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4 August, 2021 06:17:35 PM / LAST MODIFIED: 4 August, 2021 06:42:06 PM
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Sexual exploitation and abuse in Bangladesh’s humanitarian and development sector

Standard operating procedures (SOPs) should be in place for submission and receipt of complaints, reporting, investigation and victim assistance to Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA). Adoption of PSEA policy and its proper implementation are necessary
Mohammed Mamun Rashid
Sexual exploitation and abuse in Bangladesh’s humanitarian and development sector

Bangladesh has appeared as a role model for developing countries across the world. Now it dreams to be developed country by 2041. Many policy coherences, sectoral reforms, inclusiveness and corruption-free society are needed to implement Perspective Plan of Bangladesh- 2041. However, different sectors have come together to create existing collective value for the country. Contribution of humanitarian and development sector of Bangladesh receives well-deserved praise in world.

As a signatory to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted on September 25, 2015, Bangladesh has been engaged in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the last five years and playing an active role in the global discourse on the SDGs. The government of Bangladesh has involved various stakeholders in the process of implementing the SDGs with a whole-of-society approach to this end. Non-state actors have also been playing important roles in carrying out activities towards the implementation of the goals. Work of NGOs for socio-economic and political empowerment at grassroots and humanitarian responsesto natural disasters is remarkable; as it is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world. Response of Bangladeshi NGOs to Rohingya humanitarian crisis is one of the good examples.

Sexual exploitation and abuse in humanitarian response first came to public attention with the release of a report in February 2002 of a joint assessment mission examining the issue. The joint mission (composed of UNHCR-SCFUK personnel) reported that ‘refugee children in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have been subjected to sexual abuse and exploitation, allegedly by employees of national and international NGOs, UNHCR and other UN bodies.’ UN Protocol on the Provision of Assistance to Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse defined sexual exploitation as any actual or attempted abuse of position of vulnerability, differential power or trust, for sexual purposes, including but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially or politically form the sexual exploitation of another. Sexual abuse is actual or has threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force or under unequal or coercive conditions. It emphasized on six core principles likely 1) Sexual Exploitation and Abuse constitute acts of gross misconduct and are grounds for termination of employment; 2) Sexual activity with children (persons under the age of 18) is prohibited; 3) Exchange of money, employment, goods or services for sex is prohibited; 4) Sexual relationships between staff and beneficiaries are prohibited; 5) Staff members must report concerns regarding SEA by a fellow worker; 6) Staff members, especially those in leadership positions, are obliged to create and maintain an environment that prevents SEA.

Due to existing inequalities, gender discrimination and unequal power relations; emergencies hit women hardest and recovery period is also the longest for women. Studies show that in times of emergencies; sexual violence and sexual exploitation against adolescent girls&women increase drastically. In refugee camps, for example, living in crowded shelters, accessing latrines and bathing spaces at night, going to marketplaces and lack of lighting in the camps put adolescent girls and womenat risk of sexual harassment. Refugees are most at risk and vulnerable against sexual exploitation and abuse when compared to victims of natural disasters or other humanitarian disasters. Victims of floods or cyclones still have their social network and social capital as they are within their own village. In refugee situation, they usually have less capacity and power to report anything to anybody.

Many countries of the world have bitter experiences about sexual exploitation and abuse by humanitarian workers and development workers. Unfortunately, we do not have any comprehensive study in this regard. It is perhaps happening at grassroots level as well because of manipulation the insolvency of beneficiaries, extreme poverty, need of kind supports, relief, helpless, trust and imbalance of power relation. But we cannot overlook this important issue emerging in development and humanitarian field. NGO-leaders still have less attention about this issue. All stakeholders, including the government, UN agencies, law enforcement, and development organizations, need to have certain policies, operating procedures and standards, and they need to be very aware of the sexual exploitation and abuse. Standard operating procedures (SOPs) should be in place for submission and receipt of complaints, reporting, investigation and victim assistance to Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA). Adoption of PSEA policy and its proper implementation are necessary. Human Resources Department of humanitarian and development organizations must be proactive to deal with recruiting, monitoring, investigation and dismissal. Awareness raising, capacity building, easy reporting and referral paths should be created for innocent beneficiaries with maintaining all confidentialities and dignity.

The writer is PhD Candidate, Department of Social Work School of Social Sciences, UniversitiSains Malaysia (USM). E-mail: [email protected]

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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