Gender-based violence (GBV) is a longstanding problem in Haiti where the risk of violence and sexual exploitation against women and girls is exacerbated by poverty, poor security, and a lack of awareness. As observed elsewhere in post-disaster areas, Haitian women and girls displaced by the 2010 earthquake were even more susceptible to violence. According to the UN and other human rights organizations, Haitian women in displaced persons camps are particularly at risk, but many women and girls throughout the country remain vulnerable.
Reducing GBV and empowering women are critical U.S. Government priorities for promoting Haiti’s long-term economic and democratic development. Effectively addressing GBV calls for a sustained engagement to reduce vulnerability through legislative action, effective law enforcement, community outreach, increased literacy, and economic empowerment. The weakness of the Haitian justice system is a particular challenge to these goals making it difficult for GBV victims to find redress. Fear of reprisals and the social stigma attached to being a victim of sexual violence in Haiti contributes to underreporting and a lack of comprehensive baseline data makes strategic response planning more difficult. To tackle these challenges, the U.S. Government is working with the Government of Haiti, Haitian civil society organizations, including many women-led organizations, and the international community to address these pressing needs.
- Funding preventative security measures. The U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) provided direct support and technical assistance to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs for a campaign against rape. USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives installed over 1,700 solar lights in urban and rural sections of Port-au-Prince, Saint Marc, and the Cap Haitien Corridor of Haiti to help deter crime.
- Building the capacity of the Haitian National Police (HNP). The U.S. Government provides substantial support to professionalize the HNP and expand its ranks. Since 2011, 2,000 new officers have been added to its ranks. In partnership with the New York City Police Department, the U.S. Government works to build the capacity of the HNP Child Protection Unit to combat gender-based and domestic violence against children. The U.S. Government supported a Brazilian-led GBV assessment visit to Haiti as well as a study tour in Brazil for six Haitian police and judiciary officials to share best practices in countering GBV and sexual violence. U.S. police officers assigned to the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) provide mentoring to HNP officers assigned to the HNP Gender Unit and work directly to support victims of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV), and the U.S. Government also supports the training of entry-level HNP officers on sexual and gender-based violence. The American Bar Association’s Rule of Law Initiative, funded by the U.S. Government, provided cross-trainings to police, judges, and prosecutors on handling SGBV cases.
- Calling for increased female representation and leadership within the HNP. The U.S. Government continues to urge the HNP to recruit and retain more women and pursue its goal of having females represent at least ten percent of new HNP officers recruited.
- Protection and prevention programs. The Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons supports law enforcement and social welfare agencies to increase their capacity to identify victims of trafficking and refer them to nongovernmental organizations that provide direct services.
- Reinforcing access to services for survivors of GBV. USAID, through the GHESKIO center, is providing female victims of sexual violence with access to integrated health services; over 3,000 GBV victims have been referred to voluntary counseling and testing for HIV services, reproductive health, and/or psychological support services since 2012.
- Providing training to identify GBV cases. USAID is training Haitian health care providers at 31 facilities on how to identify and manage GBV cases and provide referrals to social and legal services. Since 2012, more than 177,000 people have been sensitized and surveyed on GBV, including 485 staff, over 118,000 patients, and over 58,500 community members living in high-risk areas.
- Supporting legal aid in low-income and marginalized communities. USAID provides free legal aid in partnership with local bar associations in Saint Marc, Cité Soleil, Pétionville, and Martissant.
- Protecting displaced women and girls. The Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons is assisting children in involuntary domestic servitude by supporting community-based social protection networks and specialized shelter services. Programs also work with families to facilitate healthy reintegration and reduce the chances of re-trafficking. Over 1,000 children received direct assistance to include family tracing and reunification and medical, psychosocial, and educational support.
- Improving GBV response, preparedness, and prevention capacity. USAID supported the International Rescue Committee in building the capacity of local organizations in Haiti to prepare and respond to the needs of GBV survivors during emergencies, including training teams to mount an effective response in the first acute days of a crisis by pre-positioning essential supplies and putting clear systems in place to safeguard sensitive data about survivors.
Improving Legislation and Capacity
- Strengthening legal protection for women. Draft legislation on combating human trafficking, which was supported by the U.S. Government, was voted on by the Chamber of Deputies. It is now under review by the Senate. In collaboration with the Women Parliamentary Caucus, USAID also plans to provide support on gender-based violence bills in the 2014 current legislative session.
- Helping local organizations build capacity. USAID provided support to three women’s organizations, including the Commission of Women Victims for Victims (KOFAVIV), to establish a call center that provides public information on resources available to victims of GBV.
- Strengthening the judiciary. In the spring of 2013, the U.S. Government supported training for more than 20 female judges, lawyers, and public notaries on GBV and on trafficking in persons (TIP), which disproportionately affects women and girls in Haiti. This training provided the skills and tools necessary to conduct advocacy campaigns in local jurisdictions for the adoption of anti-TIP legislation. The one-week training was co-sponsored by USAID, the Department of State, and the International Women's Judges Association through its local chapter, Haitian Chapter of the Association of Women Judges.
Creating Economic Opportunity to Address the Root Cause of GBV
- Providing sustainable economic solutions. In FY 2012 and FY 2013, USAID’s agriculture program trained over 2,800 female farmers and certified 547 female master farmers, helping to increase farm yields. Additionally, more than 40 percent of the nearly 13,000 farmers enrolled in the Haiti Hope mango program are women.
- Providing vocational training. From November 2009 to October 2012, nearly 2,000 women received training on leadership, GBV prevention, community health promotion, and sustainable gardening and harvesting; over 45 percent are learning how to manage productive businesses and identify new opportunities.
- Linking women to capital. In FY 2012, USAID’s financial services program assisted over 520,000 women.
- Partnering with communities. U.S. Government partners work with communities to form women’s support groups and develop community-based protection committees to organize local prevention measures such as community watches or patrols.
- Training women mediators in Cité Soleil. In FY 2013, nearly 750 women benefitted from the services offered in USAID-supported legal service centers in the impoverished areas of Cite Soleil and Martissant. These law clinics provide mediation services on domestic violence, family arguments, etc.
- Promoting new social norms. USAID supported communication campaigns, targeting both men and women, during the World Cup and Carnival, to raise awareness of GBV and make resources available to victims and witnesses.
- Supporting an innovative emergency response approach to GBV. USAID is providing technical support to a local organization in Jacmel on GBV prevention and to prepare the organization to prepare for and respond to GBV in emergencies.
- Providing technical support to help promote protection issues. USAID is supporting program planning on protection issues, including GBV, advocacy efforts through the central and local levels of government, and public awareness of gender-based violence, sexual harassment and discrimination.
Last updated: February 10, 2014