By Harshit Rai
Harshit Rai is a third year student at the Symbiosis Law School, Pune.
The neighbourhood in Bangui is plundered at the height of civil war, but in a number of homes, women are raising newborns. They say these are children of U.N. troops who sexually abused them. They are called “Peacekeeper babies,” by the United Nations.
It is estimated that 24,500 babies were fathered by peacekeepers in Cambodia and 6,600 children were fathered by peacekeeping soldiers serving in the United Nations mission in Liberia.  Steadily rising paternity claims are a serious problem in peacekeeping missions. Even worse is the plight of peacekeeper babies who are ostracised by their community for their distinct appearance and remain unprovided for by their real fathers. Since the beginning of the UN mission in Central African Republic, there have been formal accusations of peacekeeping forces sexually abusing or exploiting over 42 local civilians, most of them which were underage girls. The violators prey on the vulnerable conditions of innocent civilians who are ready to pay any price for their survival.
Peacekeeping by the United Nations is one of the most visible forms of UN actions across the world. Over the years, the iconic blue helmet force has earned its place as a symbol of hope in the lives of millions of people living in war-ravaged lands. It’s Secretary General believes that United Nations peacekeeping efforts have given life to the UN Charter’s goal “to unite our strength and to maintain international peace and security”. 
Wherever deployed, especially in lands ravaged by war and destruction, UN’s ‘Blue Helmets’ are seen as the harbinger of relief and hope. However, for decades, the ‘Blue Helmets’ have been sexually exploiting and abusing those they were sent to protect. Furthermore, Human Rights organisations and Media houses have brought up this issue on numerous occasions, and the abuse has also been acknowledged by the UN.
Disturbingly, the unique situation of UN Peacekeepers grants them immunity from any type of criminal prosecution in the mission area by the United Nations, which also shields them from criminal liability stemming from sexual abuse and exploitation. Since most host states lack necessary legal infrastructure, they are also incapable of prosecuting UN peacekeepers for their crimes. Similarly, troop-contributing states are often unable or unwilling to prosecute their own nationals for acts of sexual abuse committed abroad while on peacekeeping missions.
Chantal, 17, stood sullenly outside a Moroccan troop camp [in Bunia] one recent evening … “To us they are the town’s best employer”, she said with a shrug. “I know everyone is saying it’s bad. But why don’t they come and give us jobs? Tell me, who will feed me?”  To a large population of war affected civilians who are living in abject poverty, peacekeepers are the best employers available. They ensure availability of food and clothing in exchange of sex in times when there is no one to provide for them.
It is said that the Zero tolerance policy of the United Nations is driven by sexual negativity in a dysfunctional economy driven by survival sex. Since the surfacing of allegations of sexual abuse by peacekeepers, there has been considerable lack of interest in distinguishing between coerced and voluntary sexual activities, and this distinction is worth noting.  Nevertheless, a legal solution to the question as to whether UN forces are subject to the laws of armed conflict or international humanitarian law has proved controversial. However, it is pertinent to note that humanitarian law disregards whether the use of armed force is lawful. The Geneva Conventions and their additional protocols expressly provide that their rules apply to all cases of armed conflict in all circumstances. The legitimacy of armed intervention has no effect on the obligation resulting from humanitarian law, which is true of any kind of armed intervention, whether it is of the kind authorized by the Security Council or that undertaken without a United Nations mandate. 
Even the presence of a recognizable armed conflict is not a necessary prerequisite. The Rome Statute allows for the investigation and prosecution of peace-time crimes against humanity. Article 7 of the Rome Statute defines crimes against humanity, including inter alia rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence, of comparable gravity under 7(g). The definition of crimes against humanity does not require nor explicitly state that the acts in question occur in connection with an armed conflict. 
Thus, even though we have witnessed a shift from the perception of sexual abuse as collateral damage during war and an inevitable by-product of military masculinities to being seen as a threat requiring immediate attention, it is important to ensure that those facing the wrath of the forces are given justice.
1. Kevin Sieff, http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/world/2016/02/27/peacekeepers/
2. Dianne Otto ,Making sense of zero tolerance policies in peacekeeping sexual economies https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237460031_Making_sense_of_zero_tolerance_policies_in_peacekeeping_sexual_economies
3. Nicola Johnson, Peace Support Operations 33, in inclusive security, sustainable peace: a toolkit for advocacy & action, hunt alternatives fund, http://www.huntalternatives.org/download/38-peace-support.pdf.
4. Marking International Day, Secretary-General Heralds ‘Blue Helmets’ as Symbol of Hope for Millions Living in War-Ravaged Lands http://ba.one.un.org/content/unct/bosnia_and_herzegovina/en/home/presscenter/marking-international-day--secretary-general-heralds-blue-helmet.html
5. Melanie cura daball ,UN peacekeeping: blue banner for hope, or red flag for abuse?https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/melanie-cura-deball/un-peacekeeping-blue-banner-for-hope-or-red-flag-for-abuse
6. Ndulo, Muna, "The United Nations Responses to the Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Women and Girls by Peacekeepers During Peacekeeping Missions" (2009). Cornell Law Faculty Publications. Paper 59.http://scholarship.law.cornell.edu/facpub/5
7. Congo's Desperate 'One-Dollar U.N. Girlshttp://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A52333-2005Mar20_2.html
8. Dianne Otto ,Making sense of zero tolerance policies in peacekeeping sexual economieshttps://www.researchgate.net/publication/237460031_Making_sense_of_zero_tolerance_policies_in_peacekeeping_sexual_economies
9. Nassrine Azimi and Chang Li Lin, United Nations as Peacekeeper and Nation builder Martinus Nijhoff Publishers
10. Efrat Bouganim-Shaag and Yael Naggan,Emerging Voices: Peace-Time Crimes Against Humanity and the ICC http://opiniojuris.org/2013/08/30/emerging-voices-peace-time-crimes-humanity-icc/
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