The UN publicly maintains a zero tolerance policy on sexual abuse. Less publicly, it stands by as peacekeepers rape women and children in the Central African Republic, victims and human rights organizations allege. Four years after UN peacekeepers were first accused of rape in the country following a decade of civil war, victims say the crime continues with impunity. Expanding upon 255 alleged incidents worldwide from 2015 to 2017, a woman tells USA Today that peacekeepers raped her 10-year-old son a year ago in Bouar, leaving him "traumatized." A 13-year-old girl says she was raped two years ago near Bangui by two soldiers who lured her with promises of "candies and cookies." A 17-year-old girl says she was raped at gunpoint by two soldiers in June, and knows many women who were raped, impregnated, and later gave birth.
The teen said she didn't report the crime because she feared people "would make fun of me." Human rights groups say victims fail to report abuses by peacekeepers for a number of reasons, including fear of reprisals. This—combined with a watchdog report showing the UN needs to better investigate accusations—explains why some dispute the UN's claim that there were 50% fewer worldwide assaults on children by UN peacekeepers in the first 11 months of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016. "The UN is claiming things are getting better, but it is in complete control over the assessments of people coming forward," says the co-director of AIDS-Free World, which tracks such abuses. UN officials say progress is being made, though an investigation into alleged child rape by French soldiers in the Central African Republic was just closed because of insufficient evidence, reports AFP. (Read more UN peacekeepers stories.)