Gender-Based Violence in Haiti
Photo: Paula Allen
Historically, rape has been used widely by outside forces who have laid claim to Haiti’s people and resources, and by regimes, who have sought to silence women’s power.
Alex Renton wrote in his 2007 piece The Rape Epidemic: "Rape's entry in any honest history of Haiti is a long one. Columbus's men raped and murdered the indigenous tribes they found when they landed on Hispaniola in 1492; French planters used the slaves they shipped from Africa for sex; and when those slaves threw out the French and declared the first Republic, rape and murder accompanied the event. In the 200 years since then, Haiti has seen nearly half its 60-odd heads of state overthrown or assassinated - and sexual violence has been a feature of most of that turmoil." This legacy has had a devastating impact on Haitian women and families.
The statistics are alarming. The UNDP has reported that Haiti has one of the highest rates of women affected by violence in the world. Kay Fanm, a Haitian women's rights organization, has estimated that 72 % of Haitian girls have been raped. And, a recent 2009 paper by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights states that over 90% of Haitian women have experienced some form of violence in their lives.
Human trafficking and Restavek, (the practice of keeping child laborers in the home where they are sometimes sexually and physically abused), are both realities in Haiti.
It was not until 2005 that rape was classified as “a crime against the person,” leading to an increase in the severity of possible punishment.
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