Haiti is poised to enact major reforms to its penal code to make it easier for victims of rape to prosecute their attackers.
In Haitian refugee camps, women are still crammed under plastic or cloth tarps that provide no security and quickly become overheated by the sun. Sexual abuse, harassment, assault and rape run rampant, even as political responses to these dangers have stalled. But KOFAVIV, a women's organisation founded by and for rape survivors, offers a glimmer of hope.
Eighteen-year-old "Kettlyne", a Haitian orphan living in the rubble-strewn Croix Deprez camp – one of the many remaining tent-cities that houses refugees from the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake – is unable to feed her three-year-old daughter.
Some 14 months after Haiti's earthquake, activists say there is an ongoing epidemic of rape and gender-based violence (GBV) in the country's more than 1,000 squalid displaced persons camps, where nearly a million people are still awaiting permanent housing.
In her remarks last week to the president of the U.N. Security Council on the first anniversary of Haiti's earthquake, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice called for a free and fair election that reflected the views of Haitian voters, applauded the work of the U.N. Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), and declared that the "prospects for rebuilding Haiti depend upon maintaining a secure environment and creating jobs for Haitians".
Up a rubble-strewn street, turn right past a crumbled house, and 60 men and women are in the yard and parlor of the offices of the Commission of Women Victim-to-Victim (Komisyon Fanm Viktim pou Viktim, KOFAVIV) association.
"I'm going to do everything possible to raise my daughter. My daughter is my future. And I can see my future in her," says Mirlene Saint Juste, a rice merchant in the Opoto market of Gonaives in northern Haiti.
United Nations peacekeeping troops responded to a rock-throwing demonstration by university students Monday evening with a barrage of tear gas and rubber bullets in the area around Haiti's National Palace, sending masses of displaced Haitians running out of tent camps into the streets, according to witnesses.