United Nations peacekeepers deployed in Haiti engaged in “transactional sex” with more than 225 Haitian women in exchange for food and medication, a new U.N. draft report, obtained by the Associated Press (AP), has found. The report by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), which is expected to be released sometime this month, suggests that many such cases remain underreported.
According to the report, nearly a third of the sexual exploitation and abuse victims are under the age of 18. During the year-long investigation, the OIOS investigators interviewed 231 people in Haiti, who said that they were forced to have transactional sexual relationships with U.N. peacekeepers in exchange for basic necessities.
“For rural women, hunger, lack of shelter, baby care items, medication and household items were frequently cited as the ‘triggering need,’” the report said, adding that women living in urban and suburban areas resorted to sex to receive “church shoes, cell phones, laptops and perfume, as well as money.”
In 2014, a total of 51 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation against members of all U.N. peacekeeping missions were reported compared to 66 such cases the year before. However, the latest OIOS report does not say how many U.N. peacekeepers were engaged in such activities in Haiti. The report also did not reveal the time frame of the “transactional sex” occurred in the Caribbean country, according to the AP.
The latest report comes a week after the U.N. announced that it was creating an independent panel to review allegations of sexual abuse of African children by its French peacekeepers, the New York Times reported.
“The review will examine the treatment of the specific report of abuse in the Central African Republic as well as a broad range of systemic issues related to how the UN responds to serious information of this kind,” the office of the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had said in a statement.
The U.N. strongly prohibits “exchange of money, employment, goods or services for sex,” and discourages sexual relationships between U.N. staff and those who receive their assistance, the report stated. However, only seven interviewed victims “knew about the United Nations policy prohibiting sexual exploitation and abuse,” the report said.
The U.N. peacekeeping mission started in Haiti in 2004, and by the end of March, more than 7,000 uniformed troops had been deployed in the country. The Haiti mission is one of the four U.N. peacekeeping missions, including in Congo, Liberia and South Sudan, with the maximum number of allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation in recent years, the AP reported.
Each of these instances is considered prohibited conduct, “thus demonstrating significant underreporting,” the report said, adding that assistance to those who suffered is “severely deficient.”