A draft report on Tuesday, released by the United Nations internal oversight body, found cases of widespread sexual exploitation by the UN peacekeeping forces, while stationed in countries beset by conflict and natural disaster.
The study focused mainly on the two countries of Haiti and Liberia, where ‘transactional sex’ is very common. According to a new UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) report obtained by the news agency, a third of alleged sexual exploitation involved minors under 18 and help for these victims is listed as “severely deficient.”
This revelation came to light after investigators interviewed about 231 people in Haiti, who claimed that they were forced to perform sexual acts with the UN peacekeepers in exchange for ‘basic necessities’. (According to the ‘Associated Press’)
The U.N., which currently has 125,000 peacekeepers stationed around the world, explicitly bans the “exchange of money, employment, goods or services for sex,” and discourages relationships between UN staff and those who are under their care. However, only seven of the interviewed victims “knew about the United Nations policy prohibiting sexual exploitation and abuse,” the report states.
Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan had called on a group of experts to evaluate peacekeeping operations and recommend institutional changes to help prevent abuses by peacekeepers, following the rise of sexual allegations against the forces, especially after the grotesque cases following the Bosnian war.
“For rural women, hunger, lack of shelter, baby care items, medication and household items were frequently cited as the `triggering need,’ “the report says. “Urban and suburban women received “church shoes,’ cell phones, laptops and perfume, as well as money.”
In cases of non-payment, some women take the badges of the peacekeepers and threaten to reveal their infidelity via social media.
According to Reuters, the report states that 480 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse had been made between 2008 and 2013, of which one-third involved children.
The report does not mention the number of peacekeepers involved, nor does it mention a time-frame for these allegations, but the 7,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti started in 2004. A young girl’s quote, from Haiti, which was taken in 2008 has come to light again, in regards to recent developments.“They do this with all of us young girls,” she says. “I have a few friends that have gone to bed with them. Some of them are asked to give them a lesbian show, and they are paid for that.” (as reported by the U.K.-based nonprofit organization Save the Children on sexualized violence toward children in conflict zones).
“This is not the first time that UN workers have been accused of these types of crimes. After the UN has entered areas like Cambodia, Mozambique, Bosnia, Sudan and Kosovo, there was an explosion of sex trafficking and numerous reports of abuse. Just this year, the UN was caught attempting to cover-up the fact that their workers had raped starving and homeless boys in the Central African Republic” (according to reporter John Vibes, of the Freethought Project).
Cornell constitutional law scholar, Muna Ndulo, recounted cases of UN peacekeepers fathering and subsequently abandoning children at the end of their deployment. Ndulo quotes staggering numbers in his report: that UN peacekeepers have fathered an estimated 24,500 babies in Cambodia and 6,600 in Liberia.
While UN Peacekeeping has a zero tolerance clause of sexual abuses within its code of conduct, it is only enforceable if the military command of the member state country taking part in the operation chooses to enforce it. Peacekeepers are protected from prosecution of sexual abuses as troops are traditionally granted jurisdictional immunity through Status of Forces Agreements in the countries where they operate.
Report of the new draft findings has come only a week after the UN announced it was creating an independent panel to review allegations of sexual abuse of African children by its French peacekeepers.