‘Even peacekeepers expect something in return’: a qualitative analysis of sexual interactions between UN peacekeepers and female Haitians

Luissa Vahedi, Susan Bartels, Sabine Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
236 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

The UN maintains a zero-tolerance policy on sexual interactions between peacekeepers and beneficiaries of assistance. Our research describes the lived experience of engaging sexually with UN peacekeepers during Mission des Nations Unies pour la Stabilisation en Haiti (MINUSTAH) from the perspectives of Haitian women/girls. Eighteen semi-structured interviews were conducted with Haitian women raising children fathered by MINUSTAH peacekeepers. Transcripts were analyzed according to empirical phenomenology. Adverse socio-economic conditions were key contextual factors. Three themes related to the nature of the sexual interactions emerged: sexual violence, transactional sex, and long-term transactional relationships imbedded in perceptions of love. Most sexual interactions were transactional and nuanced since the peacekeeper assumed the role of romantic and material provider. Sexual consent was conceptualised as the ability to weigh the benefits and consequences of engaging sexually with peacekeepers. Sexual violence was identified among minors and in instances of sexual abuse. This study provides empirical evidence to support a nuanced understanding of sexual relationships between women/girls and peacekeepers. In addition to holding peacekeepers accountable, a harm-reduction approach that aims to raise awareness for peacekeeping codes of conduct and provide comprehensive reproductive and sexual education should be considered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)692-705
JournalGlobal Public Health
Volume16
Issue number5
Early online date30 Dec 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are indebted to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, [Partnership Development Grant #890-2016-0110], Canada Graduate Scholarship and the Arts and Humanities Research Council [Development Grant AH/P008038/1, Networking Grant # AH/P006175/1] in the U. K. for their financial support. We would like to thank the Haitian women who shared with us their experiences of sexual violence, contested love, and continued survival. This research would not be possible without your trust of our scientific work. In addition, we would like to acknowledge The Commission of Women Victims for Victims (KOFAVIV) who stand in solidarity with the Haitian women and girls who are survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, and, in particular, the KOFAVIV team members who travelled around Haiti to conduct the interviews.

Keywords

  • Haiti
  • peacekeeping
  • transactional sex
  • sexual abuse and exploitation
  • United Nations

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