Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti; Digital Democracy; Human Rights Clinic at University of Minnesota Law School; MADRE; New-Media Advocacy Project; Partners in Health; University of Virginia School of Law Human Rights Program
“The way you saw the earth shake, that's how our bodies are shaking now” described one woman of a secondary humanitarian crisis facing the women and girls of Haiti.
As Haiti’s earthquake toppled buildings, it also toppled social structures that provided Haitian women some protection against sexual violence. Rape was widespread before January 12, but the hundreds of thousands of women now living on the streets or in camps, often without their family and neighborhood networks, are more vulnerable than ever. As of March 21, grassroots outreach workers had tracked 230 cases of rape in 15 camps, over 15 incidents per camp, in a partial survey. There has been no comprehensive survey and, sadly, UNIFEM’s database for collecting data on sexual violence was destroyed in the earthquake. But, with over 500 camps in Port-au-Prince alone, it is clear that sexual violence is widespread.
There have been some efforts by Haitian officials and the international community to provide protection and post-rape services, but these efforts have fallen short. This is unacceptable. Numerous international standards and guidelines warn of heightened levels of gender-based violence in the wake of disaster and provide recommendations for ensuring women’s safety, care and legal recourse. Contrary to the recommendations, Haitian women have been systematically excluded or underrepresented in earthquake response decisions. Women’s repeated requests for inclusion in the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) process and the UN Donor meetings on March 31 went unanswered. By leaving Haitian women themselves out of the discussion, so too were their needs.
On her visit to Haiti last weekend, UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha Rose Migiro listened to women’s fears of being sexually assaulted or beaten. She also noted the critical conditions people are living in (see a video on conditions in the camps and sign a petition demanding improved aid distribution). The UN Independent Expert on Human Rights in Haiti, Michel Forst is in Haiti this week where he too will reportedly listen to women and other at risk populations.
The UN has taken the first step by listening to women. Action must follow. To call on the UN, and more specifically the Security Council, MINUSTAH, UN Member states and the Government of Haiti, to take the next step, sign the petition below.
(for footnoted version go here - http://ijdh.org/archives/11546)