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State­ment Sub­mit­ted to the Human Rights Coun­cil for 14th Gen­eral Ses­sion: May 18, 2010[1]

1.The Jan­u­ary 2010 earth­quake not only dev­as­tated Haiti’s frail infra­struc­ture, it wors­ened already inad­e­quate and inequitable access to basic social ser­vices through­out Haiti. It also cre­ated a severe cri­sis of safety and secu­rity – espe­cially for those liv­ing in the Inter­nally Dis­placed Per­sons (IDP) camps – exac­er­bat­ing the already grave prob­lem of sex­ual violence.

2.Women in Haiti are dis­pro­por­tion­ately impacted by the earth­quake, both because they face gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion, expos­ing them to higher rates of poverty and vio­lence; and because they are respon­si­ble for meet­ing the needs of the most vul­ner­a­ble, includ­ing infants, chil­dren, the elderly and the thou­sands of newly dis­abled peo­ple.[2]

3.From May 1–10, 2010, a del­e­ga­tion[3] of U.S. lawyers and a women’s health spe­cial­ist inves­ti­gated the preva­lence and pat­terns of rape and other gender-based vio­lence (GBV) against IDPs in Port-au-Prince in the after­math of the earth­quake and the gov­ern­men­tal, inter-governmental, non-governmental and grass­roots responses to the vio­lence. For first­hand knowl­edge of the rapes in the camps, mem­bers of the del­e­ga­tion inter­viewed over 25 sur­vivors of rape or attempted rape. These women and girls were referred to the del­e­ga­tion by KOFAVIV and FAVILEK, grass­roots women’s orga­ni­za­tions work­ing within Port-au-Prince.[4]
4.Although this report makes no attempt to quan­tify the rapes that have occurred in the camps to date, one thing is clear – rapes in the camps are dra­mat­i­cally under­re­ported. From Jan­u­ary 13-March 21, KOFAVIV tracked 230 inci­dents of rape in 15 camps in Port-au-Prince. There are over 500 camps in the cap­i­tal. Médecins Sans Fron­tières reported 68 cases of rape in the month of April at one of their clin­ics in Port-au-Prince. The vast major­ity of the women liv­ing in camps who were inter­viewed reported being raped by two or more indi­vid­u­als, almost always armed and at night.

5.There is a demon­strated lack of gov­ern­men­tal response to sex­ual vio­lence occur­ring in the camps. This fail­ure to act appears to have two prongs – the Hait­ian gov­ern­ment is both unwill­ing and unable to respond. Rape sur­vivors liv­ing in the camps told inter­view­ers that report­ing rape to the police is an exer­cise in futil­ity since they could not iden­tify their assailant or assailants. Many women stated that when they approached the police for help, the police said that there was noth­ing they could do and the sur­vivor should return when she had iden­ti­fied and/or cap­tured their attacker. One sur­vivor reported that the offi­cer she spoke with dis­claimed respon­si­bil­ity for try­ing to appre­hend her rapist, telling her that it was the prob­lem of Haiti’s pres­i­dent, René Préval.
6.Con­di­tions in the camps are bleak. Over­crowd­ing, lack of pri­vacy, weak­ened fam­ily and com­mu­nity struc­tures, among other things, ren­der women and girls par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble to sex­ual vio­lence. Women and girls live in inad­e­quate shel­ter, often sleep­ing under noth­ing more than a tarp or blan­ket, with no means of pro­tec­tion and no friends close by, and bathe in pub­lic, in view of men and boys.

7.Sex­ual assault sur­vivors inter­viewed spoke of wide­spread occur­rence of trans­ac­tional sex to obtain food aid cards, although each inter­vie­wee denied hav­ing engaged in trans­ac­tional sex her­self. The occur­rence of coerced trans­ac­tional sex – a form of rape – is beyond the scope of this report and mer­its an inde­pen­dent investigation.

8.Pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sures within the camps are crit­i­cally lack­ing. In par­tic­u­lar, the sur­vivors we spoke with noted the fol­low­ing issues, a num­ber of which were con­firmed by our own vis­its to the camps: lack of light­ing; lack of pri­vate bathing facil­i­ties; lack of tents; and even for those with tents, utter lack of secu­rity (at least one sur­vivor stated that her attacker had used a blade to cut the side of her tent to gain access); lack of a police pres­ence (many sur­vivors stated that police only patrolled the perime­ter of the camps and were unwill­ing to enter the inte­rior, par­tic­u­larly at night).[5]

9.Because most of the camps were erected with lit­tle or no plan­ning, patrolling the camps is an oner­ous task and poses safety issues even for offi­cers. Police are unwill­ing to enter the camps because they fear the armed gangs who gen­er­ally are active at night when, due to the lack of light­ing, attack­ers are less likely to be seen or recognized.

10.Mech­a­nisms for redress fol­low­ing sex­ual vio­lence appear to be lack­ing, inef­fec­tive, or under­uti­lized. In part­ner­ship with the Hait­ian gov­ern­ment, UNICEF, and NGOs post­cards list­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal and med­ical follow-up sup­port have been dis­trib­uted in the camps. An infor­mal sur­vey of listed clin­ics revealed that the card con­tained inac­cu­rate infor­ma­tion, includ­ing out-of-service phone num­bers and incor­rect street addresses. The pub­li­ca­tion of mis­in­for­ma­tion could dis­cour­age sur­vivors from attempt­ing to access such resources to the extent they have heard from oth­ers that it is a waste of time. Addi­tion­ally, not all staffing and resources are ade­quate. At least one of the clin­ics did not pro­vide HIV pro­phy­laxis or test­ing. Many sur­vivors believed that even if they knew of a clinic, they thought they could not afford ser­vices or the cost of transportation.

11.Although gov­ern­ment offi­cials cite a lack of author­ity and a lack of resources, efforts must be made to max­i­mize the resources that are avail­able and pro­vide sup­port to exist­ing pro­grams. The Hait­ian gov­ern­ment should sup­port community-based anti-violence strate­gies within a human rights frame­work. Hait­ian women’s groups indi­cated that each of the fol­low­ing mea­sures could be help­ful in increas­ing the secu­rity in the camps: train­ing pro­grams for offi­cers on GBV and human rights issues; increas­ing the num­ber of female police offi­cers; insti­tut­ing self-defense train­ing and rape whis­tle pro­grams within the camps; and pro­vid­ing var­i­ous train­ings as well as sup­port to community-organized secu­rity patrols.

12.Along with UNIFEM, two national women’s orga­ni­za­tions, Kay Fanm and SOFA, are train­ing the Hait­ian National Police on pro­to­col for receiv­ing sur­vivors and will be pro­vid­ing sur­vivors with trans­port needs for rapid response. They are also work­ing with stu­dents from the state uni­ver­sity to hold self-defense clin­ics in the camps. How­ever, these efforts are not well-publicized. Their impact could be greatly increased if the sup­port of smaller, grass­roots orga­ni­za­tions and the resources of NGOs were also brought to bear.

13.The Hait­ian crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem has never effec­tively pros­e­cuted rape cases. First, dis­crim­i­na­tory prac­tices per­vade the jus­tice sys­tem, such as a refusal to credit women’s eye­wit­ness tes­ti­mony against a man’s, dis­crim­i­na­tory laws, and gen­der imbal­ance at every level and unit of the jus­tice sys­tem. Sec­ond, there is lim­ited access to jus­tice for all women, espe­cially poor women, who are the major­ity of rape vic­tims. Lastly, there is a lack of spe­cial­ized train­ing and pro­grams for rape pros­e­cu­tions. This fail­ure to effec­tively pros­e­cute denies vic­tims jus­tice, nor­mal­izes gen­der vio­lence and pro­vides prospec­tive per­pe­tra­tors assur­ance of impunity.

14.We respect­fully urge the Human Rights Coun­cil to rec­om­mend the following:
1.That the Gov­ern­ment of Haiti and other IGOs/NGOs coor­di­nat­ing the relief effort allo­cate resources imme­di­ately to pro­vide for increased secu­rity and light­ing in the camps.
2.That the Gov­ern­ment of Haiti act imme­di­ately to imple­ment the National Plan for Com­bat­ing Vio­lence Against Women (2006–2011) and, upon its expiry, work to renew a new and stronger national plan of action to elim­i­nate vio­lence against women that includes legal mea­sures, ser­vice pro­grams, redress and pre­ven­tion strate­gies and encour­ages col­lab­o­ra­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion with the civil sec­tor for both draft­ing of a national plan and for strate­gic and effec­tive imple­men­ta­tion.
3.That the Gov­ern­ment of Haiti assess its cur­rent laws, poli­cies and pro­grams that address vio­lence against women; eval­u­ate their com­pli­ance with inter­na­tional oblig­a­tions; remove dis­crim­i­na­tory laws and prac­tices against women; and imple­ment a legal and pol­icy frame­work that guar­an­tees due dili­gence and pro­motes the full pro­tec­tion and pro­mo­tion of women’s human rights.
4.That the UN Spe­cial Rap­por­teur on Vio­lence Against Women visit Haiti.
5.That the Hait­ian and donor gov­ern­ments guar­an­tee women’s full par­tic­i­pa­tion and lead­er­ship in all phases of the recon­struc­tion of Haiti as man­dated by UN Secu­rity Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion 1325 and other inter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized standards.
6.That the Gov­ern­ment of Haiti enact a sys­tem­atic col­lec­tion of data that doc­u­ments the preva­lence and inci­dences of all forms of vio­lence against women in the IDP camps; in col­lab­o­ra­tion with civil soci­ety organizations.

[1] Sub­mit­ted by MADRE, KOFAVIV, Bureau des Avo­cats Inter­na­tionaux (BAI), Insti­tute for Jus­tice & Democ­racy in Haiti (IJDH), Uni­ver­sity of Vir­ginia School of Law Human Rights Pro­gram, Uni­ver­sity of Min­nesota Human Rights Lit­i­ga­tion and Advo­cacy Clinic

[2] See, Inter-American Com­mis­sion on Human Rights: The Right of Women in Haiti to be Free from Vio­lence and Dis­crim­i­na­tion; Doc. OEA/Ser.L/V/II Doc 64 (Mar. 10, 2009).

[3] Coor­di­nated by the Lawyers’ Earth­quake Response Net­work (LERN) of the Insti­tute for Jus­tice & Democ­racy in Haiti,

[4] For more infor­ma­tion on the delegation’s meet­ings see

[5] See also IDP Camp Joint Secu­rity Assess­ment Report, MINUSTAH Human Rights Sec­tion (Mar. 30, 2010) (rec­og­niz­ing gov­ern­ment absence and lack of secu­rity in the camps).

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