Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

TALKING EUROPE

José Bové, Candidate for the EU Commission presidency, Group of the Greens

Read more

WEB NEWS

NYPD's online campaign backfires

Read more

ENCORE!

Celebrating the Bard's birthday in Britain

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Yuki Tatsumi, Senior Associate of the East Asia Program, Stimson Center

Read more

INSIDE THE AMERICAS

USA: Executions halted over drugs secrecy

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

An overly optimistic plan?

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

#NYPD Fail

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Soaring iPhone sales in China boost Apple earnings

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Tutu cautions ANC: South African peace laureate criticises ruling party

Read more

  • Ukraine troops launch assault on rebel stronghold, take checkpoint

    Read more

  • Afghan guard kills US doctors in Kabul hospital attack

    Read more

  • Platini: PSG in danger over Financial Fair Play rules

    Read more

  • Ségolène Royal denies banning cleavage at French ministry

    Read more

  • Palestinian unity deal stirs anger in Israel

    Read more

  • Video: Mayor in east Ukraine ready ‘to turn Slaviansk into battlefield’

    Read more

  • US would defend Japan in islands dispute, Obama says

    Read more

  • New far-right mayor moves to quash Paris region mosque

    Read more

  • US soldiers arrive in Poland as Ukraine crisis continues

    Read more

  • Fatah, Hamas agree to form Palestinian unity government

    Read more

  • Millions of Syrians desperately need aid, says UN

    Read more

  • Muslims in CAR pray for an escape route

    Read more

  • Madrid beat Bayern 1-0 in first leg of Champions League semis

    Read more

  • Britain's ex-PM Blair warns against spread of radical Islam

    Read more

  • Turkish PM offers condolences to descendants of Armenians killed in 1915

    Read more

  • Gay marriage, one year on: ‘French civilisation did not crumble’

    Read more

  • Colombian president reinstates firebrand Bogota mayor

    Read more

  • NYPD public relations campaign on Twitter goes awry

    Read more

  • In pictures: Violent protests erupt in Rio

    Read more

Americas

One year after quake, fear of rape reigns in Haiti’s refugee camps

©

Text by Gaëlle LE ROUX

Latest update : 2011-01-12

Women and young girls live in constant fear in Haiti’s squalid refugee camps where hundreds of them have fallen victim to rape. In most cases, the perpetrators walk away scot-free.

Life is dreadful for women and young girls living in Haiti’s sprawling refugee camps, which are home to at least two million earthquake survivors.

“The situation in the camps is really bad. Sexual assaults are a daily occurrence,” says Yolande Bazelais, vice president of FAVILEK (Fanm victim levé kanpé, or Rape Victims, Rise to Take Action), an aid organisation for rape victims. Founded in 1994, the association has 850 members in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince.

In Haiti, rape has often been used as a tool of political repression. It was only in 2005 that rape was declared a criminal offence. But the situation for women became unbearable after the devastating quake on January 12, 2010. At least 250 cases of sexual aggression were reported within the five months after the earthquake, but most activists believe that the actual number of victims is significantly higher.
 
Dark, jittery nights
 
Anxiety sets in as soon as darkness descends upon the camps. Lack of security in the obscure dimly lit camps and the freedom perpetrators enjoy makes life a nightmare for more than half a million women and young girls living there.
 
At night, armed men rip open tents with their knives, rape women, beat them and take away whatever few belongings they possess. Victims often come under attack at water spouts and toilets, which are located at a distance from the camps or in the isolated narrow corridors between the tents.
 
Last week, 21-year-old Barbara was attacked in broad daylight in a cemetery. “I was forced to enter the cemetery and I fell unconscious […] when I regained consciousness, I was naked,” she recounted. “There were two men. They told me they molested me because they had to make a sacrifice to the devil (a Voodoo ritual),” Barbara explained in a barely audible voice.
 
FAVILEK aid workers rushed Barbara to the hospital for medical examination. Barbara will be spending a few days at the FAVILEK centre. “It’s important that she talks about her experience and meets other women who went through a similar ordeal. She needs to realise that she isn’t a lone victim,” says Yolande, also a rape victim. She was molested by a group of military soldiers “on 07 May 2003” – a date etched in her memory forever.
 
Assailants walk away scot-free
 
Yolande’s assailants didn’t face a single trial. Nor will Barbara’s. The latter could not identify her attackers and she will not file a case with the police like in most rape cases. “When the country’s judicial system is not functioning, the police are inefficient to the point that it does not even register complaints related to sexual aggression, it is discouraging for women who want to take action against criminals,” explains Gerardo Ducos, a researcher for Amnesty International.
 
In most cases, victims who try to take legal action face a deadly backlash.  “A mother and her daughter were killed after they filed a complaint against the assailants,” says Marie-Esther Félix, a lawyer working closely with FAVILEK. In the past six months, she has managed to send only five perpetrators to prison. In 2005, rape was made a criminal offence with a minimum 10 years in prison. However, none of the five men will spend more than five years behind bars. “The judges, mostly men, lack information about this law,” explains Gerardo.
 
In the months ahead, some victims may see their attackers go to prison, but many more will continue to suffer their ordeals in silence.

 

Date created : 2011-01-12

  • HAITI

    Sexual violence 'still rising' in Haiti quake camps

    Read more

  • SPECIAL REPORT

    One year on, Haiti lingers between survival and hope

    Read more

  • HAITI

    One year after devastating quake, Haiti mourns the dead

    Read more

Comments

COMMENT(S)