Haiti: Carnival gang rapes of under age girls exposed in new Amnesty report

55% of rapes reported so far this year were of girls aged under 18

Rape of girls aged under 18 is pervasive in Haiti, and the government is doing little to protect them – said Amnesty International today, as it launched a new report calling on the authorities to recognise the severity of the problem and to protect girls.

55 per cent of the rapes reported in the first six months of this year were of girls aged under 18 (1). Last year 58 per cent of rapes or sexual violence involved girls aged between 19 months and 18 years (2). Crucially, however, the real scale of sexual assault in Haiti is not fully known because of a lack of central figures, and because victims are reluctant to report.

Amnesty International said that, while widespread reports of groups of armed men raping Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights started under the military regime between 1991 and 1994, it has now become a common practice among gangs of young men, especially in the run up to Carnival each year (February).

Stephanie told Amnesty International researchers about when she was raped during Carnival in February 2007:

“I am not able to go to the police because I am really frightened. The attackers really pressured me not to report them, although I didn’t know them… this is all so humiliating… I had to stay quiet.”

Amnesty International said the police unit in charge of protecting minors, the Minors’ Protection Brigade (Brigade de Protection des Mineurs), is woefully under-staffed. In March 2008, the unit had only 12 officers to cover the entire country with not one vehicle at its disposal. If complaints are investigated, the organisation said, the response of the justice system is weak and largely ineffectual.

Gerardo Ducos, Amnesty International’s Caribbean Researcher, said:

“Sexual violence against girls, and in particular rape, is pervasive in Haiti and can no longer be ignored.

“The Haitian government does not fulfil its obligations to protect girls. Given the lack of official help, it is perhaps not surprising that most of those who rape and attack girls are not brought to justice and are able to continue committing these crimes with no fear of punishment. For many girls, surviving sexual violence means keeping silent.”

Amnesty International has recognised the country’s National Plan to Combat Violence Against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights as a step forward, but the organisation urges the Haitian authorities to implement it effectively and to fulfil their obligations under regional and international human rights law.

Gerardo Ducos continued:

"We recognize that the government faces serious challenges. It is trying to strengthen development, good governance and the rule of law - none of which could be fully achieved without the protection of girls' and Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights's rights.

“Leaders must address the lack of confidence in the police and the justice system so girls can rely on them when they’re seeking help and redress. There must also be a coordinated way to collect information across Haiti to measure the nature and extent of violence against girls and Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and to make these results public in both official languages. The government must not turn its back on the girls of Haiti."

Background

The report, ‘Don’t Turn Your Back on Girls: Sexual violence against girls in Haiti,’ is based on research and interviews carried out during visits to Haiti by Amnesty International researchers in September 2007 and March 2008.

Haiti is one of the few countries in the Americas region which doesn’t have specific legal provisions addressing domestic violence.

1. The Haitian Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights's Solidarity Movement (Solidarity Fanm Ayisyen - SOFA) is one of the few organizations which records the numbers of sexual assaults against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls. Between January and June 2008, they recorded 105 rapes, 58 of which were on girls under 18.

2. In 2007 SOFA documented 238 rapes, of which 140 involved girls aged between 19 months and 18 years; and in 2006 SOFA recorded 155 victims of rape seeking help at one of their 21 centres across the country; 77 of these were girls under the age of 18.

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