Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Violence against Women, Trafficking, Prostitution, and Exploitation by UN Peacekeepers [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 including gender-based violence, access to justice, and sexual exploitation by UN peacekeepers.

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

Cliquez ICI pour la version française.

Violence against Women, Trafficking, Prostitution, and Exploitation by UN Peacekeepers

Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, and 8 other groups
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 issues addressed are societal discrimination and widespread sexual violence against women, impunity for perpetrators of gender based violence and sex trafficking, exploitation of prostitution and sexual abuse by peacekeepers. The issues addressed in this report were chosen due to the specific focus and expertise of the organizations that drafted the report. This is not intended to be an exhaustive examination of the situation of women’s rights in Haiti.

2. Following Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010, a number of Haitian grassroots women’s organizations mobilized to support women and girls who have long suffered from cultural and political violence as well as the effects of extreme poverty, all of which was exacerbated by the earthquake damage. Groups like Fanm Viktim Leve Kanpe (FAVILEK) (Women Get Up Stand Up), Komisyon Fanm Viktim pou Viktim (KOFAVIV) (Commission of Women Victims for Women) and Kodinasyon Nasyonal Mawon Viktim Direk (KONAMAVID) (National Coordination of Direct Victims in Hiding) not only played an important role in helping earthquake victims, but also raised awareness of cultural and legal changes necessary to improve the lives of Haitian women and girls in the longer term.

3. The combined efforts of women’s groups, along with the legal community, are changing the legal system. Since 2010, the police have become more receptive to women’s complaints of sexual assault, and the courts are convicting record numbers of sexual assault offenders with prison sentences of 10 years to life. Moreover, support groups organized during these tragedies formed the basis of a women’s movement that demands legal accountability and continues to thrive.

4. The Government of Haiti (“Government”) has made some advances to combat discrimination, exploitation and violence against women and girls, but these efforts fall short of meeting their obligations under CEDAW. For example, under the leadership of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, a revised Penal Code and Violence Against Women law has been drafted, but neither has been finalized or submitted to Parliament. Similarly, while the courts are convicting record numbers of sexual assault cases, women victims still face poor treatment by police and the courts, and domestic violence is largely unprosecuted. Women and girls remain vulnerable to sex trafficking, exploitation of prostitution, and sexual abuse by UN peacekeeping soldiers, with virtually no assistance from the Government; no social services, law enforcement protection or legal remedies. As a result, victims distrust, and in some cases, have given up on the Government, and rely on whatever help their family and communities can provide.

5. Overarching recommendations that the Government should take into account in order to combat discrimination and violence against women include consulting with and providing organizational and financial support to women’s groups, implementing awareness raising and educational measures on women’s rights and increasing transparency and disseminating information about current governmental interventions and mechanisms available to women.

6. This report also recommends more concrete measures to address the problems of gender discrimination and gender-based violence. Adequate and effective measures must be taken to end the pervasive societal discrimination against women, for example, inserting gender equality education into school’s curricula, removing the stereotyping of women in school books, and inviting women’s groups to hold gender sensitivity training seminars in Parliament.

7. The Haitian justice system must be strengthened to remove the current impunity for perpetrators of gender-based violence, including domestic violence. This should be done through ensuring the gender equality of Haitian legislation, improving access to justice for women, taking measures to combat the discriminatory attitudes of law enforcement and judicial officials, and eliminating the de facto requirement of a medical certificate to initiate criminal proceedings for rape.

8. The legal protections for victims of trafficking and exploitation of prostitution should be clarified and existing protections should be enforced. The Government should also take effective measures to combat sexual exploitation by United Nations (UN) staff and peacekeepers.

9. Lastly, comprehensive baseline data on gender-based violence should be collected to facilitate effective targeted response planning through a national information gathering system.

Click HERE for the full report.

Cliquez ICI pour la version française.

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