UN Wrong Forum for Women's Rights

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The
shadows of children allegedly raped by United Nations peacekeepers
in the Congo and the women allegedly molested by a top U.N. official
fall across the 49th
Session of the Commission on the Status of Women
.

From
this past Monday to March 11, the U.N. will meet in New York City
to review global progress on the “women’s human rights agreement”
known as the Beijing
Platform
(1995).

Over
6,000 advocates of women’s rights will attend.

How
can a self-respecting woman, let alone a feminist, legitimize the
U.N. through her presence? The CSW
should be in the forefront of those crying out for justice and U.N.
accountability. Instead, the CSW will almost certainly call for
expanding the U.N.’s power and funding.

Rage
will be directed instead at President Bush who has already created
pre-meeting
controversy
. On Thursday, the Bush administration signaled its
refusal to renew an unconditional commitment to the Beijing Platform,
a declaration of women’s rights promoted by the Clintons, which
many consider to be a radical feminism’s global agenda.

Bush
is balking because the declaration is seen to legitimize abortion
as a “human right.” Given the widespread reports that the U.N. was
complicit in China’s forced abortion policy, the administration’s
caution about how the Platform will be interpreted and implemented
is justified.

But
if abortion is center stage, a more fundamental question still remains:
By what moral standard is the U.N. a proper stage on which to negotiate
women’s rights? How much blood and corruption has to splatter before
the U.N.’s moral authority is washed away?

Its
credibility on human rights has been broken beyond repair by the
oil-for-food scandal that, as a FOX
News series
stated, “ended up with Saddam Hussein pocketing
billions to become the biggest graft-generating machine” in history.

Its
integrity on women’s rights was destroyed
in 2001 by the surging traffic in under-aged prostitutes in Bosnia.
The traffic was not only created by the arrival of tens of thousands
of male U.N. personnel who sought prostitutes but also by behind-the-scenes
involvement by U.N. personnel.

The
female staff
member
who blew the whistle was fired, later to be exonerated
as the evidence unfolded.

The
intervening years have not improved the U.N.’s record.

Approximately
50 U.N. personnel currently face some 150 allegations of sexual
abuse, most of them involving children, in the Democratic Republic
of the Congo. The situation has been labeled “the
sex-for-food scandal”
because children traded sex for the handful
of food they needed to live.

Reports
from the Congo surfaced last year. An article in December’s London
Times
stated, “When the police arrived the man was allegedly
about to rape a 12-year-old girl.”

The
accused serial rapist and pedophile was a U.N. expert in the $700
million-a-year effort to rebuild the war-ravaged nation. Anneke
Van Woudenberg of the Human Rights Watch organization, states, “The
U.N. is there for their protection, so when the protectors become
violators, this is particularly egregious.”

The
U.N. tends to stonewall such accusations despite its “zero tolerance”
policy toward sexual abuse. When ABC’s
20/20
confronted William Swing, head of the Congo’s U.N. peacekeeping
mission, he blamed the problem on a small number of miscreants.
He emphasized the remedial measures taken – such as curfews and
prohibitions against fraternization with prostitutes.

ABC’s
cameras, however, caught a group of peacekeepers out after the curfew
with prostitutes at a bar. When Swing commented, “Perhaps my senior
management…wasn’t aware of it,” ABC pointed out that several people
at the bar were from senior management.

Investigative
journalist David Ross explains that the abuse is a by-product of
the de facto immunity from law enjoyed by U.N. personnel. Ross writes,
“Peacekeeping troops come from U.N. member states and are only accountable
to their own governments. U.N. civilian employees enjoy immunity
from local prosecution and as a result tend not to face charges
in countries where they are stationed.”

Perhaps
this explains why investigative reports
now suggest that sexual abuse by U.N. “peacekeepers” is worldwide.

This
could be good news. If there is a structural “incentive” to abuse,
then abuse could be minimized by changing the structure. But reform
requires the one thing that the U.N. seems determined to avoid:
taking responsibility.

Consider
the Lubbers
scandal
that played out earlier this month.

Ruud
Lubbers, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, was accused of “unwanted
physical contact” with a female staff member in December 2003. The
scandal emerged only after the Independent, a UK newspaper,
published details of a confidential July, 2004 report from the U.N.’s
Office of Internal Oversight Services, which pointed to a pattern
of sexual harassment.

Until
then, Secretary General Koffi Annan declined to
act
.

The
Independent’s expos was published on Feb. 18; on Feb. 20,
Lubbers
resigned
at Annan’s request.

The
UN is no more forthcoming on the sex-for-food scandal. In response
to a blistering commentary by Michelle
Malkin
entitled “U.N.’s Rape of the Innocents,” Jane Holl Lute,
Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, repeated
the
standard line
. A zero-tolerance policy is being enforced.

Moreover,
she called Malkin “negligent” for not reporting on the U.N.’s remedial
measures.

This
is not an agency that shoulders responsibility.

Which
returns us to the question, why are feminists pretending that the
U.N. is a proper stage to discuss women’s rights? No self-respecting
woman would walk through its doors.

March
3, 2005

Wendy
McElroy [send her mail]
is the editor of ifeminists.com
and a research fellow for The
Independent Institute
in Oakland, Calif. She is the author and
editor of many books and articles, including the new book, Liberty
for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the 21st Century

(Ivan R. Dee/Independent Institute, 2002).

Wendy
McElroy Archives

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