Sex trafficking and sex-for-food/money: terrorism and conflict-related sexual violence against men in the Lake Chad region

Emeka Thaddues Njoku, Joshua Akintayo, Idris Mohammed

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In understanding conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV), the notion of how sexuality and sex are naturally linked to power is gaining traction in IR discourses. There is, however, little contextual or empirical evidence that accounts for the various forms of CRSV against men, or how offenders exploit power dynamics in conflict and post-conflict settings to achieve their sexual desires. As a result, we rely on ethnographic accounts from survivors/victims, NGO workers, and security personnel on the front lines of the counter-terrorism campaign in the Lake Chad basin, particularly in North-eastern Nigeria. Long-term terrorist violence, we argue, creates material imbalances in men and boys and increases their vulnerabilities, providing platforms for individual perpetrators to exploit their vulnerable status or engage in sex-trafficking rings to satisfy their sexual urges. Therefore, this article adds conceptually and empirically to the nature and motivations of wartime sexual violence, as well as the gendered dynamics of armed conflict. It challenges the popular masculinist notion that men are immune to sex trafficking and sexual violence. The study emphasises the importance of effective IDP camp management and prosecution in preventing would-be offenders.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-95
Number of pages17
JournalConflict, Security & Development
Issue number1
Early online date8 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

This article is part of a research project entitled ”Masculinity, Male Bodies, and Victimhood in the Context of Counter-Terrorism in North-Eastern Nigeria,” which was funded by a postdoctoral fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies/African Humanities Program. The project was hosted at the University of Ibadan's Department of Political Science. Our sincere appreciation goes to the current Head of Department, Remi E. Aiyede, as well as Adigun Agbaje, Olajide Akanji, Jeremiah Arowosegbe, David Enweremadu, and other members of staff for their support. We appreciate the anonymous peer reviewers for their constructive feedback.

Emeka Thaddues Njoku is a political scientist whose research is located at the interface between conflict, counter-terrorism and non-state governance. Specifically, the global counter-terrorism norms and their impact on the spaces and agency of civil society organisations, as well as the gendered and sexual consequences of counter-terrorism laws, policies, and practices. His works have been published in International Affairs, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, to mention but a few, and a book published by Manchester University Press.

Joshua Akintayo is a PhD student at the Brussels School of International Studies (BSIS) – the University of Kent, United Kingdom. Joshua’s PhD research focuses on examining the complex nature of government engagement with Muslim communities and non-state actors in the context of the deradicalisation programme in north-eastern Nigeria. His works have appeared in South African Journal of International Affairs and the African Journal of Terrorism

Idris Mohammed is an investigative Journalist and researcher on violent extremism and terrorism in Nigeria.


  • Sex trafficking
  • Survival sex
  • Wartime sexual violence
  • Conflict-related sexual violence
  • terrorism
  • Counter-terrorism
  • Transactional sex
  • Boko Haram
  • Islamic State
  • Gender
  • Critical terrorism studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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