Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has reiterated Bangladesh’s firm commitment to the UN secretary general’s noble initiative to eradicate sexual violence and abuse of peacekeepers, declaring a pledge of $100,000 token contribution to the victim support fund.
“As a major troop and police contributing country in the UN peacekeeping, we attach high importance to the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse. In this context, our approach is ‘zero tolerance’ to the allegations of sexual violence by the peacekeepers,” she said.
The prime minister said this in a statement at a high-level meeting on “Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse” at Trusteeship Council Chamber at the UN Headquarters New York on Monday.
Appreciating the UN secretary general’s initiatives for taking lead in combating his scourge of sexual exploitation and abuse within the UN system and beyond, Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh all the years has dealt strongly all allegations in this regard.
She said allegations of sexual abuse against the peacekeepers are handled with extreme urgency.
“The members under such allegations are immediately repatriated at his own expenses and his/ her (UN) allowances are suspended until the investigation is complete,” she said.
“Protection against sexual exploitation and abuse has been made an integral part of our pre-deployment training,” she added.
The premier said all contingent commanders have been empowered with legal and administrative authority to address any allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse. “They can investigate and prosecute the allegations within the mission area,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said the senior most peacekeeper in the mission area has the authority to take disciplinary actions against the Bangladeshi peacekeepers if they are charged with any criminal offence.
Referring to Bangladesh’s experience in worst form of sexual violence during its War of Liberation, Sheikh Hasina said over two hundred thousands women were violated by the Pakistan occupation forces and their collaborators at that time.
She recalled the bold initiatives of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to acknowledge the contribution of the oppressed womenfolk to our Liberation War, saying Bangabandhu recognized those women as ‘Biranggana’ (war heroines). “We have ensured justice by trying the perpetrators and the abettors of such heinous crimes through international crimes tribunal,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said Bangladeshi peacekeepers have consistently maintained good image and credibility almost in all UN missions. “This was due to our strong moral values, effective motivation and high standard of discipline,” she said.
“We believe all victims of sexual exploitation and abuse deserve justice and also opportunities for rehabilitation,” she added.
The prime minister said Bangladesh has become a trendsetter in peace support operations for utmost dedication and professionalism, and high respect for the religious, cultural and social values of the people.
Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh’s commitment to peacekeeping is reaffirmed through the supreme sacrifice made by 132 valiant sons. “We remain steadfast in our resolve to continue our meaningful participation in the maintenance of international peace and security through UN peacekeeping operations,” she added.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres delivered the introductory speech at the meeting, while President of the 72nd General Assembly Miroslav Lajcak addressed, among others.
President of Republic of Finland Sauli Niinisto, President of Uruguay Tabare Vazquez, Prime Minister of Ethiopia Hailemariam Desalegn also spoke on “Identified gaps, best practices and sustaining efforts to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse.”
A video documentary was screened highlighting ongoing partnership of the United Nations with civil society to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse.