Sexual exploitation and abuse: a subject unlike any other

Tuesday, 05 September 2017

Kinshasa | MONUSCO | Joseph Tshimanga

Covering a sexual abuse allegation or case is unlike any other subject for journalists. The same stands for sexual exploitation.

With the goal of training journalists to cover this genre of journalism better, MONUSCO brought together 50 representatives from various media outlets in a professional development workshop, that took place on 18 August in Kinshasa.

As a first step, Adama Ndao, Chief of the MONUSCO Conduct and Discipline Unit, explained what the United Nations considered to be sexual abuse — rape or non-consensual touching. With regards to minors, she reminded participants that there was no such thing as consensual sex with a person under 18 years of age, and that any type of sexual act would be considered a rape.

The definition of sexual exploitation is more difficult to grasp. The sexual act may be considered consensual, and is based on a monetary or an in-kind exchange. United Nations personnel cannot have relations with any vulnerable person who would accept to have sex in exchange for protection, money or gifts.

“The United Nations has a zero tolerance policy against sexual exploitation or abuse," said Ms. Ndao. She explained the various types of sanctions applied to UN staff members who are found guilty of sexual abuse and added that DNA paternity testing is now conducted in all cases involving pregnancies.

For transparency, journalists and individuals from the general public can find out the status of allegations concerning MONUSCO staff members at any time by consulting a website developed by the mission: During the session, the United Nations Population Fund has outlined psychological and medical support given to victims as part of the United Nations Comprehensive Strategy on Assistance and Support to Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.

Participating journalists also received guidance on how to prepare for interviews with victims, who are particularly vulnerable.

This training, which will also take place in Goma, will become part of a pilot communications support project for victims developed by the United Nations Department for Peacekeeping Operations in MONUSCO and MINUSCA.

For more information, see the iSeek page: The UN response to sexual exploitation and abuse.