Pascaline* is a 21-year-old. Since the earthquake, she has been living in a makeshift camp in Port-au-Prince, just one of the 1,300 camps where more than a million displaced people struggle to survive.
One night, Pascaline was alone in her tent, when a man entered. He raped and beat her. Neighbours failed to intervene, they say because they believed she was with her partner.
After the abuse, Pascaline received medical assistance and managed to lodge a complaint with the police. However, the police did not conduct a thorough investigation, and this lack of responsiveness allows the perpetrator to remain free. Since the violence took place, Pascaline has seen him several times in the camp and she is afraid that he might kill her if he finds out she reported the crime.
Pascaline is not the only woman in this terrible situation. Amnesty International has documented other cases of sexual violence within the camps where people displaced by the earthquake live.
Celine*, an 8-year-old girl, was raped while alone in her tent. Her mother had left the camp to go to work, having no one to look after Celine during her absence.
Fifteen-year-old Fabienne* was raped when she left the camp to urinate, as there were no latrines within the camp. Fabienne’s mother reported the rape to a member of the local administrative authority, who did not give her any information or advice.
Carline*, 21, was raped by three men when she went to urinate in a remote area of the camp, as the latrines were too dirty to be used.
Many more cases of sexual violence against Haitian women and girls go unreported. Indeed, women and girls are too afraid to lodge formal complaints with the police, either because the perpetrators live in the same camp or in the nearby area, or because they have no other place to go.
Not trusting the police to protect them, they prefer to keep quiet for fear of revenge. In addition, women and girls living in camps lack minimal information regarding availability of services responding to sexual violence. As a result, perpetrators go unpunished, while victims remain unprotected.
Amnesty International is concerned at the almost total absence of police officers in the camps. This lack of preventative and protective measures, coupled with the promiscuity and lack of adequate lighting and sanitary facilities in many of the camps, increases the vulnerability of women and girls.
The Haitian authorities have recognized that the response so far has been insufficient and that, notwithstanding the limited capacity of the police forces under the current situation, more needs to be urgently done. However, they have not taken adequate measures to protect the rights of women and girls.
Amnesty International is urging the authorities to heed the call from one of the victims of sexual violence: “You need to protect the girls, because I don’t want anybody to suffer what I have been going through”.
* not her real name
Image: A girl walks in Penchinat camp, a makeshift camp for people displaced by the recent earthquake, Jacmel, Haiti Copyright: Amnesty International