A cross-sectional study of community perceptions of stigmatization amongst women affected by UN-peacekeeper perpetrated sexual exploitation and abuse

Samantha Gray, Susan Bartels, Sabine Lee, Heather Stuart

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Abstract

Background

Sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) by UN peacekeepers perpetrated against local women and girls is a concern in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). While stigma associated with sexual and gender-based violence is well documented more broadly, little is known about stigma associated with peacekeeper-perpetrated SEA.
Methods

The aim of this study was to examine how the degree of exposure to SEA affects community perceptions of a woman or girl’s (1) social status (public stigma) and (2) institutional support in her community (structural stigma). Two poisson regression models with robust variance estimation were constructed utilizing community survey data of SEA experiences from eastern DRC (n = 2867) to quantify these associations. Relevant demographic variables were assessed for confounding and effect modification.
Results

The prevalence of public and structural stigma were 62.9 and 19.3% respectively across the sample. A positive relationship was demonstrated between level of exposure of SEA and diminished social status in which women and girls experiencing moderate levels of SEA were at the greatest risk of public stigmatization after adjusting for confounding (RR: 1.94; CI: 1.66–2.26). Similarly, a positive relationship between exposure to SEA and inadequate institutional support was shown for female narrators wherein women and girls experiencing a high degree of SEA were 6.53 times as likely to receive inadequate support (RR: 6.53; CI: 3.63, 11.73). This contrasted with male narrated stories for whom there was no significant association between the SEA exposure level and institutional support.
Conclusions

Women/girls with high exposure levels to UN peacekeeper-perpetrated SEA are at the highest risk of public and structural stigmatization, which should be more routinely considered when conceptualizing the consequences of SEA in peacekeeping contexts. The frequent occurrence of both public and structural stigma, coupled with the varying perceptions by sex, demonstrates the need for a multi-faceted approach for stigma reduction.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2295
JournalBMC Public Health
Volume21
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2021

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