N° 30/09




Washington, D.C., May 18, 2009 – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) releases today its report: “The Right of Women in Haiti to be Free from Violence and Discrimination.”


The political, economic and social features of Haiti negatively affect most Haitians, but Haitian women experience additional barriers to the full enjoyment of their basic rights due to predominant social beliefs that they are inferior to men and a historical pattern of discrimination and violence against them based on their sex. Discrimination against women is a structural feature in Haitian society and culture that has subsisted throughout its history, both in times of peace and unrest.


Haitian women still bear the burden of inequalities in the protection of their civil, political, economic and social rights as compared to their male counterparts, including greater exposure to human rights violations and discriminatory acts, the absence of their specific needs from the public agenda, limited opportunities to contribute and participate in the economic and social development of their societies, dire levels of poverty and brutal acts of violence.


“The rate of violence against women and girls, in all its forms, has notably and steadily increased during the past three years, exacerbated by the rise of poverty across the country, the wealth gap, the proliferation of arms, the prevalence of violent crime, the lack of adequate crime prevention measures, and the absence of effective accountability mechanisms in the country”, the study says. Women victims of violence are disinclined to turn to the justice system due to the lack of confidence of victims and their families in the ability of the justice system to do justice, and to the mistreatment they often receive when attempting to avail themselves of judicial remedies.


In addition to the connection with acts of violence, discrimination has resulted in women having a disadvantaged position in the economic, education, health, justice, labor and decision-making sectors.  The IACHR considers that the problem of discrimination against women has to be dealt with through a multi-disciplinary and inter-sectoral approach, which seeks to integrate gender equality norms in all sectors of government.


In the current context of the country, the Commission is encouraged by the demonstrated good will and commitment of the Ministry of Women in developing an action plan to eradicate discrimination and violence against women in Haiti and its efforts to involve a number of sectors in the implementation of said plan. Additional measures are necessary to adequately respond to the problem, particularly in the justice, police and health sectors, and adequate resources should be allocated to provide the medical and legal services required by victims. It is also urgent to adopt measures to eradicate discriminatory socio-cultural patterns based on the concept that women are inferior.


The report was produced on the basis of the information gathered during the visits to Haiti in 2004, 2006 and in 2007, among other sources. The Commission thanks the Governments of France and Finland for their financial support, which made possible those visits, as well as the preparation and publication of this report.


A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has the mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who act in a personal capacity, without representing a particular country, and who are elected by the OAS General Assembly.



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