Sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) and child safeguarding violations are serious issues that can have a devastating impact on individuals, communities, and organizations. It is essential that all employees, as well as beneficiaries, understand the gravity of these issues and the importance of preventing them.
SEA refers to any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust for sexual purposes. This can include, but is not limited to, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and sexual exploitation. Beneficiaries, particularly those who are vulnerable such as women, children and persons with disabilities, are particularly at risk of SEA, and it is the responsibility of all employees to be aware of and report any potential or actual SEA.
Child safeguarding violations refer to any actions that harm or put children at risk of harm, including physical, emotional, sexual, or economic abuse. This can include, but is not limited to, neglect, exploitation, and trafficking. Children are particularly vulnerable, and it is the responsibility of all employees to be aware of and report any potential or actual child safeguarding violations.
The policy of “zero tolerance” towards SEA and child safeguarding violations (PSEA) means that any form of SEA or child safeguarding violation will not be tolerated. Employees must take responsibility for their actions and report any potential or actual violations of PSEA. Beneficiaries should also be informed about the PSEA policy and how to report any concerns. Failure to do so may result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.
It is also the responsibility of the employee to maintain a safe and respectful work environment, and to act in accordance with the values of the organization. This includes refraining from any conduct that could be perceived as exploitative or abusive. Beneficiaries should also be made aware of the appropriate conduct and be encouraged to report any concerns.
The following definitions are reminder to raise your understanding and commitments on PSEA and GBV control in your area of operation.
- For the purpose of this declaration SAWA adopt definitions of SAWA/UN PSEA policy of which a term PSEA means Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.
- The term ‘sexual exploitation’ means any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust, for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another.
- The term ‘sexual abuse’ means the actual or threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force or under unequal or coercive conditions.
- The term ‘Sexual Harassment (SH)’ is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, dissemination of sexually offensive or suggestive written, recorded or electronically transmitted messages and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:
- Submission to such conduct is made explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment.
- Submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as a basis for an employment-related decision affecting an individual.
- Such conduct substantially interferes with an individual’s work performance.
- Such conduct is objectively severe and pervasive and creates an intimidating, hostile or abusive work environment.
- The term ‘SEA Zero-tolerance policy’ means zero tolerance of UN/SAWA staff and volunteers engaging in any form of sexual exploitation or abuse. In practice, this is a commitment to immediate operational response when a concern is raised and an obligation on any staff, volunteers and associated personnel to report concerns as soon as they arise. It includes protection of, and non-retaliation towards, whistleblowers or anyone else reporting concerns. Zero tolerance to SEA includes a prohibition on transactional sex by aid personnel, regardless of local legislation.
- The term ‘Survivor/victim’ refers to a person who has experienced sexual exploitation or abuse. The terms ‘victim’ and ‘survivor’ can be used interchangeably. ‘Victim’ is a term often used in the legal and medical sectors. ‘Survivor’ is the term generally preferred in the psychological and social support sectors because it implies resiliency.
- The term ‘Third-Party Personnel’ refers to any person who is employed by a third-party and made available to the SAWA, without being SAWA Personnel, such as by means of a service agreement between the SAWA and a service provider.
- The term ‘Whistleblower’ refers to an individual who reports a concern regarding wrongdoing. Whistleblowers provide information, based on a reasonably held suspicion that a wrongdoing has occurred.
- Similarly the term ‘Gender Based Violence (GBV)’ means an umbrella term for any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person’s will and that is based on socially ascribed (i.e. gender) differences between males and females. It includes acts that inflict physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion, and other deprivations of liberty. These acts can occur in public or in private.
Commitment to PSEA and GBV Control:
- SAWA will make every effort to create and maintain a safe environment, free from SEA, and shall take appropriate measures for this purpose in the communities where it operates, through a robust PSEA framework, including prevention and response measures.
- This PSEA framework, affirms SAWA commitment to the UN Secretary General’s Bulletin on Special Measures for protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (ST/SGB/2003/13) and to achieving full, ongoing implementation of the IASC Six Core Principles relating to SEA.
- SAWA is committed to prevent Gender Based Violence in areas of work. This task expand from PSEA to cover other people including beneficiaries and other service providers not affiliated with SAWA.
Six principles of PSEA
Therefore SAWA employees and related personnel are required to comply with the following PSEA principles;
- SEA by SAWA employees and related personnel constitute acts of gross misconduct and are therefore grounds for termination of employment.
- Sexual activity with children (persons under the age of 18) is prohibited regardless of the age of majority or age of consent locally. Mistaken belief regarding the age of a child is not a defense.
- Exchange of money, employment, goods, or services for sex, including sexual favors or other forms of humiliating, degrading or exploitative behavior is prohibited. This includes exchange of assistance that is due to beneficiaries.
- Any sexual relationship between SAWA employees or related personnel and beneficiaries of assistance or other vulnerable members of the local community that involves improper use of rank or position is prohibited. Such relationships undermine the credibility and integrity of humanitarian aid work.
- Where SAWA employee or related personnel develop concerns or suspicions regarding sexual abuse or exploitation by a fellow worker, whether in the same organization or not, he or she must report such concerns via established reporting mechanisms.
- All SAWA employees and related personnel are obliged to create and maintain an environment which prevents SEA and promotes the implementation of this policy. Managers at all levels have particular responsibilities to support and develop systems which maintain this environment.
In summary, preventing sexual exploitation and abuse, and child safeguarding violations is the responsibility of all employees and beneficiaries. The policy of “zero tolerance” towards SEA and child safeguarding violations must be strictly followed, and any potential or actual violations must be reported. Employees and beneficiaries must also maintain a safe and respectful work environment and act in accordance with the values of the organization. It is important that organizations create an environment where beneficiaries feel safe and comfortable to report any concerns.