Thank you so much to everyone who voted for MADRE in the Gender Justice Awards! We were nominated for our international advocacy to combat sexual violence in Haiti’s displacement camps. The voting ended last week, and we will let you know when we find out the results.
Our work to end the epidemic of sexual violence in the displacement camps continues. I am in Haiti this week, working with our partners at KOFAVIV to advance this effort. Here is a little background on this campaign and some information about where we go from here.
At the beginning of the year, we announced a landmark decision by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to grant a petition submitted by MADRE and our partners in October 2010. The Commission’s decision set legally binding obligations on the Haitian government to address sexual violence in the camps. We need to make sure that such important decisions don’t remain obscured by legal jargon that makes it hard to understand what all this really means for the women of Haiti.
Here is a Q & A to clarify a few key components about the petition, the Commission’s decision, and its significance:
1. What is the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights?
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is a human rights body dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights within the Americas.
2. What does the Commission do?
Among other responsibilities, part of the Commission’s duties is to analyze and investigate petitions presented to the agency that attest that human rights violations were committed by a State, or that a State failed to act in the prevention of a human rights violation.
3. What is the petition for precautionary measures?
In October 2010, MADRE and a group of attorneys and advocates submitted a petition to the Commission that called on them to require that the government of Haiti and the international community take immediate action to prevent sexual violence in Haiti’s displacement camps. The petition was submitted on behalf of 13 women and girls, but it called urgent attention to the threats facing all women and girls living in the camps. In January 2011, the Commission granted the request! It issued a set of legally binding obligations to the Haitian government to address the epidemic of sexual violence.
The Commission called for these concrete steps:
1. Ensure medical and psychological care to rape survivors;
2. Install lighting and implement effective security measures in 22 displacement camps;
3. Ensure that public officials are trained to respond appropriately to incidents of sexual violence;
4. Create special units within law enforcement to investigate violence against women and girls; and
5. Guarantee access for grassroots women’s groups in planning and policy-making to address sexual violence.
4. What is so significant about the Commission’s decision?
The Commission’s decision obligates the Haitian government and the international community to take seriously the threat of sexual violence against women and to take concrete steps to end this crisis.
The Commission enacted other landmark moves. In past decisions by the Commission, governments were only held responsible for rape committed by state actors, yet the Commission expanded on this precedent. It held the Haitian government responsible for violations committed by private individuals.
Furthermore, while the petition was submitted specifically on behalf of Haitian women and girls living in 22 displacement camps, it also made explicit reference to the severe human rights violations impacting Haitian women and girls in all displacement camps who had experienced or were under threat of sexual violence.
A legal precedent has been set, bolstering the recognition of the right to be free from sexual violence. For communities under siege around the world, this decision has created new possibilities to demand attention and legal protection.
5. What’s next?
Now we need to take the Commission’s decision and use it to build real protections for Haitian women and girls. MADRE is working with our sister organization in Haiti, KOFAVIV, and organization founded by and for rape survivors. Strategizing together, we are working with government representatives and international agencies to create a plan to implement the five steps listed above.
Find out more about KOFAVIV and MADRE’s work in Haiti by clicking here.