Spread the love

Avellon Williams 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI- Organizations representing refugees, female merchants, and women, as well as the UN and the human rights sector, have expressed concern that Haiti’s political and humanitarian crisis has disproportionately affected women and girls.

/Image, RW/

During International Girls’ Day, in mid-October, the Support Group for Refugees and Repatriated Haitians, known by its French acronym GARR, said that girls are constantly at risk of ill-treatment due to the deterioration of the sociopolitical situation, the proliferation of armed gangs, and the multiple crises facing the country.

A major focus of GARR is advocating for the rights of Haitian migrant workers who are routinely expelled from the neighboring Dominican Republic by the Dominican government.

/Image, HL/

There were 800 undocumented girls who were cast out of the Dominican Republic between May 2022 and September 2022, according to the support group. As a result of human trafficking, sexual abuse, and domestic slavery, the girls are “at the mercy of mafia networks”, which include both civilians and Dominican soldiers.

According to GARR, three of 47 girls taken in at its shelter – aged 5-17 – had been raped, and 12 others had been abused sexually.

/Image, CNS/

A woman’s life in Haiti is never easy, even in good times. According to the Spotlight Initiative on violence against women, a joint U.N.-Haitian government project in 2020, 12% of Haitian women have suffered rape or sexual violence at some point in their lives. A quarter of these women are girls between 15 and 17.

The women’s movement only recognized rape as a crime in 2005 after a long struggle. Especially in rural areas, women have fewer job opportunities and less access to education than men.

/Image, AL/

However, women are facing an even more acute situation in the current environment. Armed gangs are terrorizing poor areas of Port-au-Prince, and cholera has returned to the Caribbean nation because the gangs have blocked access to the main fuel terminal, preventing hospitals and water purification plants from running properly.

In Port-au-Prince and the surrounding area, gangs have reigned terror over Haitians fleeing to the Dominican Republic. Sexual violence in Port-au-Prince: a weapon used by gangs to instill fear, published Oct. 14 by the U.N. Integrated Human Rights office in Port-au-Prince (BINUH) and U.N. Human Rights Council, shows that the same gangs use rape to terrorize the population.

/Image, CNN/

The report says women and girls as young as 10 have been gang-raped in front of their parents, and elderly women have also been gang-raped to prevent them from crossing the gang’s boundaries. To force victims’ families to pay a ransom, attackers regularly send videos of rapes of kidnapped victims.

There are harrowing details of the case of Marie, one of 52 women who were gang-raped by heavily armed gang members in the Cite Soleil slum in July 2022:

After her husband was executed with a gunshot to the head, the armed men forced her to lay on top of his dead body, and then they raped her, one after the other, in the presence of her children. After the attack, the assailants set her home ablaze. She and her children had time to get out of the house before it was completely burned down, together with the body of her husband.”

/Image, YN/

However, gang activity does not only affect poor women disproportionately. There have been significant increases in gang violence in Haiti, which has plagued the Madan Sara, enterprising ambulant tradeswomen who are the backbone of the informal economy.

In the country’s current lawless state, these women, who travel from rural areas to cities to resell agricultural produce that feeds city dwellers, have lost valuable sales and are vulnerable to bandits and rapists.

“Because it is so difficult to find gas, we often have to wait two or three days, sometimes a week, to get a bus to Port-au-Prince,” Venise, a Madan Sara in the southwestern city of Jérémie, told the Nouvelliste newspaper Sept. 30. “We often see our produce rot or have to resell it at ridiculously low prices.”

Pope Francis /Image, RN/

According to Pope Francis, who met Jesuits from Canada in Quebec on July 29, priest friends constantly informed him about the critical situation in Haiti.

In response to a question from a Haitian Jesuit – Haiti is part of the Canadian Jesuit province – Pope Francis said Haiti is experiencing an ordeal. “It does not seem to me that the international organizations have understood what to do.”

“I fear that it is falling into a pit of despair. How can we help Haiti to grow in hope? If there is one thing we can do as a church it is certainly prayer, penance … But we must ask ourselves how we can help.”

PM Ariel Henry /Image, CNN/

In a highly controversial move, the Haitian government, led by Prime Minister Ariel Henry, has requested the international community to send a military intervention force to break the gangs’ blockade of the Varreux fuel terminal, allowing clean water to circulate and hospitals to open.

For some women’s organizations, such intervention brings back bad memories, but many Haitians are vehemently opposed.

/Image, AL/

“Today, the feminist movement is still fighting against the atrocities of foreign troops who have occupied Haiti for the last 30 years, mainly MINUSTAH rapes of minors and women, children conceived and abandoned by U.N. soldiers, cholera, repression, and massacres of members of the most vulnerable communities and multiple human rights violations,” said a coalition of seven Haitian women’s organizations in an Oct. 18 statement.

MINUSTAH was the U.N. peacekeeping force in Haiti from 2004 to 2017.

According to the groups, the Haitian women’s movement was initiated to protest the U.S. Marines’ rapes and sexual crimes during their occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934.

Women’s groups warned that more troops would be deployed in Haiti “to once again permit an armed force to operate without accountability and carry out reprehensible acts of all kinds under the cover of immunity.

About Author

Faith Nyasuguta

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *