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House of Commons International Development Committee publishes report on sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector
Due to the large number of child and vulnerable adult sexual abuse allegations coming to light concerning UK-based charities operating abroad and dating back to the early 2000s, MPs have produced a report outlining their grave concerns*. This report calls for a register of workers and a specialised ombudsman for the overseas aid sector.
A number of charities have confirmed that this challenge is justified. They have admitted that they still have work to do to prevent organisational infiltration by sexual predators.
The majority of the allegations concern sexual assaults and the exploitation of females, both children and adults (predominantly but not exclusively), when delivering aid and offering care and support in war-torn countries and also areas devastated by natural disasters.
Allegations also involve humanitarian workers abusing their power and exchanging sex for much needed supplies; there have been a number of instances of victims being paid for sex, unwanted pregnancies and exposure to sexually transmitted infections.
Charities have pledged to do their best to tackle this issue. Whilst sexual offending is insidious and, unfortunately, could never be fully removed from any sphere of society, possible ways of helping to alleviate this issue in the international charities sector could be:
- Greater government oversight
- Legislative guidance for aid workers whether abroad or in the UK
- A register of international/global aid workers
- Checks similar to the criminal records checks in the UK (the DBS system) that could be used internationally
- Strengthening of charities’ UK-based safeguarding systems
- Sexual exploitation awareness programs/information tailored for the vulnerable in each specific situation that UK based charities are involved in
- Charities assisting with the set up and running of sexual assault referral centres abroad
- Improved reporting and accountability with penalties for aid workers not doing so.
As UK charities are dedicated to helping vulnerable people all over the world, protecting their lives and dignity in many different ways, they will no doubt be committed to ensuring that they do their utmost to stamp this out to ensure that the safeguarding of those that they are trying to help is paramount.
For further information please contact Legal Director, Sarah Swan