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Girls & Women

Sexual Abuse Is Rampant at the UN, Report Alleges

The United Nations is the latest organization to be accused of tolerating and even abetting sexual misconduct on a large scale, according to a new report by the Guardian based on interviews with employees.

The sweeping accusations allege that employees across countries have sexually harassed and abused fellow staff members and that protocols for dealing with allegations are seriously dysfunctional, the Guardian reports.

Further, many people have who have reported sexual abuse have faced career repercussions and demeaning interrogations, according to first-hand accounts.

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“If you report it, your career is pretty much over, especially if you’re a consultant,” one person, who said she was harassed while working for the World Food Programme, told the Guardian. “It’s like an unsaid thing.”

The UN has long been beset by criticisms that its peacekeeping units abuse and harass locals in the countries where they are stationed.  

The broader organization, which employs more than 44,000 people, has also faced allegations of sexual misconduct.

In early November, dozens of cases of sexual abuse were filed against UN employees.  

The problem is made worse by the fact that the UN and many senior officials have diplomatic immunity that often blocks legal consequences in countries.

Multiple women told the Guardian that they had been raped by colleagues and were dismissed when they reported the incidents.

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But this latest report comes at a time when industries in the US and elsewhere are being forced to reform and predators are being punished.

The UN could potentially face a purge of sexual assailants similar to what’s happening in Hollywood and Silicon Valley, the Guardian suggests.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently said the agency has “prioritised addressing sexual harassment and upholding the zero tolerance policy,” the Guardian notes.

But skeptics told the Guardian that the international nature of the UN could make justice more elusive, because perpetrators could be moved to posts in other countries or simply invoke diplomatic immunity if criminal procedures are ever initiated.

Read More: Over 300 Women in Entertainment Say ‘Time’s Up’ on Sexual Harassment

Either way, the prevalence of sexual misconduct and intimidation is antithetical to the UN’s efforts to promote gender equality.

Global Citizen also campaigns on gender equality and ending sexual violence. You can take action on this issue here.

One victim of sexual assault who spoke with the Guardian had this to say:

“It’s atrocious, because this is an organisation that’s supposed to stand up for everyone’s rights … We’re such hypocrites.”