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Jane Connors calls for "dignified" care for victims of sexual exploitation and abuse

Jane Connors calls for "dignified" care for victims of sexual exploitation and abuse. Photo MONUSCO

The United Nations Victims’ Rights Advocate (VRA), Jane Connors, wrapped up her working visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo, from November 21 to 29, 2019, by the South Kivu province, after visiting Kinshasa and Goma.

While in the South-Kivu province, Jane Connors visited Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, where the victims of sexual exploitation and abuse are being treated by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr Denis Mukwege. Jane Connors said the victims of the worst sexual exploitation and abuse, casting shadow over the eastern DRC, deserve dignified treatment to, amongst others, facilitate their reintegration into the community.

'' The victims of sexual exploitation and abuse committed by UN agents must be assisted and taken good care effectively and without delay; there must be a follow-up on this,'' she pleaded. Her mission, she said, was to "restore trust to the victims and ensure that proper care is given to their children.

While it is clear that Panzi Hospital is not currently hosting the victims of sexual exploitation and abuse committed by UN agents, Jane Connors has, however, interacted with the caregivers. With regard to follow-up on the assistance to be provided, she said "it would be essential that other health clinics refer the SEA victims’ cases to this hospital for appropriate care".

To the non-governmental organizations intervening in the defense for the rights of the victims whom she met in Bukavu, Jane Connors reiterated the need for sharing SEA victims’ medical caring techniques for the cases committed by the UN staff or the Congolese civilians and troops. She reiterated the same message when visiting the Community Based Complaining Network (CBCN) in Kavumu in Kabare territory.

In another center she visited, women were being mentored and learning different trading skills for the purposes of their empowerment. Some of the women told Jane Connors that they were now able to self-finance their activities with the skills gained. ‘’We are no longer going to MONUSCO camps for assistance in terms of food, which was exposing us to sexual abuse from some peacekeepers," said one of them.

In either of the two centers visited, cases of children born from local community's women and United Nations personnel received most attention from Jane Connors who advocated for support for their education, and financial assistance for their mothers to be able to bring the children up.

Jane Connors was appointed UN Victims' Rights Advocate on August 23, 2017. Her role is to ensure that the rights and dignity of the SEA victims are at the forefront of the United Nations efforts as part of the fight against sexual exploitation and abuse committed by United Nations personnel.