Eh… ‘Why’ the quotation marks?
A BBC investigation commissioned as part of Generation Next – a week of programmes focusing on people under 18 – has uncovered fresh allegations of the sexual abuse of children by United Nations peacekeepers. Mike Williams reports from Port au Prince, Haiti. …
There are about 9000 peacekeepers in the UN mission to Haiti, most of them soldiers who come from 19 different nations. Most of them have come to help. They work hard in dangerous conditions to bring security and aid to the desperate people.
But there are some peacekeepers who are willing to use their advantages to exploit some of the most vulnerable people in this troubled society.
I spoke to a 14-year-old girl who told of the peacekeeper who offered her jelly, sweets and a few dollars for sex with her and her friend – a child of just 11 years.
Half of the population of Haiti struggle to survive on just a dollar a day and the streets are filled with people selling whatever they can to raise a little cash. At nighttime, those who have nothing to sell, sell themselves.
Among the UN soldiers and civilians, they can find willing buyers. One UN official told me that a great many of the girls who work the streets are children and, in the dark streets of the capital Port-au-Prince, we watched UN officials picking up young prostitutes and driving off with them.
Sarah Martin, of Refugees International, has studied the problem in UN missions across the world.
“To prey upon the very populations that you are sent to protect is one of the worst forms of violation and betrayal that there is,” she says.
Yeah, no kidding. But hey, in case one is in danger of getting the false impression that child prostitutes is just a cultural thing, and hey, if they’re there…
Sarah (not her real name) is a fragile looking girl of 16. She says that two years ago, she was raped by a Brazilian soldier serving with the UN mission there.
She stared at the ground while we talked and, almost in a whisper, she explained what happened: “He held me down by the arms and held both my wrists, twisting them back and we struggled together. And then he raped me.”
Her mother cried while she recalled that day: “When I found her I didn’t recognise my own child,” she says. “She had the face of a dead person – I started to cry out, she couldn’t tell me what had happened.”
Ah, the UN. Let’s fund them some more, so they can help those like the people of Haiti.
Oh, and in case anyone says “Yeah but that was two years ago, before the UN instituted their no tolerance policy“, has anyone offered her counseling? Financial restitution? STD testing…? In the past two years?