Coming to Haiti after 7 years of being away, I see many more UN vehicles, UN compounds, and UN workers with their big guns standing on their UN trucks.
Unfortunately they aren’t received very well here, and one of the reasons is that it is commonly known that UN workers rape the women here.
UNITED NATIONS – U.S./U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice says she is “disturbed” for a whole range of reasons after a recent visit to Haiti, including allegations of a number rapes by U.N. workers of the women in Haiti. http://www.wnd.com/2012/03/u-s-disturbed-by-allegations-of-rape-epidemic-in-haiti//
A while ago, there were huge protests against the UN here because a UN worker raped a Haitian boy. What is interesting is that although rape among women and UN workers happens, it doesn’t cause any protests.
Because here in Haiti, there is a big difference between the rights of women, and the rights of men.
Just as there was a news story recently that shook the world about a 14 year old girl who was raped in Morocco, and then was forced to marry her rapist, and committed suicide, this happens here in Haiti as well.
Women who are raped are seen by their families as ‘wasted’ and can no longer be married off. If there are children that come from this violence, sometimes the women must marry the men who raped them.
I wouldn’t say that such sexual violence against women is normal here, but it is certainly not uncommon.
The perception that women are of lesser value than men does not help. If, for example, a family has sons and daughters, they will send their sons off to school if they must chose between the two because they can’t afford to send both. They feel that a women’s place is more at home, in the house.
Polygamy here in Haiti is rather common, with men taking on several women. However, if a women were to do this, it would be seen as outrageous and disgusting.
There are efforts being made to stop sexual violence against women in Haiti. About ten years ago, a law was enacted that made it illegal. However. The law, though on the books, is not enforced. The judicial system can be extremely corrupt and bribery can determine the outcome of a complaint, no matter what the crime is. I have heard that if a person knows someone who works with the police, then that person can even get a complainant against him – someone who went to the police seeking justice — killed.
Beyond Borders is trying to improve women’s rights in Haiti by providing a program that teaches non-violent communication and encourages conversations on improving everyone’s awareness of women’s rights. I will be visiting this program in a few days to observe it in action.