» by tffhthewriter March 17, 2010, 11:00am
In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti, the outpour of global assistance was overwhelming. Although the vast majority of the country is still living in tents, the serious plague affecting the country is not just lack of housing, but the lack of safety for women and small girls.
According to a report published by the Associated Press, girls as young as two years old have fallen victim to rapes and attacks while trying to take care of basic functions such as showering and using the latrines.
“Women aren’t being protected,” Thompson said. “So when the lights go down is when the rapes increase, and it’s happening daily in all the camps in Port-au-Prince.”
Lack of privacy coupled with the fact that women have lost their homes and are forced to sleep in flimsy tents or tarp-covered lean-tos and the fact that they have lost male protection with the deaths of husbands, brothers and sons; has created an overwhelming safety concern for the women of Haiti.
But women are not the only victims that are falling prey to sexual predators. According to the AP, two small girls ages 7 and 2-years-old were victims of rape attacks and as of Monday (March 16), leaving the toddler taking antibiotics for a gonorrhea infection of the mouth.
“For me it seems completely bizarre that for this one camp that everyone knows is unsafe, it’s taken them three weeks to get a patrol going,” said Liesl Gerntholtz, executive director of the agency’s women’s rights division.
“It’s unrealistic to expect patrols in camps all the time, but I think they can identify hotspots and provide security to those spots.”
The lack of support from local authorities seems to force women and children, who are often left feeling guilty and ashamed, to just deal with the vicious attacks.
“We are aware of problem … but it’s not a priority,” Information Minister Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue said last month.
According to Delva Marie Eramithe, a KOFAVIV leader, few rapes are reported because women often face humiliating scrutiny from police officers who suggest they invited the attacks and even nurses who contend young girls were “too hot” in their dress style.
Rapes, which have been a big problem in Haiti even before the earthquake, were frequently was used as a political weapon in times of upheaval. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the first democratically elected president, was ousted twice after his enemies assassinated his male supporters and raped their wives and daughters.
Now I am not going to feed into the Western American idea that Haiti is a savage country full of beasts with no morals. However you can’t overlook the fact that the number of both reported and unreported rapes within the last month and a half have been staggering.
The U.N.’s lack of response also makes you wonder why no one seems to care those women and children are not safe to sleep at night? How can we say that we are supporting the efforts of Haitian relief when we can’t place a few UN officials to ensure the safety of the most vulnerable?
I can see if the fact that the prisons were among the buildings destroyed in the quake leaving convicted killers, rapist (although it seems that goes unpunished) sleeping beside susceptible prey, was a secret but that is not the case.
Ultimately, we knew that the numbers and statistics of rapes and AIDS cases were not new, but still the United States along with its U.N. counterparts have all decided to open the borders to those who are able to leave the down trodden country and left those who couldn’t to suffer and die among the convicts as if it were a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah.
Why is the first response always to open the boarders to a country that really needs to be rebuilt? I am not saying that we shouldn’t help those who are in need, but what good is it really doing to accept the 1,000 people that have made the journey into the US, but forget the 8 million that are still there suffering?
Where is the insert of military force? Where are the U.N. officials? Where are the separate tent cities to ensure the safety of women and children?
I don’t know what the true solution would be, but I know we have to do better. In a country where the HIV/AIDS rate statistics are astounding with over 120,000 people infected with full blown AIDS, and an infant mortality rate that is at an astonishing 60 percent according to the United States Central Intelligence Agency; opening the borders is not the cure-all.
Instead we need to establish a strong military presence to aid in the structure and rebuild of the electoral process, as well as the overall legal structure. I am not saying that this is something that the US needs to do alone, but with the millions we are pouring into charities including the Red Cross and Wyclef Jean’s Yele Haiti Foundation, we have funds to aid in the restructure.