VULNERABLE WOMEN AND girls living in temporary camps in Haiti one year one from the earthquake there are facing increased risk of sexual assault.
A new report published today by Amnesty International shows that many women and girls were being raped “by armed men and youth gangs roaming the camps after dark”. The report draws on the experiences of more than 50 females living in makeshift camps in Port-au-Prince, Jacmel and Las Cahobas. Amnesty’s research indicates that hundreds have been sexually assaulted and that the continuing lack of security around and in the camps is facilitating the rise in sexual crimes.
The report details harrowing stories including one from a woman who was raped alongside her 13-year-old daughter. Her husband died in the earthquake. She said:
Four men raped her… She is 13 years old. That happened around 2am, a Tuesday in March… I don’t remember the date… They told me that if I talked about it, they would kill me… They said that if I went to the police, they would shoot me dead… I didn’t take my daughter to the hospital. She was too scared. At Place Mausolee, there is no security at all.
Rape was only made a criminal offence in Haiti in 2005.
The Amnesty report concluded that that while the challenges facing the Haitian government, UN and other humanitarian agencies in Haiti were “unquestionably extreme”, the last six months of 2010 showed that “insufficient steps” are being taken to address gender-based violence in the camps.
Concern Worldwide CEO Tom Arnold told TheJournal.ie that while Irish people had been “phenomenal” in their response and generosity towards the people in Haiti, “the overall aid effort is going slower than we would like”. He said that there are still over one million people living in temporary shelter and the cholera epidemic will escalate dramatically if decisive action is not taken.
The charity has a dedicated Haiti: One Year On section on its website here.
In a separate but equally horrifying case, Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), are reporting that they treated victims of a mass rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo this month. The Irish branch of MSF, based in Dublin, said it had just received word that its teams in the town of Fizi, South Kivu in the DRC treated 33 women after a mass rape took place on New Year’s Day there.
Two of the women were severely wounded; one was beaten about the head with a rock and the other was shot in the chest. Some women were also beaten with the butt of a gun before the attack and some attacked in front of their children.