Yesterday, I wrote about an international legal petition, submitted by MADRE and other human rights organizations, to protect women living in the displacement camps in Haiti. The petition, submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, seeks for the Commission to demand urgent measures (known as “precautionary measures”) from the Haitian government and other institutions operating in Haiti. These measures would include installing lighting and increasing security.
The world of international law can often seem far removed from the realities that women are facing in the camps. Efforts like this petition work to bridge that divide. Such efforts take the stories of horrific abuses, of women and girls profoundly traumatized, of glaring police indifference, of the overt stigma faced by rape survivors , of the lack of security and of the climate of impunity–and they bring them into spaces in which we can demand accountability and action.
This petition was brought about on behalf of thirteen Haitian women and girls, known in the legal text as “Petitioners.”
Below, I’ve shared excerpts from the petition (emphasis added):
The Haitian government has not adequately protected the human rights of women in the IDP camps. Little or no safety or protection has been provided for women and girls living in tents and under tarps in IDP camps, leaving women and girls at great risk of rape and sexual abuse. To the contrary, conditions in the camps have led to even greater insecurity and risk of sexual violence. Petitioners have experienced rape and attempted rape, severe beatings, and repeated threats to their lives in retaliation for reporting the rapes or helping other victims at the hands of private and public actors. Many women report that they have been raped on multiple occasions since the earthquake. The government has no comprehensive plan for permanent or transitional housing for the 1.5 million residents of the over 2,000 IDP camps; there is no end in sight for the dangerous conditions in which the Petitioners live.
Haitian grassroots women’s groups have begun creating their own security, including organizing groups of trusted men to take shifts patrolling in some camps, including accompanying women walking to and from portable toilets, particularly at night. However, Haitian women leaders and human rights defenders living and working in the IDP camps have experienced retaliation, fear, and death threats as a result of their efforts and sexual violence persists at alarming rates.
The government of Haiti must take preventative measures to reduce the incidents of rape and sexual assault faced by women and girls living in the IDP camps. Rape survivors interviewed have noted the following issues, which require urgent attention: lack of lighting; lack private bathing facilities; lack of tents or any other secure living facilities; and lack of policing.
The petition also contains first-person accounts from women who have faced sexual violence since the earthquake. To read a redacted version of the petition, with names and personal information obscured, click here.