ORCID Identifier(s)


Document Type

Honors Thesis


Why do United Nations peacekeepers enact sexual harm against the very populations they are meant to protect? Given that the purpose of United Nations peacekeepers is to promote peace in a country following a period of unrest and/or violence, acts of sexual exploitation and abuse are antithetical to their purpose. These acts also inflict trauma on populations meant to be protected. Finally, this behavior undermines the general trust in the United Nations. Therefore, when peacekeepers engage in acts of sexual exploitation and abuse, these acts have larger implications for not only the peacekeeping force but the United Nations as a whole. This research was primarily focused on qualitative data. This data consisted of previous research done in the realm of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force, direct messaging and reporting from the United Nations, and feminist theories. However, a small portion of quantitative research was done to explore how training and reporting has affected the issues of sexual exploitation and abuse. Following the history and contemporary exploration of sexual exploitation and abuse committed by United Nations Peacekeeping Forces, this paper explores feminist theory as both an explanation of these acts and to understand different ways of responding to these behaviors. Specifically, the paper utilizes theories of instrumentality, unreason, and mythology. While all these theories have different explanations as to why peacekeepers commit these acts, they are all connected by a single thread. All the theories demonstrate that the use of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers is a symptom of a larger societal issue. In other words, the acts of peacekeepers are only a microcosm of gender relations on the national and international level and thus, reflect specific assumptions on gender, gender relations, and sexual exploitation and abuse in international relations.

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