‘No excuse for sexual abuse’ is the stern warning of the Union home ministry to paramilitary personnel serving in UN peace keeping missions in perhaps its first such order on the serious issue to the central forces.
The ministry’s direction, which even warned of dismissal and imprisonment for any sexual misconduct, came following an advisory of the United Nations in the wake of reports that some UN peacekeepers allegedly ran a child sex ring in Haiti over a 10-year period and none were ever jailed.
According to officials, no incident has been reported anywhere about involvement of Indian paramilitary personnel in any sexual abuse case during UN peacekeeping duties.
However, as a “precautionary measure”, the ministry decided to direct the chiefs of CRPF, BSF, CISF and ITBP to ensure that each of the personnel working under the UN flag abroad carry a ‘No Excuse’ pocket card, issued by the global body against sexual exploitation and abuse for the personnel deployed in UN missions.
“At all times we must treat the local population with respect and dignity. Sexual exploitation and abuse is unacceptable behaviour and prohibited conduct for all UN and affiliated personnel,” the pocket card says.
Sexual exploitation and abuse threatens the lives of people that UN is to serve and protect, and sexual exploitation and abuse undermines discipline and damages the reputation of the UN, it says.
There are around 6,000 paramilitary personnel belonging to Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) deployed in different UN peace keeping duties in Liberia, Haiti and Congo.
They are deployed on rotational basis for a period of one year.
“So far, no incident has been reported anywhere about involvement of Indian paramilitary personnel in sexual abuse case. But the pocket card was issued following an advisory of the United Nations as a precautionary measure,” a home ministry official said,
A UN report released in March this year has said action against one such allegation against an army soldier related to 2013 is pending with India.
A 2015 report of the global body had reportedly said that the Indian contingent — among the largest in UN Missions — has the least number of sexual misconduct cases. The Indian Army had punished two of its soldiers for sexual misconduct during UN missions in two African countries in 2010-2013.
The ‘No Excuse’ card is expected to be carried at all times by all deployed UN civilian, police and military personnel. Commanding officers in the field missions will periodically verify that all personnel have these cards in their possession.
“It is strictly prohibited to have sex with anyone in exchange for money, employment, preferential treatment, goods or services, whether or not prostitution is legal in the host country.
“It is strictly prohibited to have any sexual activity with anyone under the age of 18 years regardless of the age of majority or age of consent locally. It is strictly prohibited to engage in any other form of sexually humiliating, degrading or exploitative behaviour,” the pocket card says.
‘Silence is no excuse’ is another key message to the security personnel.
“If you have knowledge of sexual exploitation and abuse, you must report it to the commander or manager of your unit or the mission conduct and discipline team,” it says.
The paramilitary personnel have been told that involvement of any act of sexual exploitation and abuse will be investigated and prosecuted if warranted.
“Any proven act of sexual exploitation and abuse by others will result in measures that can include but are not limited to suspension, immediate repatriation, dismissal, imprisonment and a ban from future UN employment,” according to the government order.
The paramilitary personnel have also been told that all victims of sexual exploitation and abuse are entitled to safe and confidential assistance.
If the victim is a child, special considerations for the protection and support to the child are needed.
The victim has to be treated with respect and dignity, and directed or assisted for support to the nearest UN office, the conduct and discipline team or Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) focal point.