Most organisations tell staff it's gross misconduct
A leading international charity won’t ban its staff from sexual relationships with aid recipients, it has been reported.
Sightsavers says it prohibits “any form of exploitative or abusive relationship with a beneficiary” but “its staff could be in “completely normal and consensual relationships.”
Since the Oxfam sex scandal in Haiti was exposed, international development charities have moved to tighten safeguarding policies with most banning sexual relationships with people from the communities they serve.
Following negative media attention, international charities worked to rebuild public confidence by reclassifying sexual relationships between staff and aid recipients as gross misconduct.
The sight loss charity is one of the UK governments top tier partners for international development, which constitute the most trusted to deliver best practice of their supply partners.
It comes against a UK government ban, prohibiting all its direct employees from having sexual relationships with aid recipients.
Sarah Champion, chair of the UK’s International Development Committee told the Telegraph online that relationships between aid workers and the people they help cannot be completely consensual.
“In 2018, the government led an international summit on tackling sexual violence in the aid sector. They’re now being made to look like hypocrites by the companies they subcontract aid work to," she said.
“There is always a power imbalance between aid workers and beneficiaries. So for the avoidance of doubt, I would prevent all sexual relationships, as consent would never be clear cut.
“The government needs to show zero tolerance to sexual exploitation of aid beneficiaries; if their subcontractors can’t guarantee that - don’t fund them.
“It turns my stomach that organisations funded by the taxpayer, to help the most vulnerable in the world, are instead allowing their staff to sexually exploit them with impunity.”
A Sightsavers spokesperson said: "Absolutely anyone involved in any form of exploitative or abusive relationship with a beneficiary will be sacked. No ifs or buts.
“It is entirely possible that our staff will have or be in completely normal and consensual relationships which are in no way abusive or exploitative with, for example, someone who accesses local health services or belongs to a disabled people’s organisation, and who could therefore be seen as a beneficiary of the organisation."