A 14-year-old pulled into the grass and gang raped as she walked by a United Nations base. An 18-year-old asking troops for money, only to be dragged into the bush and sexually assaulted.
It’s been a rough year for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic, with more allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation seeming to trickle in every few months. Last week, outgoing United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed regret for conduct that had “tarnished” the reputation of the organization.
“It’s a tricky question,” says Aditi Gorur, director of the Protecting Civilians in Conflict program at the Stimson Center, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C. The honest answer, she says, is “that we just don’t have enough information” to know.
There are several arguments for why adding more female peacekeepers could curb sexual assault and abuse, Gorur says. More women may have a positive effect on men’s behavior, changing a culture of “toxic masculinity” that can lead to crimes. One 1995 study for the U.N. Advancement of Women, for example,found that reports of rape and prostitution fell significantly with just a small female presence.
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