Judy Mandelbaum

Judy Mandelbaum
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JULY 16, 2012 7:39AM

UN blamed for prostitution boom in South Sudan

Rate: 9 Flag

 South Sudan

War and foreign intervention always stimulate local economies, both commercially and sexually, and that is certainly the case in Juba, capital of the world’s newest country, South Sudan. According to a report on Swedish radio today, prostitution is booming in the East African city due to the presence of thousands of international aid workers and particularly UN soldiers. “The scope of the sex trade and the number of prostitutes has exploded in recent years,” says Cathy Groenendijk of the NGO Confident Children Out of Conflict, or CCC. She is currently stationed in this city of 245,000, where she is studying the prostitution issue. “A few years ago, there were no more than a few thousand prostitutes here, but the number has increased sharply.” She estimates the current number in the city at around 10,000. While this places Juba far behind Nairobi, one of Africa's sex tourism capitals, where an estimated 30% of children and teenagers have had contact with the business, it shows that this emerging oil Eldorado is a fast learner.

Although prostitutes have been flowing to the city for years from the Sudanese hinterland and from Kenya, the presence of foreign aid workers with money to burn has meant a bonanza for the pimps and human traffickers, who dominate much – although by no means all – of Juba’s sex market. “Many of the international UN soldiers and aid workers who are stationed in South Sudan are single men, since their organizations frequently don’t allow their families to follow them,” Groenendijk explains. She quotes a Kenyan prostitute called Sheryl, who “came here to look for a job. But I found nothing but this,” a brothel on the banks of the Nile, where she and six other women provide sexual services at around $11 a trick.

For want of foreign tourists and prosperous locals, NGO employees are her best customers, Sheryl said. “Aid workers and UN people love to buy sex! Some of them come here and are with a different woman every day of the month.”

The story out of Juba is still relatively fresh and thus has yet to reach scandal status. But there is no question that the UN has a disastrous record when it comes to sexual misconduct and actual systematic abuse on its global missions. Anyone who has ever dealt with the organization knows that sex work is just as much a part of UN culture as the colors blue and white. But matters got so out of hand within the UN missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti, where rape and pedophilia were endemic, that the organization has been forced to introduce strict curfews and anti-fraternization rules. In Bosnia, the mafia-like trafficking structures that UN police officer Kathy Bolcovac uncovered during her posting there inspired the Hollywood movie The Whistleblower, starring Rachel Weisz. "We cannot tolerate even one instance of a United Nations peacekeeper victimizing the most vulnerable among us," General Secretary Kofi Annan wrote in an official letter back in 2003.

But when it comes to genuine reform, the UN is hamstrung by its lack of jurisdiction over individual soldiers and civilians who break the organization’s own rules and those of the countries where they are stationed. All it can do is waive the offenders’ immunity and ship them home, in hopes that their own authorities will take charge of their case. This does not always happen, however, and the UN has a notoriously poor follow-through record. When it comes to foreign aid, an ounce of prevention beats a ton of scandal.

 

 

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South Sudan is also where the oil is. Its one of the reasons, many believe, why the civil war happened. South Sudan is Christian and oil-rich and this played a strong role in Western efforts in encouraging the region to break free. Its easier for Westerners and their Asian allies to deal with a Christian, oil-rich government than one that is Arab and Islamic. It pushes them into our corner more, and makes them seek us out for protection, which we can exploit and use to our advantage.

This is how our Establishment thinks.

The prostitution is a byproduct of this imperial game, methinks.
I certainly agree with that and I suspect we're going to be hearing a lot more from South Sudan in the near future.
prostitution is always a product of soldiers, contractors, politicians, and for that matter tourists anytime people with money relative to the local population and no long term investment in the native society. the UN , with each member nation getting its share of the money bundle/jobs has become very tainted although the tales of our contractors in Afghanistan- well i hope they are exaggerated.
rated -

the UN is one of the government institutions with good intentions, but a huge disconnect when it comes to delivery. one can reel off the failures - rwanda; the killing fields of cambodia; kurds; palestine; israel's occupation of land it doesnt' own; iranian nukes; north korean nukes; piracy in international waters; syria . . .

the UN doesn't actually cause prostitution, of course. no more so than the US Secret service does when it's "advance men" visit some banana republic to make sure its safe for the president to enter.

they simply throw their money around, making it more attractive for girls to say yes to a bad decision they will regret their entire lives.

thanks for your post.

since this is your "zone" - how about something on nevada, or atlantic city? we have plenty of american girls at risk too.
Rape (and prostitution) is nearly always the first order of war.

r.
Sad but true. Thanks for helping to expose the problem. I agree with you on the problem with the immunity issue for UN employees and peacekeepers (who in general have additional protection because they are secunded from their national security forces). Also, with the challenges of reform; I have seen it play out in post-conflict West Africa. But in some ways, I find more disturbing the lack of response of the governments (who employ the foreign aid workers) and the non-governmental organizations (who employ the international and local NGO staff). They have direct control over their employees, but seem to buy into the culture or at least look the other way. And the money these people are making in post-conflict countries! Sometimes I think the UN system may actually carry out reforms first, driving the rest to change also. Thank you again for writing!
I think it's really important to remember that the basic function of the UN is still to promote the interests of global capitalism. This is the main reason they have also made the most successful capitalist countries permanent members of the Security Council.

The systematic oppression and exploitation of women - of which prostitution is one symptom - has always been fundamental to the success of capitalism.

Excellent article. Thanks for posting.
I would like more info.. When you say from a few thousand to 10,000 what is a "few thousand"? Is that 3 or is that 6 thousand?

While I don't condone anyone being forced into the life, and she failed to state what percentage is forced, according to the numbers in the blog, and the numbers from the Sudan Tribune, on trick is 4 times the average daily wage in the country.
extracting money from ngo workers is necessary to survival for many women, before demanding politically correct behavior please be sure that acceptable work is available.

in fact, this would be a good idea a lot closer to home.
al,
Yes, that is indeed the way it works. The UN has always functioned that way, for the reasons stated in my piece. My concern is that the organization's culture of impunity will once more generate the problems the UN has become known for.