Gender-Based Violence in Cité Soleil, Haiti

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Tents in makeshift IDP camp, Cité Soleil, Haiti. Photo taken by Linda Mobula.

On January 20, 2010, a devastating earthquake struck Haiti leading to the displacement of 1.5 million people.  Camp conditions such as overcrowding, inadequate lighting and lack of security have led to an increase in the incidence of gender-based violence.

Cité Soleil is a large urban slum on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince Haiti, known for its gang violence, kidnappings, murders and looting. In a focus group conducted by Samaritan’s Purse with women living in IDP camps in Cité Soleil, it was revealed that the majority of women did not report rape to the judicial system given their fear of retribution.

A coalition of organizations including Kofaviv, Madre and UNHCR provide psychosocial counseling, safe shelter, legal aid, training, and livelihood activities for survivors of gender-based violence (http://kofaviv.blogspot.com). Their efforts have included seeking justice for victims, as rape has only become a punishable crime since 2005. The majority of judges ask that each victim present a certificate from a medical provider within 72 hours of being raped. (http://www.madre.org/index/meet-madre-1/our-partners-6/haiti-kofaviv–zanmi-lasante-36.html)

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Woman in IDP camp in Cité Soleil showing her tent. Photo courtesy of Mark Langham.

According to a recent survey by Potofamn-fi, 69% of 1035 girls reported seeking access to post-rape health services after rape, but many did not do so within the 72 hour reporting window. As a consequence, their cases are not “officially” documented. Other problems such as corruption, cultural beliefs and biases regarding women’s status in society affect judicial rulings. (http://www.otherworldsarepossible.org/another-haiti-possible/new-beyond-shock-report-charts-progress-against-sexual-violence-haiti-2010).

Unfortunately, many of the women living in Cité Soleil do not have access to  health or legal services after they experience sexual violence. According to the Potofamn-fi report, less than 1% of international funding has been dedicated to combatting sexual violence in Haiti. The City Council and local Ministry of Health (MSPP) in Cité Soleil therefore need to increase funding to provide better services for rape survivors.

There is a need for the following:

  • Improved access to health and legal services for rape victims providing certified documentation that is recognized by Haitian judges.
  • Improved funding for psycho-social counseling and shelter for rape victims
  • Increased security measures that will allow women to safely report their perpetrators to justice, where each case is evaluated impartially.
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One Response to “Gender-Based Violence in Cité Soleil, Haiti”

  1. enkubo Says:

    It is unfortunate to note that sexual and gender-based violence continues to be a recurring theme in the face of displacement. Following the 2007 post-election violence in Kenya, both male and female internally displaced persons (IDPs) were victims of sexual violence. Principle 11 of the UN OCHA guiding principles on internal displacement is very clear on the right of IDPs to be protected from violent acts including rape and other threats to their physical, mental and moral integrity. In addition to the pertinent issues you have raised, the 72 hour window requirement warrants review and amendment as it lacks a scientific basis. In my opinion it is just an additional barrier in seeking justice for the rape victims in Haiti.

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