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Abstract

Despite their peacekeeping role in the management of internal armed conflicts, some international peacekeepers have sexually exploited local populations in host countries, resulting in dire social consequences and threats to the success of international peace operations. Although researchers have examined sexual violence committed by peacekeepers, few researchers, if any, have used routine activities theory to examine sex offending by peacekeepers. This article explored the extent to which situational opportunities influenced international peacekeepers’ engagement in the sexual exploitation of civilians in the Central African Republic, a peacekeeping host country. Data were collected from face-to-face interviews with 15 research participants, including local witnesses, peacekeepers, and U.N. policy makers, and from public records obtained from online sources. Data were coded using an inductive coding strategy and then analyzed using thematic analysis. The findings indicated that both the local and peacekeeping conditions, including lack of deterrence and accountability mechanisms, heightened the vulnerability of local populations to sex predation and motivated peacekeeper sex offenders to engage in sex offending. Local community leaders and policy makers could use study findings to promote educational programs on the institutional responsibility to protect vulnerable civilians and shape policies to prevent the commission of sexual exploitation by peacekeepers.

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