South Africa is committed to curbing sexual abuse by members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and supporting victims, it has told the United Nations.
President Jacob Zuma visited the United Nations recently and held a meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on curbing sexual abuse during peace keeping missions, the SABC reported this week.
Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told TimesLive that two reports of sexual violence have been made against South African peacekeepers in 2017.
She was speaking after the UN meeting on peacekeepers’ sexual abuse and said that South Africa deployed more women on peacekeeping missions to combat this. “We deploy a number of women as part of the peacekeeping force because we know women will be more sensitive‚ but also because women will feel more free to report incidents of abuse‚” she said.
Guterres said deploying more women will result in “higher reporting of incidents and lower numbers of incidents overall”.
President Zuma said that peacekeeper abuse is “especially worrying when these acts of exploitation and abuse are committed by the very peacekeepers who are entrusted to protect these vulnerable communities. When women and girls are preyed upon and abused, the international community has a responsibility to speak out on their behalf and to act as their advocates and guardians.”
South African soldiers have been implicated in a number of incidences of sexual abuse and exploitation, which can range from rape to taking advantage of women or forming relationships, as this is abuse of power. There were seven cases of sexual exploitation and abuse registered in 2015, five in 2016, and two in the first three months of 2017.
“We must all hang our heads in shame that some of our soldiers have been found guilty of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA),” Mapisa-Nqakula said earlier this year. “One case of SEA is one case too many. The reverberations it causes throughout the contingent and image it gives our country reverses the gains we have made over the entire period of almost two decades we have been involved in peace missions.”
South African military personnel and equipment are currently only deployed to one UN mission on the continent – MONUSCO in the Democratic Republic of Congo – where more than one thousand three hundred SANDF personnel are part of the Force intervention Brigade (FIB).