French President Francois Hollande recently stated that no mercy will be shown against the French peacekeeping troops if they are found guilty of sexually abusing the hungry, homeless children in Central African Republic.
On December 2013, peacekeeping troops were sent by France to the former colony in order to protect civilians amid sectarian violence, and in last September, the United Nations had set up a 12,000-strong peacekeeping force. Responding to these allegations, French military officials distanced themselves from it, claiming they were unaware of any sexual abuse.
An advocacy group, while citing a confidential United Nations report on alleged abuses, said that displaced boys in the Central African Republic were forced by French soldiers – deployed as peacekeepers – to perform sex acts on them in exchange for food and money.
A UN staffer leaked these allegations to the French government. According to the Guardian, whose staff had gained access to a copy of the report, such abuses took place during the time when the U.N. mission in Central African Republic was in the process of being set up.
Detailed testimonies from six children who were interviewed the previous year by staff from the UNICEF and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights were told to CNN by co-director of AIDS-Free World Paula Donovan. She said that children narrated about their own tormenting experiences and those of their friends.
“There are a few cases where a boy describes the sodomizing of a friend by soldiers who are threatening to beat him if he tells anyone about what they are doing,” she added.
It has been alleged that a dozen children at a displaced persons’ camp at M’Poko International Airport in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, were sexually abused by the French soldiers during December 2013 and June 2014.
Even though French prosecutors and military authorities have promised to hold accountable those who abuse vulnerable children they are charged to protect, the odds of that happening appear to be rather low.
United Nations, in the year 2005, agreed that it was responsible for ending the sexual abuse against the vulnerable, met by the peacekeepers, after Jordan’s ambassador showcased a report on the prevalence of such behavior from peacekeeping missions around the world.
At present, 16 active U.N. peacekeeping missions are posted in Haiti, Western Sahara, Lebanon, India and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
A few incidents of sexual abuse against the vulnerable are stated below:
Bosnia and Kosovo: It was alleged by the human rights groups that in early 2000’s the U.N. and NATO peacekeepers and police ran brothels and helped in trafficking women from Eastern Europe.
Democratic Republic of Congo: It was alleged that peacekeepers of U.N. stabilization force for DRC offered small snacks to starving, orphaned girls residing in makeshift camps in return for sexual acts. During one investigation, used condoms were found in the military camps.
Haiti: U.N. peacekeeping troops have been deployed in Haiti since 1994. In the year 2011, a video came to fore showing Uruguayan U.N. soldiers raping a Haitian teenager. The next year, three Pakistani peacekeepers serving in the country were convicted in a court martial against the charges of sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy.
Ivory Coast: In 2008, BBC reported that a 13-year-old girl told the news network about being gang-raped by 10 peacekeepers in a field close to her home. Also, in a poll of 10 under-aged children conducted by Save the Children in 2009, it was uncovered that eight out of 10 had engaged in sex in exchange for food or housing with U.N. peacekeepers in Ivory Coast.
Burundi: According to U.N. regulations, peacekeepers are prohibited from patronizing sex workers. Two peacekeepers were repatriated for having sex with prostitutes. One prostitute was a minor.
Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone: It was uncovered during interviews with the citizens of these three neighboring countries that peacekeepers had withheld medical supplies, food, and water from needy civilians until they offered them sexual acts in return.
Cambodia: The amount of prostitutes went up from 6,000 to 25,000 in Cambodia during 1992 and 1993 as U.N. peacekeepers visited brothels so frequently. With regards to this, a U.N. official defended this behavior by saying “boys will be boys.”
East Timor: Cases of abuse of children and at least 20 newborns left behind by peacekeepers who impregnated local women and then left them without financial support have been documented by various human rights groups.