The International Development Committee report into Sexual Abuse and Exploitation in the Aid Sector published on 31st July 2018 reaffirms that sexual abuse and exploitation within the aid sector is endemic and rooted in a power imbalance that is predominantly, although not exclusively, gendered.
This is an issue that has been known for a considerable length of time but has been systematically ignored. Rape Crisis and Equality Now support the strong sense of condemnation expressed throughout the report at the inaction of the aid sector as well as the recognition that their complacency is verging on complicity.
We agree that impunity for sexual exploitation and abuse is utterly unacceptable and, as identified in the report, ‘the lack of accountability entirely undermines the notion of zero tolerance and undercuts efforts to strengthen reporting mechanisms, by reinforcing the notion that there is no value in bringing forward allegations’.
We support the proposal that the victim-centered approach needs to be fully integrated across all aspects of the sector’s response to sexual abuse and exploitation. We are pleased our recommendation that anyone who speaks out about sexual abuse or exploitation should be afforded independent advocacy and support from a specialist in sexual violence and its impacts are cited.
Jacqui Hunt from Equality Now says:
“The tremendous work achieved by the aid and development sector should not mean we turn a blind eye to sexual exploitation and other abuses of power perpetrated predominantly against women and girls by men employed in the industry, and who agencies are largely failing to hold to account.
“Aid and development agencies need to put in place effective zero-tolerance policies regarding transactional sexual exploitation, including a total and enforced ban on prostitution.
“This involves having a comprehensive understanding of the various crosscutting forms of discrimination and oppression that women and girls may face, and which are exacerbated in situations of conflict and natural disasters.”
Rape Crisis England & Wales says:
“The report identifies that even where initiatives have been created these have been underfunded and so ill-equipped to tackle such a pervasive issue.
“This is a reflection of what we see at Rape Crisis Centres on a national scale – consistent and chronic underfunding which does not allow effective responses to wide-scale sexual abuse and exploitation.
“While this report gives clear directives to the vast improvements that are required, we are all too aware this is not enough to transform into real effective change; as the report itself states, the real test is what happens next.”