Originally published in the New York Times by the NYT Editorial Board
They came to bring peace; they departed 13 years later leaving behind disease and hundreds of children born to impoverished women and girls. The full damage done by these men, members of the United Nations peacekeeping forces in Haiti, is still being reckoned.
There have been many reports of sexual misconduct by United Nations peacekeeping forces, in Haiti and elsewhere. New research published last week on the academic website The Conversation chronicles what that means to the afflicted communities, people who by definition were in sufficiently dire straits as to require international intervention and therefore were easy prey for armed men bearing money and food.
The study was based on interviews with 2,500 Haitians who lived near a peacekeeper base. They weren’t asked directly about sexual encounters, only about living in a community that hosted peacekeepers. Yet “265 told stories that featured children fathered by U.N. personnel,” the researchers found. That’s more than 10 percent; many were a result of contractual sex, some involving small amounts of cash or food to girls as young as 11. The father was usually long gone, sent back to his country once his paternity became known, the mothers left to raise children alone in the poorest land of the Western Hemisphere.
The report described one girl who was 14 when she became involved with a Brazilian soldier. When she told him she was pregnant, he returned to Brazil. Her child is now 4, and she has yet to receive any support from the father, the Brazilian military, the United Nations, her government or any nongovernmental organization. The story is not uncommon. One woman quoted in the report said, “There are many young women who have children with the Minustah.” “MINUSTAH” is the French acronym for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, and the soldiers’ many offspring in Haiti are known as “petit Minustah.”
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