Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Haiti: The fight against rape

Source: Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH); MADRE (Madre)

More than six months after Port-au-Prince was leveled by the January 12 earthquake, hundreds of thousands of displaced women and girls live in fear of rape in tent cities that lack lighting, privacy and security. Today, the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) along with partners MADRE, TransAfrica Forum, and the law schools of the University of Minnesota and the University of Virginia released "Our Bodies are Still Trembling: Haitian Women's Fight Against Rape," the first report of its kind to focus exclusively on the crisis of violence against Haitian women and girls that has emerged in the aftermath of the earthquake. The report is the product of a fact-finding delegation to Haiti in May coordinated by IJDH's Lawyers' Earthquake Response Network (LERN).

Blaine Bookey, Esq., staff attorney with IJDH and coordinator of the LERN delegation on rape and gender-based violence, returned to Haiti this week to continue advocacy efforts for Haitian women's right to live free from violence. Bookey is working in close collaboration with women's grassroots groups, and continues to conduct fact-finding interviews and gather evidence in preparation for filing litigation on behalf of assault victims. She said today, "The findings presented in this report illustrate the crisis of rapes in the camps and the failure of the government of Haiti, the United Nations, and others in the international community to adequately address the problem. The report aims to help these groups implement a more effective response so that these crimes against women will not go unpunished."

The report released today contains the most detailed and up-to-date information available on the issue of gender-based violence in Haiti, and concrete recommendations for an improved response to the crisis. It tracks the high incidence and prevalence of rape in the camps, the lack of an adequate government or international response, and the courageous work done by grassroots women's groups to address these threats. The findings from this report will be presented to to Haitian government officials, the United Nations and other humanitarian actors, and to donor states including members of U.S. Congress.

Lisa Davis, Human Rights Advocacy Director at IJDH's partner organization MADRE, said today, "Our partners in Haiti have been tirelessly working, not only to provide urgent care for women who have been raped in the camps, but to forcefully demand that addressing this threat be a priority in disaster response policies. Together, our international human rights advocacy has kept this issue from being swept away and ignored."

The Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) fights for human rights and justice in Haiti and for fair treatment of Haitians in the U.S.

MADRE works to advance women's human rights by meeting immediate needs and building lasting solutions for communities in crisis.