A study published in The Conversation looked at the deployment of the UN peacekeeping force to Haiti (MINUSTAH) from 2004 to 2017 and found that the peacekeepers had fathered hundreds of children and then abandoned them when the mission was concluded.
The peacekeeping mission was originally meant to help Haiti with its systemic political instability, but was expanded when an earthquake devastated the island in 2010 and a hurricane destroyed much of what was left in 2016.
Some of the women and girls who had children fathered by UN peacekeepers were as young as 11. There was some sexual violence involved, but most of the women who had children were impregnated as a result of “transactional sex” — mostly sex for food.
The peacekeepers were often repatriated after the pregnancies became public and offered the mothers no support once the babies were born, according to the study. Locals have labeled the children fathered by peacekeepers as “Petit MINUSTAH.”
The study split the accounts of sexual encounters into three categories: sexual violence, transactional sex and “evolving relationships.”
The data collected showed that sexual violence was in the minority of reported encounters, while the more pervasive problem appeared to be transactional sex. The study found in many cases that women and girls would have sex with MINUSTAH personnel in exchange for money or food.
“They had sex with the girls not even for money, it’s just for food, for one meal,” a man from Port Salut told the researchers.
Was that really “transactional”? When a woman is starving, and she is forced into offering her body to live, that may not be violent but it’s hardly “consensual.” The law may say one thing. Most women might call it another.
I keep thinking that any man who is confronted by a woman in a similar situation wouldn’t be much of a man if he took advantage. A real man might buy her a meal or give her his own food. A cowardly brute would satisfy his desires.
Other accounts told of peacekeepers and local women becoming involved in casual romantic relationships that some described as “committed and loving,” which resulted in pregnancy.
“I had a sister who was dating a MINUSTAH soldier,” another man from Port Salut told the researchers. “My whole family knew about it, my mother as well as other people. She became pregnant … Ever since, my sister’s life is a mess.”
That’s a story told and retold of occupying armies through all of history. There were thousands of children left behind by American GI’s in Vietnam — fewer in Iraq but it’s still a problem.
But the point is that the UN is supposed to be better than that. It’s shocking to find massive allegations of rape and sexual abuse in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The peacekeepers are not supposed to make things worse.
When a group representing some of the Haitian women tried to get some kind of support for their children from the UN, they were ignored. Given the recent record of peacekeepers around the world, perhaps they should start to listen.