The Indian Army has punished two of its soldiers and is investigating a third for sexual abuse and misconduct during UN peacekeeping missions in two African nations.
The cases, revealed in a United Nations report, occurred between 2010 and 2013 during missions in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which accounts for the largest deployment of Indian forces on foreign soil and had witnessed a cash-for-sex scandal involving Indian peacekeepers in 2008.
The recently-released report , however, added that the Indian contingent — the third largest in UN missions — has the least number of sexual misconduct cases.
The first case dates back to 2010 when a soldier was found guilty of soliciting a sex worker in the DR Congo in violation of UN rules that forbid peacekeeping troops from sexual relations with prostitutes.
Strict disciplinary action was taken against him, a senior officer said, without elaborating. Action in such cases may range from a cut in salary, promotions being held back to short-term imprisonment and being stripped of appointments.
Another soldier was handed “harsh punishment” for making “obscene gestures” at a female peacekeeper from a foreign contingent in South Sudan.
A third case, currently under investigation, pertains to accusations of misconduct levelled by a foreigner against an Indian soldier deployed in the DR Congo. The army is waiting for a statement from the foreign national who made the initial complaint via email.
“These cases are an aberration but the army is putting in place tougher rules for monitoring conduct and discipline… All accusations are investigated and appropriate action is taken,” the senior officer said.
International peacekeepers have faced several accusations of sexual misconduct and abuse of authority in recent years. A similar controversy made headlines in 2008 when at least 10 Indian personnel were found guilty of soliciting prostitutes in the DR Congo. Many were also accused of fathering children.
The UN Office of Internal Oversight Services has recorded 265 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against international peacekeepers in the last five years. At present, over 91,600 soldiers are deployed in 16 operations around the world. Of them, more than 8,100 Indian peacekeepers are posted in nine missions.