Sexual Assault & the U.N. (AGAIN)

According to the AP, sexual assault and exploitation allegations against United Nations peacekeepers in the Congo are gaining focus again. To date, 72 allegations against military and civilian U.N. personnel have been filed. Most of the cases involve underage girls and many center on the coercion of Congolese women to engage in sex in exchange for food or small sums of money.
The U.N. attempted to crack down on the problem by emphasizing to its personnel that sex with individuals under age eighteen will be viewed as a conduct violation. *BUT* as several watchdog organizations have pointed out–this clearly isn’t working.
William Lacy Swing, the United Nations’ special representative to Congo, explained that: “We have had and continue to have a serious problem of sexual exploitation and abuse. We are shocked by it, we are outraged, we are sickened by it. Peacekeepers who have been sworn to assist those in need, particularly those who have been victims of sexual violence, instead have caused grievous harm.”
But how to address the problem? Everyone seems *very* short on ideas.
Jean-Marie Guehenno, U.N. undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations, noted simply that, “Rules and regulations should be tightened.” Ummmmm, yeah, I would say so. The AP explains that, “Officials have found it difficult to crack down because the United Nations doesn’t want to offend the relatively small number of countries that are willing to provide peacekeepers.” As a result, local women are left to bear the brunt of this fear of offense.
An *awesome* resource on this issue is Peace Women, which compiles information on investigations of sexual assault within U.N. missions.
I think what I’m struck by is how this discussion continues to exist in a vacuum. For example, there is no juxtaposition between the problem of sexual assault on UN peacekeeping missions with the same ongoing problem in US military campaigns. And no one is talking about how this issue has been informed by growing “American” (i.e. the red staters) distrust of the United Nations. Would this even be an issue if it wasn’t en vogue to talk shit about the UN? (sigh).

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