Despite recent international attention to the problem, United Nations peacekeepers are still sexually exploiting and abusing women in the countries in which they serve, according to a report released yesterday by Refugees International. The report, “Must Boys Be Boys?,” was prepared by Sarah Martin, who visited peacekeeping missions in Haiti and Liberia.
As Martin writes in her executive summary, “Since the bulk of personnel in peacekeeping missions are men, a hyper-masculine culture that encourages sexual exploitation and abuse and a tradition of silence have evolved within them.” The majority of complaints heard by Refugees International were about expatriate men, both UN employees and others, carrying on “inappropriate relationships” (such as paying for sex) with local women. In a press briefing Tuesday, reported by the New York Times, Martin said that rapes were often considered merely an outcome of prostitution.
The report’s recommendations include increasing female representation among the UN troops and in senior management positions, setting up an independent watchdog organization and mandatory training programs on gender issues, improving access to the UN complaint process, and conducting programs to empower local women in post-combat areas.
Earlier this year, Prince Zeid Raad al-Hussein, Jordan’s ambassador to the UN, reported that UN peacekeepers in the Congo were having sex with women and girls in exchange for food and money, and in some cases committing rape. At the Tuesday briefing, he said that influential member states of the United Nations had greeted his report with “utter silence,” the Times reports.