, Volume 93, Number 6

Jessica Auchter
Forced male circumcision has not yet been recognized as a specific gendered human rights abuse in international humanitarian law. This article takes the first step towards assessing these acts by considering them in the context of post-election violence in Kenya in 2007. This case allows for the exploration of how forced male circumcision was used in a context of political violence and militia-led— and often state-sanctioned—terror. The article thus considers multiple legal issues and concerns that arise from this sort of violence in different contexts. I situate the case within a larger framework of conventional understandings on gender and violence as a means to question them and render them problematic. Specifically, I argue that understanding sexual violence as exclusively targeting women prevents appropriate prosecution of forced male circumcisions in Kenya and of sexual violence against men more generally. Sexual violence against men involves forms of emasculation in which perpetrators seek to feminize their victims by rendering them weak, violated and passive, in contradistinction to stereotypical masculine ideals. If one’s relationship to femininity is a crucial issue in sexual violence, whether the victims are men or women, then being able to properly account for cases like Kenya, in both a political and a legal sense, is crucial to legal accountability for sexual violence more broadly.

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