Rape in Haitis camps

 

It never rains, but it pours like hell. That must be the prevalent feeling in Haiti’s camps as the first-year anniversary of 2010’s devastating earthquake approaches. 

Oxfam released a report today blaming ‘dithering and aid confusion’ from governments and aid agencies for the poor progress in recovery efforts and huge-scale suffering, which persists in Haiti’s camps.  

The cholera outbreak has compounded the misery already claiming at least a further 2,500 lives. Rioting over last month’s contested first-round election results took place against this backdrop of disease, overcrowding and despair.

Amnesty published its own report today. As the Guardian succinctly puts it “To a litany of woes – unemployment, cholera, extreme poverty – an Amnesty International report today adds sexual violence. Armed men prey with impunity on girls and women in displacement camps, worsening the trauma of having lost homes, livelihoods and loved ones, says the report.”

In a report published last year, in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, Amnesty made reference to Haiti’s woefully inadequate judicial system and warned that prisoners had escaped from penitentiaries during the chaos of the disaster. Amnesty expressed concern that all of these factors could make for a perfect storm of vulnerable women and children, a breakdown in societal norms and checks, convicted criminals at large and the absence of the fear of reprisals.

A year on, and these fears have unfortunately been realised. A rape is reported at least every other day in Haiti’s camps. And those are just the official figures.

One woman, Suzie, recounted how she was living in a makeshift shelter with her two sons and a friend when they were attacked around 1am on 8 May.  She and her friend were blindfolded and raped in front of their children by a gang of men who forced their way into their shelter. Suzie told Amnesty:

“After they left I didn’t do anything. I didn’t have any reaction… Women victims of rape should go to hospital but I didn’t because I didn’t have any money… I don’t know where there is a clinic offering treatment for victims of violence.”

Suzie lost her parents, brothers and husband in the January earthquake. Her home was also destroyed. It is hard to imagine such a bleak world in which the horror of rape is just the latest in a list of heartbreaking sufferings.

Amnesty is calling for the new Haitian government to take urgent steps to end violence against women as part of a wider plan to address the humanitarian effort. Amnesty’s report insists that women in the camps must be fully involved in developing any such plan. Immediate steps should include improving security in the camps and ensuring that police are able to respond effectively and that those responsible are prosecuted. 

Read the full report here

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