No official government statistics are available on the prevalence of violence against women and girls in Haiti. Experts acknowledge that reports by non-governmental organisations and small-scale, isolated surveys reveal only a partial picture. Moreover, much of the available analysis is focused on urban areas, and in particular Port-au-Prince; fewer studies document the incidence of domestic violence in rural areas. Available evidence suggests a significant portion of victims of sexual violence in Haiti are children and minors. Criminals and family members are among the more commonly-cited perpetrators, although there are conflicting reports on the likelihood of perpetrators being known to women.
Incidence of violence against women was high in the pre-earthquake period, but there is widespread consensus that it has increased since. This correlates with the insecurity, displacement, poverty, lack of adequate access to basic resources, and loss of livelihoods associated with the disaster. The post-earthquake period has also been linked with a rise in the number of women and girls engaging in sex work. However, some experts caution that although violence against women is widespread, its prevalence has been sensationalised and overstated in the news media, and in some cases the ‘victimisation’ of women has been used by organisations to gain access to aid funding.
There are various cultural, political and economic drivers of violence against women and girls in Haiti, including:
- gender stereotypes and discrimination against women
- women’s economic dependency
- poverty, displacement and poor conditions in internally displaced persons’ camps
- legacy of state-led violence
- culture of impunity and weak capacity in the state justice system.
An array of multilateral and bilateral aid agencies, international non-governmental organisations and local women’s associations are engaged in work to address violence against women in Haiti. Activities include: collecting data on prevalence of violence against women; providing care for victims (medical and legal assistance); providing ‘safe spaces’ for survivors; running awareness-raising campaigns; and increasing women’s access to economic opportunities.