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Peace missions? Denounces of abuse and prostitution against “Blue Helmets”

A recent study from the UN confirms the accusations made years ago by left and feminist organizations: troops abuse of women and young girls and offer food and money in exchange for sex.

Celeste Murillo

June 26, 2015
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Spanish version from La Izquierda Diario, Argentina, June 12th, 2015

Soldiers from the so-called “Peacekeepers”, led by the United Nations, often pay for sex with cash, dresses, jewels, cellphones and other merchandises. They do so taking advantage of the hellish situation that the populations where they are deployed live in, especially women and young girls. This is proven by a UN study. Besides, there have been multiple denounces of abuses and rapes along the years.

According to Reuters, a preliminary report from the Office of Internal Oversight Services of the UN points to surveys among hundreds of women in Haiti showed that the reasons for offering sex include hunger, poverty and improving living conditions.

“The evidence gathered from two countries with peace missions found that transactional sex is quite common but underreported.” The report draft also observed that “the number of condoms distributed, along with the number of soldiers who voluntarily receive counseling and confidential testing for HIV (…) suggest that sexual intercourse between peacekeeping personnel and the local population could be regular.”

The United Nations currently have more than 125.000 troops, police and civilians deployed in 16 operations across the world. Between 2008 and 2013, 480 accusations of exploitation and sexual abuse were made, of which about one third involves children. Missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Haiti and Southern Sudan concentrate the biggest number of denounces. In 2014, 51 denounces of exploitation and sexual abuse were made against the UN’s Peacekeepers.

At the same time, the study points out that the UN issued a notice in 2003 prohibiting transactional sex to the Peacekeepers (as if it were necessary to clarify that sexual abuse is forbidden). The hypocrisy is great, since the level of impunity that the UN effectives enjoy of assures them that they keep acting with no consequences.

In Haiti, Peacekeeping troops were accused by 225 women for abuse and sexual exploitation; a third of them are minors. The women declared they were “rewarded” with food and medicine in exchange of sex.

The consequences of wars or great natural disasters like the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010 hit the poorest sectors of the population the hardest.

The troops take advantage of these hellish situations; as such, the most frequent reasons that cause women to have intercourse with the Peacekeepers effectives are “hunger, lack of shelter, baby care items, medication and household items”.

It must be noted that in the case of Haiti, the UN peace troops are composed of effectives from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (known as MINUSTAH for its French acronym). The MINUSTAH, a coalition of forces from Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Paraguay and Peru (under Brazilian command), make the dirty work of the US since 2010. Since then, effectives from Latin American countries, many of them led by so-called “progressive” governments, have made sure of applying a “firm hand” policy to impose order and guarantee the political stability necessary for foreign investment in the country.

Abuse by soldiers is a constant in wars, occupations and missions resulting from direct imperialist interference, like in Haiti. Similar accusations are made to American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, just to mention the most recent and infamous wars and occupations. Without going any further, the MINUSTAH troops themselves were in the eye of the storm when in 2011 a video was released portraying Uruguayan effectives sexually abusing a young Haitian.

Abuse and rape of women and Young girls add to the humiliations made to prisoners in occupied countries (like the cases of torture to prisoners in Abu Grahib), the bloody suppression methods used by the US Army like white phosphorus (in 2009, the US was accused for its use in Bala Baluk, Afghanistan), and the massacres committed by the occupation effectives like in Hadita (Iraq) in 2006.

Left and women organizations have been denouncing for decades cases of abuse by troops in “peacekeeping” operations. Women and young girls, as the UN report shows, are usually the main target. Countries that conform peacekeeping missions and international organizations, through their silence, encourage abuses and ensure impunity for the troops that look over local people on behalf of peace and stability.

Translation: Oscar Fernandez

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Celeste Murillo

Celeste is a leader of the Socialist Workers' Party (PTS) and a founder of the women's group Pan y Rosas (Bread and Roses) in Argentina. She is a host of the radio program El Círculo Rojo where she focusses on culture and gender.

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