British Report States Sexual Abuse Endemic in Aid Sector Via 'Macho Culture'

Published August 1st, 2018 - 05:00 GMT
(Shutterstock/File Photo)
(Shutterstock/File Photo)

Sexual abuse is endemic in the aid sector because of a 'boys' club' attitude in male dominated charities, British MPs warn.

In a damning report, they said a 'macho' environment contributed to the sort of atmosphere where sexual exploitation was tolerated.

The UK House of Commons International Development Committee accused the aid sector of 'complacency verging on complicity' over the abuse scandal.

It highlights failings relating to both the recipients of aid and attacks on charity workers.

It found the delivery of help to people in crisis had been subverted by sexual predators, with only superficial action taken to tackle it.

'Deluded' charity bosses were engaged in a 'culture of denial' – exhibiting more concern for good PR than for victims.

MPs highlight that a lack of barriers makes aid an 'attractive sector for people wishing to exploit others'.

The report, Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in the Aid Sector, follows the exposure of abuse by Oxfam aid workers in Haiti in 2011. Among devastating conclusions, it found:

Oxfam was more concerned about risk to its reputation than the danger recipients of aid would be abused;
Charities and the Department for International Development ignored reports of sexual abuse going back almost two decades;
The United Nations is still in denial about abuse by its staff, some of whom have immunity from prosecution;
Abuse against aid workers themselves – including rape – may be more prevalent than previously thought;
Whistleblowers are afraid to speak out for fear of losing their jobs.
The MPs demanded a boost to the powers of the Charity Commission, with the appointment of a new independent aid ombudsman.



They also called for a global register of aid workers to end the scandal of abusers moving from one charity to another.

Stephen Twigg, chairman of the committee, said the sector was 'deluded'. 'Humanitarian organisations and the U.N. cannot continue a 'culture of denial' when confronted with allegations of sexual exploitation,' he said.

'The committee is concerned that previous attempts have amounted to limited action in order to quell media clamour.

'No matter how insurmountable this looks, solutions must be found. This horror must be confronted.'

The report said: 'Sexual violence, exploitation and abuse against women and girls is endemic in many developing countries... It is particularly horrifying to find evidence of personnel from the aid and security sectors perpetrating these abuses.'

It added that many aid organisations had a destructive 'boys' club' culture, 'in which sexual harassment and abuse of staff can thrive'.

The committee singled out Save the Children UK for criticism, following the departure of chief executive Justin Forsyth and policy director Brendan Cox amid claims of harassment.

The charity's handling of the allegations is the subject of a statutory inquiry.

The MPs also quote research which found that 'a macho form of masculinity dominates the humanitarian relief space'.

Committee member Pauline Latham said: 'I believe deep cultural change is required across all aid organisations, starting with their – all too often male – senior leadership.

'Sexual abuse of aid beneficiaries and of women aid workers, which I believe is linked, must be stamped out.'

Last night International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said: 'Ensuring survivors' voices are heard and taken seriously is paramount.'

Judith Brodie, the boss of Bond which brings together development charities, said she was beginning to see a positive culture shift.

Kevin Watkins, boss of Save the Children UK, said: 'We have made mistakes in our handling of sexual harassment complaints. Although some progress has been made... there is a great deal more to do.'


This article has been adapted from its original source.

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