Exchange to Change Sept 2017 20170911 E2C zomer web - Page 19

INTERVIEW E2C: Does your own gender affect who you can talk to? HP: The book that I’ve just written [After Rape] focused on the experiences of women and the research was with women. It was also with their communities, families, husbands, brothers, fathers— whoever was important in their lives—but the starting point was women. My current work includes quite a lot of men, and a key part is talking to former Lord’s Resistance Army [LRA] fighters. I’m interested in how they look at the sexual norms and practices in the LRA and their own experiences. Many of them were coming of age in the LRA—going through puberty, having their first relationships— and some of them were in forced marriages. How do they understand that, and what are their relationships like now? Regarding the effect of my own gender on the research, I think men really like talking about sex, in fact I think men like talking about it even more than women do. And I think they like talking to a woman about sex, it’s a performance of masculinity. I’ve also worked with several male research assistants who conducted interviews with men for me, so that I could gauge whether men speak differently to a male researcher. Of course the male researchers had a different rapport, but the things people told them confirmed what I was also hearing in my interviews. E2C: What has been the biggest challenge for you in your research? HP: In the beginning of my research, I did believe it was important to understand the men’s side, but I just found it emotionally difficult to engage with it. In my current project, I want to understand men’s perspective. If we want to understand sexual violence and war, we have to wrap our head around why it happens, who is doing it, and what is motivating it. But it took a long time before I felt like I was emotionally ready to do that. In my conversations with men, one difficulty is that I know a lot of the people from these stories. When a man is telling me about something that happened, I know the woman on the other end of the story, I know her kids, I’ve talked to her about her version of events. It can be deeply unsettling. E2C: Has your work resulted in any policy recommendations? HP: I think there is a lot of potential for various types of policy recommendations, both within Uganda but also in more global institutions. Within Uganda, there are actually two institutions that I think are really important but are often overlooked: churches and schools. They are the institutions that are the most sustainable, the most pervasive, and are such massive factors in influencing gender norms and what people come to view as being an appropriate relationship between men and women. I did some research in schools talking to teachers, and in the course of the interviews I’d ask them how their students learn about sex, and, if they were parents, how they thought their own children learn about sex. Then I would ask them how they actually learned about it themselves when they were kids. I think in the process, many realized that there was a conflict between what they would desire for their own children and what they were actually doing for their students. But most of the programs that touch on sexuality do so in the context of HIV awareness, it’s not very holistic. There are some programs, little add-on things that schools are open to, which could be tweaked to be more effective. For example, an activity called Family Groups, where students talk about things like body changes and puberty. But in these talks, they do role-playing and designate a mother and father role in the group. Well, most mothers and fathers here don’t ever talk to their children about sex—that role falls to an aunt or uncle. So even just changing how the roles are defined could improve the effectiveness of this type of activity. In the international arena, the ICC has asked me for advice on various things, for 19 instance notions of consent. There were five warrants issued for former LRA, and initially none of the crimes included had to do with sexual violence. I was able to offer input into that process as well as how victims and witnesses could give valid testimonies while minimizing their risk of exposure in the communities that they come from. I think a lot about what ‘justice’ means and what ‘repair’ means after sexual violence, and I have ideas about reparations. Right now, there’s not a lot of hope for that happening on a big scale, but one of the places where it does happen is through the Trust Fund for Victims. They have a couple of different programs but they are not particularly well-targeted. So, I have policy recommendations that have currently been ignored. But, I think there are some that are gaining traction! E xchange to change S eptember 2017