Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Gender Issues Facing Women and Girls [Report]

Below is a human rights report for the 63rd Session of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The report, incorporating views by prominent Haitian women’s rights activists and input from BAI lawyers, presents a rare opportunity to bring forward these viewpoints and voices of Haitian civil society before the CEDAW committee, which will review Haiti in Geneva on February 25. The report covers issues of low representation of women in political life, sexual harassment and other derogatory treatment in work, the disproportionate impact of cholera on women, and problems facing rural women.

Part of the report is below. Click HERE for the full text.

Gender Issues Facing Women and Girls

Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, Gender Action, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, Li, Li, Li! Read
January 22, 2016


1. This report considers and informs on the real situation of women’s rights under the Convention of the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) focusing on particular issues in Haiti. The report addresses the following issues: low representation of women in political life, including the 2015 elections (Article 7); sexual harassment and other derogatory treatment in work (Article 11); the disproportionate impact of cholera on women (Article 12); and problems facing rural women (Article 14).

2. The Government of Haiti’s (Government) responses and measures to address these issues have been examined. In some areas, measures the Government has taken represent progress and are welcome, such as female literacy interventions and a 2012 constitutional amendment that mandated that 30 percent of elected offices be held by women. But in general, the Government’s efforts fall short of meeting their obligations under CEDAW.

3. The Government’s lack of advancement of women’s rights is a result of a combination of cultural and political factors, among others. Culturally, Haiti, like most countries, has a long history of patriarchy and discrimination against women in the home, in government, at work, and in the courts. Haitian society retains a strong patriarchal structure handed down from the slave era, reinforced by conservative Christianity and rural traditions. As a result, Haitian women continue to have a disadvantaged and unequal position compared to men in the economic, education, health, justice, labor, and decisionmaking sectors.1

4. Long-overdue elections and political instability has hindered the capacity and the will of the Government to form and enact long-term policies to advance human rights. A series of unconstitutional electoral councils appointed by President Michel Martelly delayed 2011 and 2013 midterm elections, leaving a senate in 2012 with only two-thirds of its seats. The situation deteriorated in January 2015, when all but 10 of the remaining legislators’ terms expired, leaving Parliament inoperable. 2 These vacancies allowed the Executive Branch to govern with minimal to no legislative oversight for most of President Martelly’s term. Law and order and enforcement of civil liberties and human rights were all but ignored in 2015, as August and October elections took the center stage.

5. The political situation in Haiti remains critical. Haitians have taken to the streets in recent months to demand an independent review of allegations of widespread fraud in the August and October 2015 legislative and presidential elections. As a result, the presidential run-off elections scheduled for December 2015 were postponed. As of the submission of this report, run-off elections (postponed since December 2015) are scheduled for January 24, but the opposition candidate refuses to participate and demands that the Government postpone the elections until March 2016 to give the country time to plan free and fair elections. 3

6. This political instability does not excuse the Government’s duty under CEDAW to advance the rights of women and girls. Haitians are hopeful that the crisis will be resolved in the next few years, and that new leadership with take office in 2016 through free and fair elections. Unfortunately women will be severely underrepresented in the new government. Elections results so far indicate that Haiti faces a term with no female senators and only four percent women in the Chamber of Deputies.

Click HERE for the full report.

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