Slavery was abolished over 150 years ago. Or at least it was supposed to be. And yet there are more people in slavery today then in history. Researchers estimate that 21 million are enslaved worldwide, generating $150 billion each year in illicit profits for traffickers. But even more shocking and disturbing are those who actually use the slaves. For years’ evidence and research has shown that United Nations (UN) peacekeeping interventions have an unintended effect of increasing sex trafficking to their host state or city. In fact, numerous events have occurred that further illustrate this point. Scandals such as the Bosnian cover-up and the boom in sex trafficking to Kosovo after UN intervention are only two cases where Peacekeeping forces have been condemned for abusing the citizens it was sent in to protect.

WHY?

The reason for this secondary effect of UN intervention is that the forces themselves, as well as the many (sometimes hundreds) of additional persons that accompany the troops, such as private military contractors, international, and NGO officials, use prostitutes. But in the vast majority of cases these women are not willing participants who chose this career either out of enjoyment or need. Overwhelmingly these girls have been trafficked into prostitution and sexual exploitation through physical and emotional abuse, threat of harm to them and their families, fear, and isolation.

In a select few cases, these “Johns” are unaware of the circumstances. Astonishingly enough there are few punitive repercussions and the “smoke screen still lies with blaming the member states and claiming the UN has no control over disciplinary measures or prosecutions of peacekeepers from contributing states.

Awareness about this issue is low, especially for an issue of such import and magnitude. I believe that more sever punishments need to be established. Who takes responsibility of such acts should be clarified – the contributing states or the host country – and actions should be dealt with accordingly. Though I recognize the difficulty when different states, and different countries, all deal with this similar crime differently. However, education to UN troops being shipped to conflict areas about the problem may have a deterring effect. Regardless, higher ranking officers need to be more mindful of their subordinates’ actions and set positive examples. I believe this problem must be given serious consideration and thought, especially in regards to international law. For more examples click here.

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