Waive immunity granted to UNFPA officials: sexual harassment victim
New Delhi: A group of right activists on Thursday came out in support of a former consultant at a UN body in Bihar who has alleged sexual harassment by her seniors and demanded that legal immunity granted to staffers of the United Nations be waived to help the police probe the matter and question the accused.
The former United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) consultant said she was not able to exercise her constitutional rights and alleged the accused had not yet been questioned.
Despite being the victim I am made to feel like an accused while the powerful UNFPA officials are going on with their daily life because of the immunity provision granted to them," she said at a press conference where representatives of civil society groups were also present.
Members of organisations such as Humsafar Trust, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and Jyotish Charitable Trust said allegations of sexual harassment were surfacing across several UN agencies and expressed concern over the safety and security of women working there.
"I demand that the immunity be waived so that the police can probe the matter thoroughly and I get justice," the former UNFPA consultant told reporters here.
The 30-year-old woman had earlier also complained to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj about the case. The protocol division of the MEA in March had asked her to cooperate with the UNFPA internal investigation services, the complainant said.
"Despite such cases of sexual assault becoming pervasive, there still exists a culture of impunity that allows such heinous crimes," she added.
The right groups also demanded the immediate resignation of a senior official of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) claiming that he had "mishandled" sexual harassment allegations levelled by a woman employee.
Over 40 civil society organisations working in India on various global and national projects expressed their solidarity with the complainants by signing a joint statement sent to the office of UN Secretary-General Ant nio Guterres.
"There have been serious attempts to influence, instigate, and delay all efforts to resolve the case by UNFPA leadership." the AHF said in a statement released at the press conference.
"...in both the cases, the misuse of diplomatic status and immunity associated with higher positions in the UN system is evident," it said.
Many senior UN staff enjoy diplomatic immunity, which means they can avoid national courts.