A draft report seen by the Associated Press (AP) expected to be released within the month says that members of the United Nations peacekeeping mission have engaged in “transactional sex” with more than 225 Haitian women and that the offence is “significantly under reported.”
The new report which is compiled by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) revealed that one-third of the allegedly sexually exploited and abused by the UN peacekeepers involved minors under the age of 18.
Investigators were made aware of the scandal after interviewing 231 people in Haiti a year ago, who claimed they were forced to engage in sexual acts with UN peacekeepers in exchange for basic essentials.
The report suggests that UN employees were taking advantage of the difficult realities of some of these people in exchange for sexual favours.“For rural women, hunger, lack of shelter, baby care items, medication and household items were frequently cited as the ‘triggering need,’ ” however, women living in urban and suburban areas performed sexual acts in exchange for “church shoes, mobile phones, laptops and perfume, as well as money,” says the report.
“In cases of non-payment, some women withheld the badges of peacekeepers and threatened to reveal their infidelity via social media,” said the report.
According to the report “Only seven interviewees knew about the United Nations policy prohibiting sexual exploitation and abuse.” However, none was aware of the mission’s hotline to report it.
Although it is unknown how many peacekeepers were involved and transactional sex is considered to be prohibited conduct, there is “significant under reporting” and that the assistance to the victims is “severely deficient” the report said.
But “transactional sex” is not the only concern of the report. UN has recently come under fire after allegations that members of peacekeeping missions partook in child sexual exploitation and abuse.
Earlier this year the Guardian had reported that during 2006 peacekeeping efforts in Liberia and Haiti, members of the mission were accused of forcing young girls to engage in sexual acts in exchange of food. Two years after the shocking allegations, officials from the Save the Children organisation revealed that UN peacekeepers in Haiti, southern Sudan and the Ivory coast raped children as young as 13.
Recently, on April 29, the UN publicly announced an ongoing investigation of French soldiers who were sent to the Central African Republic as peacekeepers and accused of raping starving children in exchange of money and food, after a senior aid worker leaked the report.
The aid worker publicised the report stating that the UN was not taking rightful action against the accused.
While the UN holds an official zero-tolerance policy “towards all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse,” the draft report suggests that both UN policy and monitoring is failing to address clear cases - both conceptually and practically - of sexual exploitation that urgently needs to be dealt with.