Spiked? Reports of UN Peacekeepers' Child Sexual Abuse

Rush Limbaugh highlighted this report the other day on child sexual abuse committed by United Nations peacekeepers from the charity Save the Childrren UK. He called it's the UN's "Abu Grab." This report came from Edith Lederer of the Associated Press:

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed "deep concern" Tuesday after a leading children's charity said it uncovered evidence of widespread sexual abuse of children at the hands of U.N. peacekeepers and international aid workers.

The report by Save the Children UK, based on field research in southern Sudan, Ivory Coast and Haiti, describes a litany of sexual crimes against children as young as 6.

It said some children were denied food aid unless they granted sexual favors; others were forced to have sex or to take part in child pornography; many more were subjected to improper touching or kissing.

"The report shows sexual abuse has been widely underreported because children are afraid to come forward," Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of Save the Children UK, told Associated Press Television News.

"A tiny proportion of peacekeepers and aid workers are abusing the children they were sent to protect. It ranges from sex for food to coerced sex. It's despicable."

At the U.N. headquarters, spokeswoman Michele Montas said Ban "is deeply concerned" by the report.

"We welcome this report. It's fair, and I think it's essentially accurate," Montas said.

If the UN welcomes this report as fair and accurate, why wouldn't the media do the same? Doesn't it care about child sexual abuse? Or does it matter who the accused abusers are? Why wouldn't this be just as newsworthy as sexual abuse by Catholic priests, who are also "a tiny proportion" of their kind? Do the media feel that the UN is too sacred to investigate?

Editors who want to spike the story might highlight this part of the AP report:

Ann Buchanan, an Oxford University expert in statistical attempts to quantify rates of child abuse, said the topic is so taboo it is virtually impossible to come up with reliable numbers. But she said the new report provides a useful starting point.

"This will never be a statistical study," she said. "We'd call it a pilot work exploring the start of an issue. All the research shows kids don't make it up."

Buchanan, who directs the Oxford Center for Research into Parenting and Children, said the biggest obstacle to accurate numerical studies of child sexual abuse is the reluctance of children to come forward and tell adults they have been taken advantage of.

The AFP wire service added this to a broader story on UN peacekeeping:

And New York-based Human Rights Watch accused the UN of covering up allegations of embezzlement against Pakistani and Indian UN peacekeepers implicated in alleged arms and gold smuggling while serving in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The UN denied the charge.

The UN -- after turning a blind eye for decades to cases of sexual abuse by their troops -- recommended in 2005 that erring soldiers be punished, their salaries frozen and a fund established to aid any women or girls made pregnant. But this proposal was not accepted by member nations.

Why do our media focus so intensely on alleged abuses by American troops, but not the UN's peacekeepers? Political bias seems like the obvious answer.

United Nations Associated Press
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