Displaced Haitian women fight back to regain basic human rights
Women living in shantytowns after massive earthquake deal with rape, deprivation
Women on the island nation of Haiti have always struggled for equality
and justice, but with countless thousands displaced by the devastating
earthquake, that fight has become even harder. Living in shantytowns,
quickly constructed villages made out of wood, tarp and no running water
or electricity, many Haitian women, along with their young daughters
face the nightly possibilities of rape and other sexual abuse.
After the earthquake, the occurrence of violent crimes against Haitian women has dramatically increased. Human Rights Watch has released a report which details how the rights to health and security for women remain out of reach.
The enormity of the problem Haitian women face has a very human face. "We want to leave, but we can't go anywhere, so we live here under God's protection," says one survivor, who lived in an apartment that collapsed in the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake and like 300,000 other women, remains displaced. "I don't feel safe here."
After the earthquake, the occurrence of violent crimes against women has dramatically increased. Human Rights Watch has released a report which details how the rights to health and security for women remain out of reach. Women's advocates say that hunger and poverty have fueled the problem, along with more women relying on men to provide.
Women have formed groups to battle the ongoing problem. One such group, Kofaviv is a volunteer neighborhood watch group of tent city inhabitants. Armed with flashlights and whistles, 25 men and two women patrol the tents searching for wanted criminals. In the past two months, they say they've captured two men, one accused of rape and the other of domestic violence - but they fled after police released them,
The Ministry of Women's Affairs has also galvanized women's rights organizations around the nation to push for the passage of an anti-violence bill that penalizes assailants who perpetrate violence against women, from beatings to rape, as well as public safety officials who do not enforce the law.
"We need to change our mentalities," Haitian Senator Steven Benoit says. Benoit has supported the anti-violence bill and NGO work teaching public officials not to perpetrate violence.
Poor transportation, lack of information, and unaffordable care suffered by Haitian women has all played a role in the current desperate state of affairs.
Haiti lags noticeably behind many other nations when it comes to addressing the needs of women. An earlier bill to hold men legally accountable for financially supporting their children caused a public uproar in churches and among some politicians who questioned its purpose and intent, says Marjory Michel, minister of Women's Affairs. Women currently just hold just five of the 99 seats in the Haitian parliament.
In the meantime, UNICEF has funded educational and training programs to empower women since the earthquake. Young students also participate in a UNICEF-sponsored education program with the ministry where they take notes on the conditions and occurrences of violence in tent cities.
© 2011, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Haiti, women, girls, rape, abuse, human rights
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