Peacekeeping: Sex and the Scandal Prone Peacekeeper


August 1, 2007: Now that 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.




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