NEW YORK, NY - Fourteen -year-old, Machou lives in a makeshift camp for displaced people in Carrefour Feuilles, south-west Port-au-Prince. She was raped in March when she went to the toilet.
Amnesty International officials on Thursday said in a new report that displaced female survivors of the Haiti earthquake remain the main victims almost one year after the devastating disaster of Jan. 12, 2010, that claimed over 230,000 lives and left 1.5 million homeless.
Women and girls living in Haiti`s tent cities increasingly have remained at risk of rape and sexual violence, AI Said in a report titled, `Aftershocks: Women speak out against sexual violence in Haiti`s camps.`Over 50 survivors of sexual violence shared their experiences with Amnesty International for the study.
As Machou told Amnesty International: `A boy came in after me and opened the door. He gagged me with his hand and did what he wanted to do…He hit me. He punched me. I didn`t go to the police because I don`t know the boy, it wouldn`t help. I feel really sad all the time…I`m afraid it will happen again.`
Suzie, a woman, recounted how she was living in a makeshift shelter with her two sons and a friend when they were attacked around 1a.m. on May 8th. Suzie and her friend were both blindfolded and raped in front of their children by a gang of men who forced their way into their shelter.
`After they left I didn`t do anything. I didn`t have any reaction…Women victims of rape should go to hospital but I didn`t because I didn`t have any money… I don`t know where there is a clinic offering treatment for victims of violence,` Suzie, lost her home, parents, brothers and husband in the January earthquake said.
`In our camp we cannot live in peace; at night we cannot go out. There is gunfire all the time and
things are set alight… Where I live, I am afraid. We don`t have a good life; it is not a good area…
We are afraid. We can be raped at any moment… We are forced to live in misery,` Dina, another rape survivor said.
`My daughter was raped and so I sent her to the provinces [outside Port-au-Prince]. 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…,` said Guerline. That`s why I didn`t go to the police. I`m scared. They threatened me…There is nowhere safe where I can live so I had to keep quiet… I didn`t take my daughter to the hospital. She was too scared. I sent her to another town where some relatives live… Ever since, I`ve been unable to get this out of my head… At Place Mausolée, there is no security at all. I am already a victim but I don`t know where to go… There is no place for me to go.`
Myriam had just turned 11 when she was raped. Since January, after her mother went missing in the
earthquake, she has been living with an aunt in a flimsy shelter made of sheets in an informal camp in Champ-de-Mars. Myriam has never been to school and her aunt does not have the money to pay for her education.
More than 250 cases of rape in several camps were reported in the first 150 days after the January 12, 2010 earthquake, according to data cited in the Amnesty International report. Almost one year later, rape survivors continue to arrive at the office of a local women`s support group almost every other day, AI said. Those responsible are predominately armed men who roam the camps after dark.
`Women, already struggling to come to terms with losing their loved ones, homes and livelihoods in the earthquake, now face the additional trauma of living under the constant threat of sexual attack,` said Gerardo Ducos, Amnesty International`s Haiti researcher.
`For the prevalence of sexual violence to end, the incoming government must ensure that the protection of women and girls in the camps is a priority. This has so far been largely ignored in the response to the wider humanitarian crisis.`
Sexual violence was widespread in Haiti before January 2010 but this has been exacerbated by the conditions since the earthquake, AI said.
Amnesty International is calling for the new government to urgently take steps to end violence against women as part of a wider plan to address the humanitarian effort. The report states that women in the camps must be fully involved in developing any such plan. Immediate recommendations include improving security in the camps and to ensure police are able to respond effectively and that those responsible are prosecuted.