Girl ‘touched inappropriately’ by Nepali peacekeepers in South Sudan

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United Nations, April 24 (IANS) Nepali peacekeepers have been accused of touching “inappropriately” a teenager in South Sudan and not of rape, according to the UN mission there.

Four teenaged girls were caught entering the UN base in Aweil on April 13 through a fence and “it was alleged that one of the teenaged girls had been touched inappropriately by a member of the Nepalese contingent in exchange for money”, a statement by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said Tuesday.

It clarified, “There was no allegation made of rape.”

“Any act of sexual abuse is horrendous, one involving a child is, I think, especially heinous,” Stephane Dujarric, the spokesperson for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday.

“UNMISS, as you know, like all of us have zero tolerance and no excuse and no second chance approach to sexual exploitation or abuse,” he added.

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A Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Immediate Response Team (IRT) was sent to Aweil to gather information and preserve evidence for an investigation by Nepal, the UNMISS statement said.

Nepal is appointing a team of National Investigation Officers to conduct the investigation, the statement added.

Nepal had 2,092 people serving with the UNMISS, of them 1,698 were military personnel, 35 of them women, according to the UN statistics for March.

In 2016, there were three cases involving transactional sex – exchanging sex for favours, materials or services – or sexual assault against Nepalis with UNMISS, according to UN reports.

Last year, one case of attempted sexual assault was substantiated against a Nepali with the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and the person was demoted as a punishmen, the UN reported.

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In February, 46 members of a police contingent from Ghana were ordered withdrawn after allegations of sexual exploitation was reported against them in South Sudan.

Guterres has emphasised the zero tolerance policy for sexual abuse and appointed a victims rights advocate last year.

(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected])

–IANS

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