A Wednesday report by the Associated Press sheds further light on the extensive child rape problem that exists within the United Nations peacekeeping forces.
The expose focuses on U.N. peacekeepers operating in Haiti, where nearly 2,000 allegations of sexual abuse have occurred since 2004, with more than 300 cases involving children. A large number of the victims included boys and girls as young as 12 years old, many of whom were raped by peacekeepers on a regular basis.
“I did not even have breasts,” one girl, known as V01, or Victim No.1, told the AP. She said she was consistently raped by as many as 50 U.N. peacekeepers from ages 12 to 15.
Janila Jean was a 16-year-old virgin when a Brazilian peacekeeper lured her into a U.N. compound with some bread smeared with peanut butter. Once inside, he raped her at gunpoint. The attack left her pregnant, and she now raises her child alone.
“Some days, I imagine strangling my daughter to death,” she told investigators.
V09, a boy, said he was 15 when Sri Lankan peacekeepers began raping him. He reported having sexual encounters with more than 100 of them over three years, averaging approximately four a day.
A teenage boy told investigators that he was gang-raped by Uruguayan peacekeepers in 2011. The soldiers filmed the alleged rape on a cell phone.
Haiti is one of the poorest and most destitute countries in the western hemisphere. The country fell into chaos after former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide went into exile after an armed conflict ravaged the country. The U.N. began the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) shortly thereafter on June 1, 2004. Haiti again suffered disaster on Jan. 12, 2010 when an earthquake killed 220,000 people.
The desperation suffered by Haitians created an environment where sexual predators could easily bribe children into sexual acts with the equivalent of 75 cents or a cookie. In one case, Sri Lankan peacekeepers set up a sex ring involving nine children.
One girl’s cell phone number was shared with new members of the force so they could call her for sex. Some of the Sri Lankan soldiers would teach the children Sinhalese, the native language of Sri Lanka so they could pick up on “sexual innuendo.” Evidence against 134 members of the Sri Lankan force was eventually gathered, with 114 sent home thereafter.
The U.N.’s child rape problem extends well beyond the Haitian example.
French peacekeepers in the Central African Republic were accused of sexually abusing local girls in 2016 report by the AIDS-Free World’s Code Blue Campaign. The report’s allegations included acts of oral sex and bestiality. Code Blue’s report built upon an internal U.N. report that also detailed sexual abuse. In one particularly horrific example, a French commander allegedly tied four girls up, undressed them and forced them to have sex with a dog.
The U.N. is limited in what it can do to eradicate its sexual abuse problem. Peacekeepers are under the jurisdiction of their home countries, which rarely prosecute their own soldiers. The international organization has, thus far, failed to crack down on child rape within its peacekeeping forces. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres unveiled new policies to help address the problem in March.
“Let us declare in one voice: We will not tolerate anyone committing or condoning sexual exploitation and abuse,” said Guterres. “We will not let anyone cover up these crimes with the U.N. flag.”
A U.N.-commissioned report promised much of the same more than 10 years ago, yet the problem has persisted.
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