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No reports of sexual violence by Indian troops in Kashmir: UN

Wednesday April 06, 2011 07:39:28 PM, IANS

New Delhi: The United Nations has no reports of alleged sexual violence by Indian troops In Kashmir, a senior UN official said here Wednesday.

"So far, we do not have proper reports about far, we have not received any proper reporting on such cases....I can't say that there was anything in particular (about Kashmir)," the UN secretary general's special representative on sexual violence in conflict, Margot Wallstrom, told reporters here.

She, however, said that the UN has now asked her to establish a mechanism by which reports and data on sexual violence against women by warring groups in conflict zones or by peacekeepers can be obtained.

"What I have been asked to do now is to set up a mechanism so we can also collect information about the incidents. This is to monitor and report as much data as possible," Wallstrom said.

Such mechanism will soon come up in UN missions in the African countries and in Bosnia, she said.

UN assistant secretary-general for field support Antony Banbury said peacekeepers indulging in sex, be it consensual or transactional with local women, in conflict zones was "unacceptable" to the world body and that the secretary general followed a "zero tolerance policy" on such kind of sexual abuses by troops.

"This conduct of peacekeepers...the secretary-general's policy is clearly zero tolerance policy and that includes even cases where there is consensual sex between a UN peacekeeper and local women or a transactional sex using a prostitute. In many countries, this is an accepted behaviour and it is not criminal, but it is unacceptable of UN peacekeepers. We have a very high bar," Banbury said.

"This kind of sexual behaviour and violence hurts not only the victim, it is terrible for the United Nations, our reputation, our ability to work with those population, to help them," he said.

However, he noted that the UN missions had made tremendous effort to train peacekeepers.

"We have a very large number of peacekeepers...there are about 110,000 deployed now. But, because of rotations every six months or so, we cycle through over 200,000 peacekeepers every year. So training burden is very high and we dedicate a lot of resources to it," he added.

He also objected to comparison between sexual violence by warring societies on their women and that of peacekeepers.

Giving the example of eastern Congo in Africa, Bunbury said sexual violence was "a pattern" there and was "promoted by leaders of the militias".

"But there is no pattern of UN soldiers indulging in rape or in transactional sex," he said.

Noting that sexual violence against women was more often used as "a weapon of war" by militias in troubled zones, Wallstrom said such behaviour was a threat to peace and security of peacekeeping missions.

She said the militias used sexual violence as a "cheap, effective and silent" weapon.

Wallstrom said the UN was now working on compiling best practices of peacekeepers in conflict zones to prevent sexual violence against local women so that it could be part of the training curriculum for the troop contributing countries.



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