A study by the U.N. refugee agency found what it calls “shocking evidence” of widespread sexual violence against Syrian men and boys inside Syria and in neighboring countries where they seek asylum.
The study indicated violence against men and boys is far more widespread than previously believed. It found gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals are most vulnerable to sexual assault, with the victims ranging in age from 10 to 80.
U.N. refugee agency spokesman, Andrej Mahecic, said sexual violence against men and boys inside Syria is practiced by all the combatant groups, who use it as a weapon of war. He told VOA one of the victims who gave evidence said he and about 80 other people were held in a tiny cell, without any light for 30 days.
“They were all stripped naked. During the night, they would be hung by the hands and their captors would basically torture them with electricity that was applied to genitals and other parts of the body,” the victim said.
The study found refugee boys in countries of asylum are sexually abused by other male refugees and from males in the local community. It said the high rates of child labor among Syrian refugee children puts young boys at particular risk.
Mahecic said refugee boys and men working in the black market or informal economy are prone to sexual exploitation and blackmail.
“We have heard evidence and interviews of refugee men and boys talking about the fact that they would not be able to receive their wages until they had performed certain sexual favors to their employers,” he said.
Mahecic said the incidence of sexual assault, rape and violence against Syrian men and boys is vastly underreported because of the stigma attached. He said this cultural silence reinforces the myth that this problem is rare. He added the UNHCR study shows the opposite to be true.