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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Oxfam scandal is not about morality, but abuse of power

Kerry Boyd Anderson
Originally posted February 18, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

Two of these problems directly relate to the #metoo movement against sexual harassment and abuse. First, the Oxfam scandal is not about personal sexual immorality. It is about abuse of power and sexual exploitation. When these men entered a war zone or an area that had suffered a massive natural disaster, they were not dealing with women there on equal terms; they were in a position of power and relative wealth, and offered women in desperate circumstances money in exchange for sex. These women were part of the population the aid workers were supposed to be helping, so using them in this way constitutes a clear breach of trust. This is one of the #metoo movement’s key points — this type of behavior is not about personal morality, it is about abuse of power.

Another problem that the scandal highlights is the way that many organizations protect the men who are behaving badly. In the Oxfam case, the focus has been on one man in a leadership position: Roland van Hauwermeiren, who created an enabling environment and participated in the hiring of prostitutes. Van Hauwermeiren previously led a project team for the charity Merlin in Liberia, where a colleague reported that men on the team were hiring local women as prostitutes. After an internal investigation, he resigned. He later led Oxfam’s team in Chad, where similar accusations arose. Despite this, Oxfam put him in charge of a team in Haiti, where the behavior continued. Following an investigation, van Hauwermeiren resigned, but he then went on to work for Action Against Hunger in Bangladesh.