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Peacekeeping, Compliance with International Norms, and Transactional Sex in Monrovia, Liberia


United Nations policy forbids its peacekeepers and other personnel from engaging in transactional sex (the exchange of money, favors, or gifts for sex), but we find the behavior to be very common in our survey of Liberian women. Using satellite imagery and GPS locators, we randomly selected 1,381 households and randomly sampled 475 women between the ages of eighteen and thirty. Using an iPod in private to preserve the anonymity of their responses, these women answered sensitive questions about their sexual histories. More than half of them had engaged in transactional sex, a large majority of them (more than 75 percent) with UN personnel. We estimate that each additional battalion of UN peacekeepers caused a significant increase in a woman's probability of engaging in her first transactional sex. Our findings raise the concern that the private actions of UN personnel in the field may set back the UN's broader gender-equality and economic development goals, and raise broader questions about compliance with international norms.

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