“It was with my consent since he was providing me with money”: a mixed methods study of adolescent perspectives on peacekeeper-perpetrated sexual exploitation and abuse in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Georgia Fraulin, Sabine Lee, Sandrine Lusamba, Susan Bartels

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Abstract

Background: The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) has been marred by widespread allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) of women and girls by UN peacekeepers. There is minimal research conducted on the perceptions of communities most affected by the SEA themselves, and even less about those below the age of 18.

Methods: Using mixed-methods data, we examined the perceptions of adolescents aged 13–17 on how the lives of women and girls have been affected by the presence of UN peacekeepers within the DRC. SenseMaker, a mixed methods narrative capture tool, was used to survey participants around six United Nations bases across eastern DRC. Each participant shared a story about the experiences of Congolese women and girls in relation to MONUSCO personnel and interpreted their own stories by answering a series of questions. Patterns of adolescent perspectives (aged 13–17) were analyzed in comparison to all other age groups and emerging qualitative themes were mapped
onto quantitative variables.

Results: Quantitative data showed that adolescents were more likely, in comparison to all other age groups, to perceive interactions between peacekeepers and women/girls as being initiated by the woman/girl, that the MONUSCO personnel was perceived to be able to offer protection, and that the interactions between local women/girls and peacekeepers were sexual in nature. Three qualitative themes emerged: poverty bringing peacekeepers and women/girls together, material/financial gain through transactional sex and sex work, and support-seeking actions of affected women/girls.

Conclusions: Our mixed methods data illustrate the problematic finding that adolescents facing poverty may perceive SEA as protective through the monetary and material support gained. These findings contribute to the growing body of literature on peacekeeping economies and have implications for the prevention of, and response to, peacekeeper-perpetrated SEA.
Original languageEnglish
Article number80
JournalConflict and Health
Volume15
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 6 Nov 2021

Keywords

  • Adolescents
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • MONUSCO
  • Peacekeeping
  • Protection
  • Sexual abuse and exploitation
  • Transactional sex
  • United Nations
  • Women and girls

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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