The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) works with grassroots groups there, in America, and the Haitian Diaspora, developing effective human rights advocacy for some of the world’s most oppressed, impoverished, and long-suffering people, over 500 years and counting.
In late July, it issued a new report titled, “Our Bodies Are Still Trembling: Haitian Women’s Fight Against Rape,” a problem Amnesty International (AI) highlighted in March saying:
“Sexual violence is widely present in the camps where some of Haiti’s most vulnerable live. It was already a major concern (pre-quake), but the situation in which displaced people are living exposes women and girls to even greater risks,” the issue IJDH examined in its report, explaining that Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps “exacerbated the already grave problem of sexual violence,” two US lawyer delegations and a women’s health specialist investigating the problem first hand in May and June, interviewing over 50 rape or attempted rape survivors.
IJDH didn’t quantify the incidence, but learned that “rapes in the camps are dramatically underreported,” women and girls in them extremely vulnerable, dozens of documented cases now known, suggesting the tip of a huge iceberg, worse for lack of security or concern by police, UN Blue Helmets, or Haiti’s pro-business, anti-populist government.
“Rape survivors… told interviewers that reporting rape to the police is an exercise in futility, since they could not identify their assailant or assailants,” one survivor saying police told her the problem was President Rene Preval’s, not theirs, a shocking indifference to a brutal crime — for most women and girls, their worst ever experience, one they’ll never forget or get over.
Dismal camp conditions “render women and girls particularly vulnerable….” Overcrowding and inadequate shelter make it easy for predators to take advantage, especially late at night when people are sleeping. Survivors noted the lack of lighting; privacy even to bathe; tents; and police presence or concern … //
… A Final Comment:
Despite Haiti’s obligations under international law and its Constitution, authorities have fallen far short, failing to confront issues as vital as gender-based violence, turning a blind eye to a pressing problem, leaving poor women and girls vulnerable to the worst kind of abuse, doing little to address or halt it, and virtually nothing for victims or survivors, often blaming them, not their violators.
America, UN member states, and the world body are more a problem than a solution, Haitian women and girls on their own and out of luck, especially under post-quake conditions when needs are greatest, including security against predatory rapists, what the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Rashida Manjoo, addressed, saying:
“If we are to secure women’s rights and their freedom from violence, it is imperative that we adopt an integrated human rights perspective that stresses the equal importance of civil and political rights and economic and social rights. Unless women can develop their capabilities and achieve economic independence, the human rights they are promised will not be realized,” especially in Haiti, given its violence-plagued history. (full long text).
(Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. Contact him by e-mail. Also visit his blog site and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM-1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening. Read other articles by Stephen).