UN: Our Peacekeepers Are Sexually Exploiting Women In Haiti

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Jun 10, 2015 7:45 PM
UN: Our Peacekeepers Are Sexually Exploiting Women In Haiti

So, the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission has a problem, mostly with “transactional sex” amongst its troops that’s underreported. To make things more depraved, a substantial amount of the female victims are minors (via AP):

Members of a U.N. peacekeeping mission engaged in "transactional sex" with more than 225 Haitian women who said they needed to do so to obtain things like food and medication, a sign that sexual exploitation remains significantly underreported in such missions, according to a new report obtained by The Associated Press.

The draft by the Office of Internal Oversight Services looks at the way U.N. peacekeeping, which has about 125,000 people in some of the world's most troubled areas, deals with the persistent problem of sexual abuse and exploitation.

The report, expected to be released this month, says major challenges remain a decade after a groundbreaking U.N. report first tackled the issue.

Among its findings: About a third of alleged sexual abuse involves minors under 18. Assistance to victims is "severely deficient." The average investigation by OIOS, which says it prioritizes cases involving minors or rape, takes more than a year.

And widespread confusion remains on the ground about consensual sex and exploitation. To help demonstrate that, investigators headed to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

A year ago, the report says, investigators interviewed 231 people in Haiti who said they'd had transactional sexual relationships with U.N. peacekeepers. "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 withheld the badges of peacekeepers and threatened to reveal their infidelity via social media," the report says. "Only seven interviewees knew about the United Nations policy prohibiting sexual exploitation and abuse." None knew about the mission's hotline to report it.

This is awful, but not nearly as bad as the international body’s abject failure in protecting Bosnian Muslims from slaughter in the mid-1990s. In effect, one could argue that the UN facilitated genocide by designating safe areas, thus allowing Bosnian Serb forces to know exactly where they could murder Muslim men and boys by the thousands.  Nevertheless, sex crimes can be added to the list of UN dysfunctions.

So, while this report on sexual exploitation is disturbing, the UN has had more egregious and bloody failures. The Rwandan Genocide is another grim reminder. Hopefully, this sort of illegal and perverse behavior will be addressed promptly and efficiently. At the same time, these are two characteristics that aren’t generally applied to the UN.