August 1, 2007:
the fact that peacekeeper troops have sex with local women has been publicized,
there's more pressure on the UN to end, or at least regulate, the practice. The
latest complaints come from Ivory Coast, where Moroccan peacekeepers are
accused of having sex with local teenage girls.
Until a few years ago, the
UN did not bother with the sexual activity of peacekeepers unless it involved
rape or murder. Even then, someone, preferably an aid worker (NGO or UN) had to
make the complaint. If was quickly discovered that complaints got a lot more
attention, and more quickly, if they were made to Western media, preferably
British. The British media has a thing for sexual abuse in far off lands.
The UN would like the
entire matter to go away. There is already a shortage of peacekeepers, and
broadcasting the fact that sexual activity will be monitored by civilian aid
workers does little to encourage troops to volunteer. Then again, the most
severe punishment usually handed out is to send specific soldiers home. They
lose their extra pay for being a peacekeeper, and might suffer career damage if
they were professional soldiers. In the current case, the Moroccans were only
being paid $39 a month (the UN pays the contributing nation $1,000 a month per
soldier, but the troops don't always get all of that.) The Moroccans were
trading food for sex, and this was seen, by the locals, as "survival sex" for
the girls in question.
The foreigner aid workers
often have sex with local women, but more frequently they do so with each
other. That's safer, given all the AIDS, and other sexually transmitted
diseases going around. But the peacekeeper units tend to be all-male, and
generally from countries where homosexuality is not tolerated.
The current drill is for
the UN to send an investigation team to the site of the allegations, write up a
fairly accurate report, send a few soldiers home, and try to explain to the
local aid workers, or other foreigners who are offended by peacekeeper
behavior, that they ought to cut the troops some slack. This last bit is done
very discretely, lest yet another sex scandal erupt.