It is Haiti, It is rape, it is UN peacekeepers and it is nothing new.
Port-au-Prince, Haiti– At a time when uncertainties about upcoming Haitian elections are high, when anxieties over the cholera epidemic are rampant and prevalent rumors identifying peacekeepers as epidemic originators persist, the humanitarian organization must allocate resources to combat emerging rape allegations.
The Washington Times reported Tuesday on emerging rape accusations of teenage girls by UN peacekeepers in Haiti, most notably in the city of Leogane, some 25 miles west of Port-au-Prince. According to the article, her mother forbade then 15-year-old Natasha from filing an official complaint about the crime. Now 17, she accused a Sri Lankan peacekeeper of raping her two years ago. Reporters withheld Natasha’s real name to protect her identity.
Moreover, six years ago, in 2004, similar rape accusations of another 15-year-old involving a Brazilian peacekeeper surfaced among 33 other cases, which prompted an investigation by the UN peacekeeping mission. Polin Aleandre articulated, « There are likely many more cases. » She is a social worker that claims five street girls ages 9 to 13 received sexual advances from peacekeepers in front of the national palace. « Sex has a huge stigma in Haiti, and rape even more so. People don’t talk about it at all, » Aleandre added.
Notably, a plurality of sexual abuse scandals stormed the Un peacekeeping mission in Africa in 2008. Among scores of victims was Elizabeth, a 13-year-old girl from Ivory Coast. She recounted her ordeals to BBC News, « They grabbed me and threw me to the ground and they forced themselves on me… I tried to escape but there were 10 of them and I could do nothing, » she said.
Similar patterns recorded in Southern Sudan, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi are explicitly highlighted in “No One to Turn To,” a report published by Save the Children Fund in 2008. In spite of renewed commitments by the UN in recent years to address this plaguing problem, these vulnerabilities have tarnished the image of the humanitarian organization, once a viable solution to global crisis.
Denying the allegations, U.N. spokesperson David Wimhurst declared, after conducting three investigations, no substantiated evidence became known in Natasha’s charges. “We take it very seriously, » he argued. « Clearly, the majority of our people are behaving themselves, and indeed, since some of these allegations don’t pan out, I would say, it’s not a huge problem. » Meanwhile, the Washington Times’ report indicated since January 2004, the United Nations has investigated 319 peacekeepers for accusations of sexual abuse or exploitation, resulting in the repatriation of 144 military personnel, 17 police officers and 18 civilian officials.
After its investigation, Save the Children Fund recommended better reporting mechanism and the strengthening of worldwide protection systems. However, some activists insist that some victims are either too afraid or too intimidated by the U.N. bureaucracy to come forward.
These circumstances have raised legitimate concerns in Haitian communities who, according to some reports, have lost an estimated 3,000 children monthly to the Dominican Republic’s lucrative human trafficking market since Jan. 12, 2010.
- Haiti cholera epidemic: UN rejects accusations peacekeepers spread disease(telegraph.co.uk)
- Haiti cholera outbreak: Desperate and naked woman collapsed on streets(dailymail.co.uk)
- Haiti cholera spreads over border (bbc.co.uk)
- First cholera case confirmed in Dominican Republic as Haiti death toll passes 1k(dailymail.co.uk)
- Haiti rioters attack U.N. troops, one protester killed (reuters.com)