Making gender equality a reality.

In Post-Earthquake Haiti, Violence a Real Threat to Women

Release Date: January 10, 2014
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On January 12, it will be four years since a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti. Today, it’s clear that many Haitian women and girls continue to suffer.

Following is a statement by Elise Young, Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs at Women Thrive Worldwide:

“In the four years since the earthquake, gender-based violence has risen sharply throughout Haiti. Violence like rape and assaults is unfortunately common after natural disasters, but the earthquake highlighted a problem that has plagued the country for years.

“Gender-based violence is largely underreported in Haiti because of lack of response outlets and an effective judicial system. Yet, Haitian grassroots groups estimate that as many as two-thirds of Haitian women and children experience violence in certain parts of the country.

“Children in poor, rural communities are especially vulnerable. As many as 300,000 children are now trapped in the child domestic servitude practice known as ‘restaveks’—a number that has risen since the earthquake. Two-thirds of these children are girls.

“Far too many have felt enormous, heartbreaking loss as a result of both the earthquake and the continuing cycles of poverty throughout the country. 

“The United States government has a chance to help women and girls in Haiti. Congress must work to swiftly pass the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA), which would focus resources and programs on preventing violence before it starts as well as addressing existing cases.  House Members must also stand together in support of Congresswoman Frederica Wilson’s resolution on reducing gender-based violence in Haiti.

“Haiti’s women and girls desperately need this legislation to pass.”

Key statistics to know:

  • In a 2011 study of five Internally Displaced Persons camps in Haiti, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees found that 100 percent of the female participants had been directly involved in or witnessed transactional sex, often performed in order to feed their children.
  • PotoFanm + Fi reports that adolescent girls are especially vulnerable to rape, representing more than 60 percent of reported cases.
  • Of the 300,000 children reported to be in the restavek system, two-thirds are girls.
  • More information on the International Violence Against Women Act here.


Elise Young has travelled to Haiti more than a dozen times since the earthquake to meet with local women and advocates. She is a recognized expert on gender issues in Haiti and other developing countries.


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