“When I left for the army, I remember that my aunts, my uncles and my mother said, Go because over there you will become a man, over there you will become a worthy man.”
“When I was five years old, I had hair down to here (signals his neck), and I remember people sometimes greeted me, saying, Ay, what a beautiful girl! And I would say, What girl? Then, next, I am at my desk, in school, at the beginning of first grade, my hair mauled, wearing a proper shirt for school, and here is the photo of the castrated boy, whose hair was shaved, because they figured I was already the little man.”
“When people speak to you about war and you are a young man of 15 or 18 years old, you think that here is something you cannot do anything about, that the only option is to deal with it and suck it up.”
Such are some of the commentaries gathered by la Casa Museo de la Memoria in Medellín and the University of Antioquia, which highlight the importance of including the male gender perspective in projects that will help take Colombian society from war to a post-conflict scenario.
Many men join the government’s army or illegal armed groups for economic reasons, due to unemployment and the expectations that, as males, society assigned them to provide for their families.
Many demobilized former paramilitaries have expressed that membership in the paramilitaries facilitated their liaisons with the prettiest women, as well as their ability to dress well, carry a weapon, and be seen as males with power.
Forced displacement robs men of their social position as they witness their wives, and the women around them, better able to adapt to life in cities, getting jobs, and providing for their families.
There have been 800 cases reported to the National Union of Victims in which men were victims of sexual violence. It is likely the figure is higher. Many men in war situations are castrated, sexually mutilated, forced to have incestious relations, and forced into sexual slavery.