U.S. Department of State

Fast Facts on the U.S. Government's Work in Haiti: Gender-based Violence

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Fact Sheet
Office of the Haiti Special Coordinator
November 26, 2012

Addressing Challenges

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a chronic problem in Haiti. The risk of violence and sexual exploitation against women and girls, exacerbated by political instability and the economic crises, likely increased following the earthquake. The United Nations and human rights organizations reported increased incidence of rape in the months immediately after the earthquake; women and girls who continue to live in precarious conditions are particularly vulnerable.

Promoting women’s empowerment and reducing GBV are critical to Haiti’s development; and combating GBV is a priority for the U.S. Government (USG). Effectively addressing GBV requires immediate action to improve security and support survivors as well as sustained engagement to reduce vulnerability through legislative action, community outreach, and economic empowerment. The weakness of the Haitian justice system makes it difficult for GBV survivors to find redress; the fear of reprisals and social stigma attached to being a victim of sexual violence contributes to underreporting; and a lack of comprehensive baseline data makes strategic response planning more difficult. To tackle these challenges, the USG is working with the Government of Haiti (GOH), Haitian civil society (including many women-led organizations), and the international community to address pressing needs as well as provide support for long-term GBV prevention.

Improving Security

Immediately after the earthquake, the USG acted quickly to improve security for the most vulnerable populations, including women and girls, to minimize the risks for harm, exploitation, and abuse.

Supporting Survivors

USG programs strive to facilitate GBV survivors’ access to relevant services and community-based support.

On July 22, 2011, an important precedent was set when a man from St. Marc was sentenced to 20 years hard labor for beating his wife. USAID’s partner, Federation des Femmes du Bas Artibonite, referred the victim to a local hospital, provided legal assistance to enable the Prosecutor’s Office to issue an arrest warrant, helped to locate the individual accused of the crime, and encouraged the continued investigation and follow up of the case so that it would be brought to trial. This was the first successful prosecution of domestic violence in the commune of St. Marc.

Improving Legislation and Capacity

The USG provided technical assistance to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs to enable them to draft and introduce bills in Parliament to protect women’s rights. Additionally, a new, five-year program will work at the national level to strengthen the legislative framework and build the capacity of GOH institutions, including the Ministries of Women’s and Social Affairs, Office of Citizen Protection, Minor’s Protection Brigade of the Haitian National Police, and the Institute of Social Welfare and Research (IBERS) to prevent and respond to abuse.

Creating Economic Opportunity

The stresses of poverty can cause deep frustration and contribute to violence. USAID is working to provide Haitians with job opportunities, vocational training, and access to financing for micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises.

Raising Awareness

The USG has played a leading role in raising awareness of GBV and its destructive effects within communities.

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