Peacekeeper SEA and Fatherless Children: Dr Kirstin Wagner for The Conversation
Dr Kirstin Wagner, a Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham and member of the Peacekeeper Perpetrated Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PPSEA) project has published an article in The Conversation: Sexual exploitation by UN peacekeepers in DRC: fatherless children speak for first time about the pain of being abandoned.
This article is based on findings collected by the PPSEA research group, which conducted 2,858 interviews with people from Congolese communities in 2018. Dr Wagner's article provides a comprehensive analysis of some of the PPSEA project’s key research outcomes. Her work also inspired other news outlets, including iNews, to produce their own articles based on her research, such as 'Peace babies' left behind by United Nations peacekeepers in Democratic Republic of Congo speak out.
Dr Wagner’s writing details the circumstances under which sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) by peacekeepers occurs in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as its consequences on survivors and the babies that are born as a result. According to research, UN personnel from twelve countries have engaged in sexual misconduct, the majority hailing from Tanzania and South Africa. UN ‘peacebabies’ have been conceived through a spectrum of different sexual interactions between peacekeepers and local girls and women, including rape and transactional “survival sex”, as well as shorter and longer term relationships.
Photo: UN peacekeepers near the city centre in Goma, DRC, May 2018 (PPSEA Project)
While previously less political and scholarly attention has been paid to the experiences and voices of UN babies, PPSEA research has shown how they have been indirectly but uniquely impacted by peacekeeper SEA and the abandonment of their fathers. As Dr Wagner indicates, one of the major effects on children was a “sense of a missing purpose or direction in life. Not knowing their roots and family history left a void regarding self-worth and social conscience”. Furthermore, children born of these types of relations suffer stigma within their families and communities and are often regarded as ethnic outsiders. Dr Wagner also details the lack of available support for women who have given birth to peacekeeper - fathered children, and the absence of accountability for individuals within the UN who commit SEA. Please see the linked article for more information.