gender perspectives in the journalistic process. Hopefully, this
article can function as a helpful reminder that we need to ‘see gender everywhere’. The
implementation of such perspectives in relation to male victims of sexual assaults can
potentially impact both the micro and macro level of society. As for the micro level,
reporting on both male and female victims of sexual violence is likely to reduce the
social stigma most victims experience. Atrocities such as these should never be allowed
to go on in silence and unchallenged, no matter the numbers of victims to them. Further,
if the media address the issue of sexual violence against men, they will not only give a
voice to those affected by such violence, but also challenge, instead of perpetuate, dis-
criminating masculinity constructs at the macro level.
This analysis acknowledges that, for a journalist, “[t]o ‘report the facts’, in the time-
honored phrase, is to suppress – inescapably” (Lynch & McGoldrick, 2005: xvii). Every
single atrocity committed in war simply cannot make it to the media outlets, even less
to a single newspaper. Thus, every media outlet has to select and omit, and this selec-
tion process inevitably silences the stories of those countries, groups and individuals that
are not reported on. Is it reasonable to expect of journalists and editors that they, in the
selection process, take into consideration feminist perspectives, and also report stories
that involve subversive constructs of masculinity? I argue that, for journalists aiming to
do PJ, this is not a preposterous assumption. Both on a general basis, and in particular
in relation to the coverage of sexual violence, it will ensure that no victims are silenced
merely because of their gender. It being difficult at times is no excuse for not doing it.
1. In the former Yugoslavia, kinship is patrilinear, that is, the ethnicity of a child follows that of the fat-
her. Thus, raping women was a way to increase one’s own ethnic population through forced
2. See, inter alia, Stiglmayer (1994) and Moser & Clark (2001).
3. CEFR was established pursuant to Security Council Resolution 780 (1992), and was completed the
27th of May 1994. The mandate was to provide “conclusions on the evidence of grave breaches of the
Geneva Conventions and other violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory
of the former Yugoslavia” (Bassiouni, 1994d).
4. Ruth Seifert (2001:58) argues that there are three explanations for widespread use of rape in war: i) a
historical acceptance of the winning party’s right to the counterpart’s women; ii) rape as message to
the counterpart that he and the men around him are unable to protect ’their’ women; and iii) gang rape
– which is common particularly in war – creates solidarity and enforces the ’brotherhood of men’.
5. When references are made to different sections of the CEFR, they will take the form of ’Bassiouni,
1994...’. Mr. Bassiouni was the head director of the Commission.
6. The Commission started its work in November 1992 and concluded its work in April 1994.
7. 35 of the 162 camps, about 20%, were run by unknown forces.
8. Here, the notion of patriarchy is not meant as the domination of all men over all women. Rather it is
the domination of some (male) actors over other (male and female) actors who to a greater or lesser
extent are passivized.
9. Gender is understood as constructed in interaction (sociology of gender), not determined by or inhe-
rent in the individual’s biological sex. Who you are is defined by the kind of person you are socialized
into being, which depends on each individual’s lived experience and, inter alia, on the contemporary,
contextual constructs of femininity and masculinity. Those constructs represent what having a specific
gender means at the time, and are – and this must be emphasized – dynamic, i.e., culturally, socially
and historically specific (Connell, 2000:25).
10. – or any other socially constructed divides of human beings
11. Web-address:
12. The criteria defining the units of analysis.
Search criteria
Universe: Articles from Aftenposten and Aftenposten Aften in the time period 01/01/1992 until
All words: bosn*
One or more
of the words: *voldtekt* OR seksu* OR kastrer* OR testikle* OR penis* OR nak* OR kjønns-
[*rape* OR sexual OR castrat* OR testicle* OR penis* OR nak*/nude OR genital*]
Asterisk: the ending/beginning of the word is not defined – ensures that verbs, adjectives, singular and
plural forms of every core word are included.
13. Qualitative content analysis here refers to the process of excluding articles for which the search criteria
were fulfilled but in which the variables referred to other events than those in question. An example is
the use of metaphors: ’the naked city of Sarajevo’ or ’the rape of Bosnia’.
I would like to thank Professor Rune Ottosen at Oslo University College for his constructive,
encouraging comments. Also, I enjoyed the invaluable help and support of Andreas Hessen
Schei and Marianne Johannessen.
14. The one unit that falls under the ‘Other’ category refers to an incident in which a Dutch NATO
corporal accused two British soldiers of raping him while on duty in Bosnia (NTB/DPA, 2001).
15. To illustrate: If starting at first entry in the left hand column, ’Bosnian’, what can be read from left to
right, is: 57 text units mention exclusively Bosnian female victims to sexual violence. Bosnian female
victims comprise 63.3% of all references to female victims in Aftenposten, and the 57 text units
comprise 60% of all text units that mention Bosnian victims irrespective of their gender. The
corresponding numbers for male Bosnian victims can be read from the next three columns, then for
both genders and finally for victims for which no gender was mentioned.
16. The ’Other category here refers to an incident in which British soldiers allegedly raped a fellow UN
soldier from the Netherlands; a case where UN soldiers of different nationalities while on duty in
Bosnia were suspected for visiting a brothel where women were forced into prostitution; and an article
in which Islamic extremists were believed to be involved in grave violations during the war in Bosnia.
17. These two articles do not specifically state that both men and women were raped, but rape is listed as
one of several assaults which ’men and women’ were exposed to.
18. WOW= Weapon of War. Refers to rape as a strategy to achieve military goals. Three of these
specifically stated that rape was part of a strategy to perform ’ethnic cleansing’. All three stated
women as victims.
19. See footnote 17.
20. Of particular relevance are Annex IX: Rape and Sexual Assault and Annex VIII: Prison Camps
(Bassiouni, 1994a; 1994c).
21. For a future study, it would be interesting to see how well theories of gender constructs and the
reporting of male victims of sexual abuse resonate with the theory of worthy and unworthy victims in
the news coverage. Such an analysis should also include the recent media coverage of abuses in Abu
Ghraib, Iraq.
Andenæs, U. (1994) ’Vannviddet rammet også Maluhia. Spillet om Sarajevo’ [Insanity hit Maluhia too. The
Game over Sarajevo], Aftenposten, 19/02/1994.
Bassiouni, M. (1994) Final Report of the United Nations Commission of Experts established pursuant to
Security Council Resolution 780 (1992). S/1994/674/Add.2 (Vol. 1) 28/12/1994.
Bassiouni, M. (1994a) ‘Annex IX. Rape and Sexual Assault’ in Bassiouni, 1994. Available at http://
Bassiouni, M. (1994b) ’Section IVF Rapes and Other forms of Sexual Assaults’ in Bassiouni, 1994.
Available at
Bassiouni, M. (1994c) ‘Annex VIII Prison Camps – Part 1/10’ in Bassiouni, 1994. Available at http://
Bassiouni, M. (1994d) ’Section IVE Detention Facilities’ in Bassiouni, 1994. Available at http://
Connell, R. (2000) ‘Arms and the man: using new research on masculinity to understand violence and
promote peace in the contemporary world’ in Breines, I., Connell, R. & Eide, I. (eds.) Male Roles,
Masculinities and Violence. A Culture of Peace Perspective. UNESCO Publishing: Paris (21-33).
Crowo, J. (1994) ’Uten massemedia mindre penger’ [Less money without mass media] Aftenposten. 04/08/
Eide, E. & von der Lippe, B. (2003) ’Å lese medier i kjønnsbriller’ [Reading Media Through Gendered Len-
ses] in von der Lippe, B. (ed.) Medier, Politikk og Samfunn. Oslo: Cappelen Akademisk Forlag, 263-
Galtung, J. (2002) ‘Peace Journalism – A Challenge’ in Kempf, W. & Luostarinen, H. (eds.) Journalism and
the New World Order. Studying war and the media. Göteborg: Nordicom, 259-272.
Goldstein, J. (2001) War and Gender. How Gender Shapes the War System and Vice Versa. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Gutman, R. (1994) ‘Foreword’ in Stiglmayer, A. (ed.) Mass Rape: the War Against Women in Bosnia-
Herzegovina. Lincoln & London: University of Nebraska Press, ix-xii.
Haabeth, N. (1993) ‘Tunge dager i norsk eksil’ [Difficult Days in Norwegian Exile] Aftenposten. 08/02/
Higate, P. (2003) ‘Concluding Thoughts: Looking to the Future’, in Higate, P. (ed) Military Masculinities:
Identity and the State. Praeger Publishers: Westport, 201-216.
Hopton, J. (2003) ‘The State and Military Masculinities’ in Higate, P. (ed) Military Masculinities: Identity
and the State. Westport: Praeger Publishers, 111-124.
Kempf, W. & Luostarinen, H. (2002) ‘Introduction’ in Kempf, W. & Luostarinen, H. (eds.) Journalism and
the New World Order. Studying war and the media. Göteborg: Nordicom, 7-13.
Kempf, W. (2002) ‘Conflict Coverage and Conflict Escalation’ in Kempf, W. & Luostarinen, H. (eds.). Jour-
nalism and the New World Order. Studying War and the Media. Göteborg: Nordicom, 59-72.
Lynch, J. & McGoldrick, A. (2005) Peace Journalism. Gloucestershire: Hawthorn Press.
Mathismoen, O. (1996) ‘Strid om Bosnia-vitne’ [Quarrel over Bosnia witness] Aftenposten. 21/05/1996.
Moser, C. & Clark, F. (eds) (2001) Victims, Perpetrators or Actors? Armed conflict and political violence.
London & New York: Zed Books.
Moser, C. & Clark, F. (2001) ‘Introduction’, in Moser, C. & Clark, F (eds) (2001) Victims, Perpetrators or
Actors? Armed conflict and political violence. London & New York: Zed Books.
Nordstrøm, M. (1996) ‘Grufull serbisk fangeleir’ [Horrifying Serbian Camp] Aftenposten. 24/05/1996.
NTB/DPA (2001) ’SFOR- soldater mistenkt for voldtekt’ [NATO- soldiers suspected for Rape] Aftenposten.
NTB/REUTER/AP (1993) ’Sinnslidende våpen i Bosnia’ [Mental Patients as Weapon in Bosnia]
Aftenposten Aften. 19/11/1993.
Seifert, R. (1994) ’War and Rape: A Preliminary Analysis’ in Stiglmayer, A. (ed.) Mass Rape: the War
Against Women in Bosnia- Herzegovina. University of Nebraska Press: Lincoln & London, 54-72.
Skjelsbæk, I. (2001) ’Is Femininity Inherently Peaceful?’ in Skjelsbæk, I. & Smith, D. Gender, Peace and
Conflict. London: Sage Publications, 47-67.
Skjelsbæk, I. (1997a) Gendered Battlefields. A Gender Analysis of Peace and Conflict. PRIO Report 6/97.
Skjelsbæk, I. (1997b) ‘Abnorme individer eller abnorme situasjoner?’ [Abnormal Individuals or Abnormal
Circumstances?] Aftenposten. 14/08/1997.
Stiglmayer, A. (ed.) (1994) Mass Rape: the War Against Women in Bosnia- Herzegovina. University of
Nebraska Press: Lincoln & London, 54-72.
Tickner, J. (1992) Gender in International Relations. Feminist Perspectives on Achieving Global Security.
Columbia. New York:.University Press.
von der Lippe, B. (1999) Metaforens Potens: Essays. Oslo: Forlaget oktober.
Weber, R. (1990) Basic Content Analysis. 2nd ed. Newbury Park, London & New Delhi: Sage Publications:
Zarkov, D. (2001) ’The Body of the Other Man: Sexual Violence and the Construction of Masculinity,
Sexuality and Ethnicity in the Croatian Media’ in Moser, C. & Clark, F. (eds) (2001) Victims,
Perpetrators or Actors? Armed conflict and political violence. London & New York: Zed Books.
ANETTE BRINGEDAL HOUGE, M.A., Peace and Conflict Studies, Department of Poli-
tical Science, University of Oslo,
... Earlier research concerning sexual violence during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina has noted the importance of post-war stories (Houge 2008;Skjelsbaek 2007). Stories about the "sexualized war violence" phenomenon in my study produce and reproduce the image of disintegration of the social order that existed in the society before the war. ...
... The image of the perpetrators and those subjected to sexual violence does not seem to exist merely as a construction of the mind. Stories retold 14 years after the crimes still describe perpetrators and those subjected to sexual violence vividly, even long after the war (Houge 2008;Skjelsbaek 2007). ...
... Through their stories on sexual war violence, interviewees highlight the decay of social control, which, according to their view, occurred at the beginning of the war (Houge 2008;Skjelsbaek 2007). Such a display of sexual violence could not be seen in northwestern Bosnia before the war. ...
Full-text available
The aim of this article is to analyze verbally portrayed experiences of 27 survivors of the 1990's war in northwestern Bosnia. The focus lies on evaluating interviewees' description of wartime sexual violence and analyzing discursive patterns that contribute in constructing the phenomenon "sexualized war violence". My analysis shows that the new social war order normalized the sexualized war violence in society. In many cases, these crimes are committed by neighbors and people known by the victim. After the war, all interviewees described war sexual violence as something morally reprehensible. These narratives paint a picture of the perpetrator as someone who is dangerous, evil and the absolute enemy. This enemy is a real but distant criminal who is seen as a clear threat to the existing social order from before the war.
... Bilden av våldsutövare exemplifieras med soldater och poliser som dödat, våldtagit och fördrivit civila . Bilden av våldsdrabbade exemplifieras med de dödade eller våldtagna och fördrivna civila vuxna och barn (Steflja 2010;Mannergren Selimovic 2010;Maček 2009;Houge 2009Houge , 2008Skjelsbaek 2007;Bougarel, Helms & Duijzings 2007;Stover & Weinstein 2004) . Forskare har uppmärksammat betydelsen av efterkrigsberättelser, men de har inte uppmärksammat berättelser om krigsvåld, eller analyserat berättelserna om krigsvåld som produkt av mellanmänsklig interaktion . ...
... Fenomenet "krigsvåld" är ett övergripande och spänningsfyllt tema i denna artikel . Tidigare forskning som berör våld under kriget i Bosnien uppfattade jag dock som otillräcklig för analysen (Steflja 2010;Mannergren Selimovic 2010;Maček 2009;Houge 2009Houge , 2008Skjelsbaek 2007;Bougarel, Helms & Duijzings 2007;Stover & Weinstein 2004) . I dessa studier analyseras inte specifikt fenomenet krigsvåld och olika våldskategorier . ...
... Tidigare forskning som berör våldet under kriget i Bosnien och Hercegovina har, som redan nämnts, uppmärksammat vikten av efterkrigsberättelser (Basic 2015a(Basic , 2015b(Basic , 2015c(Basic , 2015d(Basic , 2015e, 2013Steflja 2010;Mannergren Selimovic 2010;Maček 2009;Houge 2009Houge , 2008Skjelsbaek 2007;Bougarel, Helms & Duijzings 2007;Stover & Weinstein 2004) . Berättelser om fenomenet "krigsvåld" i min studie producerar och reproducerar bilden av ett sönderfall av den sociala ordningen som fanns i samhället före kriget . ...
Full-text available
Tidigare forskning som berör våldet under kriget i Bosnien och Hercegovina presenterar en ensidig bild av fenomenet ”krigsvåld.” Forskare har uppmärksammat betydelsen av efterkrigsberättelser, men de har inte uppmärksammat berättelser om krigsvåld, eller analyserat berättelserna om krigsvåld som en produkt av mellanmänsklig interaktion. Denna artikel försöker fylla denna kunskapslucka genom att analysera berättelser av överlevande efter kriget i nordvästra Bosnien under 1990-talet. Syftet är att analysera hur överlevare beskriver våldet under kriget samt vilka diskursiva mönster som medverkar i konstruktionen av kategorin ”krigsvåld.” Konstruktionen av begreppet ”krigsvåld” synliggörs i det empiriska materialet när intervjupersonerna berättar om (1) en ny social ordning i samhället, (2) människolidande, (3) sexuellt våld och (4) människoslakt. Alla intervjuade definierar krigsvåldet som moraliskt förkastligt. Våldsutövningen under kriget framställs som organiserad och ritualiserad och detta skapar en bild av att våldsutövningen blev en norm i samhället, snarare än ett undantag. Berättelser om våldsamma situationer, våldsverkare och våldsdrabbade existerar inte enbart som en tankekonstruktion. Berättelserna lever sitt eget liv efter kriget och har därmed verkliga konsekvenser för individer och samhället.
... Victims are partly exemplified by individuals killed in the war and partly by individuals who survived the war but lost relatives or were displaced or raped during the war. The picture of the perpetrator is exemplified partly by former soldiers and policemen who had killed and raped as well as participated in the displacement, and partly by economic perpetrators who became rich during the war (Basic 2015a(Basic , 2015bBougarel, Helms and Duijzings 2007;Delpla 2007;Helms 2007;Houge 2008;Maček 2009;Mannergren Selimovic 2010;Skjelsbaek 2007;Stefansson 2007;Steflja 2010;Stover and Shigekane 2004;Stover and Weinstein 2004). These two concepts of "victim" and "perpetrator" are objects of a general post-war discussion on a symbolic level. ...
... Studies on the post-war relations in Bosnia and Herzegovina show that relations between the "victim" and "perpetrator" are characterized by a combination of rejection and closeness as well as competition between them (Basic 2015a(Basic , 2015bBougarel, Helms and Duijzings 2007;Delpla 2007;Helms 2007;Houge 2008;Maček 2009;Mannergren Selimovic 2010;Skjelsbaek 2007;Stefansson 2007;Steflja 2010;Stover and Shigekane 2004;Stover and Weinstein 2004). ...
... The primary goal was to describe how actors present the social phenomenon of "victimhood", "forgiveness", and "reconciliation" and the secondary aim was to analyze discursive patterns that contribute to constructing the terms "victim" and "perpetrator". Previous studies have often presented a one-sided picture of the "victim" and "perpetrator" during and after the Bosnian war (Bougarel, Helms and Duijzings 2007;Delpla 2007;Helms 2007;Houge 2008;Maček 2009;Mannergren Selimovic 2010;Skjelsbaek 2007;Stefansson 2007;Steflja 2010;Stover and Shigekane 2004;Stover and Weinstein 2004). Researchers have emphasized the importance of narratives, but they have not focused on narratives about victimhood or analyzed post-war interviews as a competition for victimhood that can produce jealousy. ...
Full-text available
In this analysis of the retold experiences of 27 survivors of the war in northwestern Bosnia, the aim is to describe the informants' portrayal of "victimhood," "forgiveness" and "reconciliation" as a social phenomenon as well as analyzing the discursive patterns that contribute to constructing the category "victim" and "perpetrator." When, after the war, different categories claim a "victim" status, it sparks a competition for victimhood. All informants are eager to present themselves as victims while at the same time the other categories' victim status are downplayed. In this reproduction of competition for the victim role, all demarcations that were played out so successfully during the war live on. The stories of forgiveness and reconciliation are connected to the past; the interactive consequences of war-time violence are intimately linked to the narrator's war experiences. The interviewees distance themselves from some individuals or described situations. It is common that the portrayal of possible forgiveness and reconciliation is transformed into a depicted implacable attitude, thus the interviewees negotiate their stances: they articulate between reconciliation and implacability statements. In these stories, "the others" are presented as external actors in the context. Throughout their narrations, some individuals can make a confession or exert a certain self-esteem; others can take the chance to explain for themselves and the audience, to express regret over their actions and possibly restore their social status. Without this type of processing, war victims risk living an existence without confession, and the war perpetrators risk becoming permanently bound to their acts-clearly an unstable future foundation for a post-war society.
... Examples of violent perpetrators are presented through images of soldiers and police who have killed, raped, and expelled civilians. As an example of "subjected to violence," we often see images of killed or raped and expelled civilian adults and children (Bougarel, Helms and Duijzings 2007;Houge 2008;Maček 2009;Mannergren Selimovic 2010;Skjelsbaek 2007;Steflja 2010;Stover and Weinstein 2004). Researchers have discovered the importance of post-war narratives but have not paid attention to stories on war violence or analyzed the stories on war violence as a product of interpersonal interaction and as a meaning-creating activity. ...
... The phenomenon "war violence" is a consistent theme in this article. I found that earlier research regarding violence during the war in Bosnia was insufficient for this analysis (Bougarel, Helms and Duijzings 2007;Houge 2008;Maček 2009;Mannergren Selimovic 2010;Skjelsbaek 2007;Steflja 2010;Stover and Weinstein 2004). As an aid for the analysis, I therefore used a somewhat more general sociological research on violence based on interpersonal interaction (Åkerström 2002;Betz 1977;Collins 2008;Katz 1988;Presser 2013;Schinkel 2004;Stanko 2003). ...
... Earlier research concerning violence during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina has noted the importance of post-war stories (Basic 2016(Basic , 2015a(Basic , 2015b(Basic , 2015c(Basic , 2015dBougarel, Helms and Duijzings 2007;Houge 2008;Maček 2009;Mannergren Selimovic 2010;Skjelsbaek 2007;Steflja 2010;Stover and Weinstein 2004). Stories about the "war violence" phenomenon in my study produce and reproduce the image of disintegration of the social order that existed in the society before the war. ...
Full-text available
Previous research on violence during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina has resulted in a one-sided presentation of the phenomenon of "war violence." Researchers have emphasized the importance of narratives in general but have not analyzed stories on war violence that were the product of interpersonal interaction and meaning-making activity. The aim of this article is to fill this knowledge gap by analyzing survivor narratives of the 1990s war in northwestern Bosnia. The focus is on analyzing interviewees' descriptions of wartime violence and the discursive patterns that contribute to constructing the phenomenon of "war violence." My analysis reveals an intimate relationship between how an interviewee interprets the biographical consequences of war violence and the individual's own war experiences. All interviewees described war violence as something that is morally reprehensible. These narratives, from both perpetrators of violence and those subjected to violence, recount violent situations that not only exist as mental constructions but also live on even after the war; thus, they have real consequences for the individuals and their society.
... Videre har jeg studert rapporten til FNs spesialutsendte ekspertgruppe til Bosnia, CEFR. 4 CEFR inkluderer detaljert informasjon om 715 leire som var i drift i løpet av krigens år, hvorav 162 var fangeleire der kvinnelige og/eller mannlige fanger ble misbrukt seksuelt. Alle partene i konflikten drev slike fangeleire -men et klart flertall ble styrt av serbiske/bosnisk-serbiske militaere og/eller paramilitaere (Bassiouni 1994, Houge 2008b. Til slutt gjennomførte jeg en omfattende analyse av rettsdokumenter fra det Internasjonale tribunalet for forbrytelser begått i det tidligere Jugoslavia (ICTY) 5 for saker som endte i domfellelse for seksuelle forbrytelser. ...
... (Mr. Dordic, en overlevende fra den bosnisk styrte Celebici-leiren, i Muci ¶ et al. 07.07.1997:4360-4361). 14 Det er et underkjent faktum at også mange menn baerer krigserfaringen av å reduseres til slagmarker hvor fienden manifesterer egen gruppes maskulinitet, heteroseksualitet og overlegne etnisitet -ved å frarøve ofrene nettopp disse identitetene gjennom seksuelle overgrep (Gutman 1994:x;Houge 2008b;Zarkov 2001Zarkov :71, 2007. Som seksualisert vold mot kvinner, er seksualisert vold rettet mot menn et våpen som har blitt brukt i kriger verden over og langt tilbake i tid (Goldstein 2001:357). ...
Full-text available
Most studies of sexual war violence focus almost exclusively on the experiences of female victims to such atrocities. This has been a necessary and important focus to make visible women’s and girls’ war experiences – experiences that have for too long been neglected both in international research on war and conflict, in history books, in peace negotiations and in the post-conflict processes of reconciliation and justice. However, male victims of sexual war violence continue to be silenced, and – at best – an insufficient focus on perpetrators of sexual war violence, limits our abilities to develop and implement effective measures to prevent sexual war violence from happening. This article aims to increase the understanding of sexual war violence from the perspectives of the individuals who are directly affected by such policies. This includes a continuous focus on women and girls as victims and survivors, but it also involves male victims and perpetrators. Gender, sexuality, and ethnicity pervade as essential and constructions to the understanding of sexual war violence.
... Offer exemplifieras då inte enbart med de individer som dödats, våldtagits och fördrivits utan även med individer vars anhöriga utsatts för denna typ av brott. Bilden av förövare exemplifieras inte enbart med de soldater och poliser som dödat och våldtagit under kriget samt deltagit i fördrivningen, utan även med ekonomiska förövare som blivit rika under kriget (Steflja 2010;Houge 2009Houge , 2008Skjelsbaek 2007;Delpla 2007;Duijzing 2007;Bougarel 2007;Helms 2007;Stefansson 2007;Stover & Shigekane 2004). ...
... Det verkar som att de olika tillskrivningarna av statusen som offer och förövare, som analyseras i denna studie, är retoriska produktioner som definierar dels «offer» och «förövare», dels argumentet som konstruerar själva definitionen. AVSLUTNING Tidigare forskning om kriget i Bosnien har ofta presenterat en ensidig bild av «offer» och «förövare» (Steflja 2010;Houge 2009Houge , 2008Skjelsbaek 2007;Delpla 2007;Duijzing 2007;Bougarel 2007;Helms 2007;Stefansson 2007;Stover & Shigekane 2004). Forskare har uppmärksammat betydelsen av efterkrigsberättelser, men de har inte fokuserat på berättelser om offer, eller analyserat berättelserna som en konkurrens om offerrollen som kan producera avund. ...
Full-text available
I denna artikel analyseras muntligt gestaltade erfarenheter hos 27 överlevande efter kriget i nordvästra Bosnien under 1990-talet. Syftet är att dels beskriva hur de intervjuade framställer det sociala fenomenet «offerskap», dels analysera diskursiva mönster som medverkar i konstruktionen av kategorin «offer». Aktörernas anspråk på statusen «offer» skapar en konkurrens om offerrollen efter kriget. Konkurrensen mellan kategorierna tycks utspela sig på en symbolisk nivå. Reproducerandet av konkurrens om offerrollen tycks upprätthålla de gränsdragningar som spelades ut så tydligt under kriget.
... Some suggest that repertoires of collective violence (Tilly 2003;Wood 2009) can strategically prevent men from fathering children and/or undermine them by diminishing their status (Carpenter 2006;Diken and Laustsen 2005;Lewis 2009;Oosterhoff, Zwanikken, and Ketting 2004;Sivakumaran 2007;Zawati 2007). Violence against men may also reflect heteronormativity, defined as "culturally hegemonic heterosexuality" (Jones 2006, 451; see also Carlson 2006;Christian et al. 2012;Given 2010;Houge 2008;Lewis 2009;Onyango and Hampanda 2011;Stemple 2008). Zarkov (2001), for example, contends that the violation of Muslim men in the former Yugoslavia denied them attributes of dominant masculinity. ...
Analyses of gender-based violence during mass conflict have typically focused on violence committed against women. Violence perpetrated against men has only recently been examined as gender-based violence in its own right. Using narratives from 1,136 Darfuri refugees, we analyze patterns of gender-based violence perpetrated against men and boys during the genocide in Darfur. We examine how this violence emasculates men and boys through four mechanisms: homosexualization, feminization, genital harm, and sex-selective killing. In line with an interactionist approach, we demonstrate how genocidal violence is gendered and argue that perpetrators committing gender-based violence perform masculinity in accordance with hegemonic gender norms in Sudan. We also show how gender-based violence enacts, reinforces, and creates meaning on multiple levels in a matrix of mutually reinforcing processes that we term the gender-genocide nexus. By extending the gender–violence link to the context of mass atrocity, this study facilitates an understanding of the mechanisms through which gender inequalities can be reproduced and maintained in diverse situations and structures.
... Yet, in media, among NGOs, human rights organizations, policymakers, and scholars, it is oftentimes argued that as women and girls comprise the vast majority of victims or are disproportionately affected, they are the ones who should be warranted resources and attention (e.g., de Brouwer, 2005: 26). Grey and Shepherd (2013) show how most publications and documents only include a comment or footnote in which they recognize that male victims exist, before the attention is shifted fully to female victims (see also Henry, Tony, & Hirshberg, 2004;Houge, 2008;Zarkov, 2001 for criticisms of the overall presumption of female victims). As several scholars have already commented, the vast majority-argument is, at best, an educated guess, as surveys have tended not to include men as potential victims or a gen-der sensitive, differentiated description of the offenses that they intend to map (Grey & Shepherd, 2013). ...
Full-text available
Sexual violence against men in armed conflict has been documented for thousands of years under the various guises of war, torture and mutilation yet it is often neglected mainly because of overwhelming stigma and shame surrounding it. Based on academic and grey literature on sexual violence against men in conflict, this article discusses the complex reasons for lack of quality data on this important topic. The motivations of sexual violence against men are also explored through applying causal theories that are largely based on female victims of sexual violence. Finally, interventions for the management of sexual violence against men in conflict are discussed. This study concludes that gendered binaries and strict gender roles are primarily responsible in accentuating sexual violence against men in terrorising and humiliating victims, and must be addressed. It also calls for more research and advocacy of male victims of sexual violence in order to fully understand the dynamics of this challenge as well as to offer effective care for male survivors of such violence.
Full-text available
The scholarly literature on women and war is characterised by a dispute between an essentialist and a constructionist approach. The essentialist claim is that femininity is inherently peaceful and that women, across all cultures, are more peace-prone than men. Essentialism is based on the assumption that biology determines men's and women's identity, thinking and behaviour. By contrast, the social constructionist approach is based on a fundamental skepticism to what is considered "natural" or "given". Despite their deep conceptual differences and different basic assumptions, the essentialist and constructionist approaches to women and war unite in agreeing on the need to include gender dimensions in peace studies. The article presents a qualitative analysis of three groups of women's experiences in the conflicts in Croatia/Bosnia, El Salvador and Vietnam. The many differences that characterise these conflicts - such as the time of conflict, the image of the enemy and the general participation of women - permit a social-psychological study of the construction of femininity in the context of war in general. The conclusion which emerges is that femininity per se is not inherently peaceful. Women can be equally war-prone as men; likewise, men can be equally peace-loving as women. A more constructive approach to the war-prone/peacefulness distinction might be to focus instead on differences in values and discourses.
This paper introduces the concept of peace journalism by drawing the analogy that current war reporting is akin to reporting of the ravages of diseases to the exclusion of medical practices to combat them. It proposes an approach to journalism that focuses on conflict transformation, and suggests a number of ways that peace journalism might be adopted.
Throughout modern history, there have only been three internationally established commissions to investigate war crimes and prepare for eventual prosecutions before international and national judicial bodies: the 1919 Commission on the Responsibilities of the Authors of the War and on Enforcement of Penalties for Violations of the Laws and Customs of War (1919 Commission), the 1943 United Nations War Crimes Commission (UNWCC), and the Commission of Experts established pursuant to Security Council Resolution 780 (1992) to investigate violations of international humanitarian law in the former Yugoslavia (Commission of Experts). Even though there are no connections among the three bodies, there is enough historical precedential value in the first two as the antecedents of the Commission of Experts to warrant a brief examination.
The first part of the book deals with the media's role in conflicts and provides conceptual and theoretical tools for the analysis of conflict coverage and war reporting. Under the title 'How Did We Get Here?', the second part of the volume provides the historical background needed to understand the present situation of journalism in war. The third part presents different methodological approaches to the study of war and the media, applying both quantitative and qualitative methods of analysing media discourse. The fourth part is dedicated to studies of the Gulf War and the conflict in Bosnia and demonstrates application of the previously described theoretical models and methodological approaches. Finally, 'Beyond Wishful Thinking', the closing part of the volume, summarizes the implications of this kind of research in terms of practical journalism.