Prime Minister Sheikh has said Bangladesh maintains a zero-tolerance approach to the allegations of sexual violence by United Nations peacekeepers.
“We believe the victims of sexual exploitation and abuse deserve justice and also opportunities for rehabilitation,” the premier said at the High-Level Meeting on the Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) held at Trusteeship Council Chamber of the UN Headquarters on Monday with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in the chair.
She also announced a $100,000 token contribution to the victim support fund of the UN Secretary General's initiative to eradicate sexual violence and abuse, reports UNB.
The prime minister also expressed Bangladesh's firm resolve to strengthen the UN chief's hands by providing timely support at all times over the issue.
Sheikh Hasina further said, “As a major troop- and police-contributing country to the UN peacekeeping mission, Bangladesh attaches high importance to the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse. In this context, our approach is 'zero tolerance' to the allegations of sexual violence by the peacekeepers."
Thanking the UN chief for taking lead in combating sexual exploitation and abuse within the UN system and beyond, she said Bangladesh remains committed to his noble initiative to eradicate sexual violence and abuse. "To that end, Bangladesh has already conveyed its endorsement to the 'voluntary compact'," she said.
Sheikh Hasina mentioned that Bangladeshi peacekeepers have consistently maintained a good image and credibility almost in all missions. "This was due to our strong moral values, effective motivation and high standard of discipline."
Hasina, however, said two allegations that Bangladesh received in all these years have been dealt with strongly. She said one accused proven guilty has been punished with dismissal from service and imprisonment.
The premier said the allegations of sexual abuse against the peacekeepers are handled with extreme urgency. "The members under such allegations are immediately repatriated at his own expenses. His/her UN allowances are suspended until the investigation is complete."
She also mentioned that 'Protection against SEA' has been made an integral part of Bangladesh's peacekeepers pre-deployment training. "Our contingent commanders have been empowered with legal and administrative authority to address any allegation of SEA. They can investigate and prosecute the allegations within the mission area."
Hasina said the senior most peacekeeper in the mission area has the authority to take disciplinary actions against the Bangladeshi peacekeepers if they are charged with any criminal offence.
She said Bangladesh has become a trendsetter in peace-support operations for its utmost dedication and professionalism, and high respect for the religious, cultural and social values of the people it serves.
"Our commitment to peacekeeping is reaffirmed through the supreme sacrifice made by 132 of our valiant sons. We remain steadfast in our resolve to continue our meaningful participation in the maintenance of international peace and security through UN peacekeeping operations," she added.
Recalling the heinous sexual violence unleashed by the Pakistani occupational forces against the Bangladeshi women during Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, the Prime Minister said Bangladesh had experienced worst form of sexual violence.
She mentioned that over two hundred thousand women were violated by the Pakistan occupation forces and their collaborators.
Hasina said Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman took a bold initiative to acknowledge their contribution to the independence and recognised them as 'Biranganas' (war heroes). "We've ensured justice by trying the perpetrators and the abettors of such heinous crimes through international crimes tribunal," she said.