Haiti: Sexual violence against women increasing

January 2011 Amnesty report cover.jpg

In a new report released today, Amnesty International has found that women and girls living in Haiti’s makeshift camps face an increasing risk of rape and sexual violence. Those responsible are reported to be predominately armed men who roam the camps after dark.

The 38-page document, Aftershocks: Women speak out against sexual violence in Haiti’s camps, published nearly a year after the earthquake, found that more than 250 cases of rape in several of the makeshift camps were reported in the first 150 days after the earthquake and rape survivors continue to arrive at the office of a local women’s support group almost every other day.

“Women, already struggling to come to terms with losing their loved ones, homes and livelihoods in the earthquake, now face the additional trauma of living under the constant threat of sexual attack,” said Gerardo Ducos, Amnesty International’s Haiti researcher.

“For the prevalence of sexual violence to end, the incoming government must ensure that the protection of women and girls in the camps is a priority. This has so far been largely ignored in the response to the wider humanitarian crisis.”

Amnesty reports that, although sexual violence was widespread in Haiti before January 2010, it has been exacerbated by the conditions since the earthquake. The limited assistance the authorities previously provided has been undermined by the destruction of police stations and court houses. This has made it more difficult to report sexual violence. The response by police officers to survivors of rape is described as inadequate. Many survivors of rape have said that when they sought police help they were told officers could do nothing.

Amnesty is calling for the new Haitian government to urgently take 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, the report says.

Over 50 survivors of sexual violence shared their experiences with Amnesty International for the study, a PDF copy of which can be downloaded directly from here.