Women's rights in Haiti

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Women's rights in Haiti
Haitian Elegance (8222064720).jpg
A Haitian woman
Gender Inequality Index[1]
Value 0.599 (2013)
Rank 132nd out of 152
Maternal mortality (per 100,000) 350 (2010)
Women in parliament 3.5% (2013)
Females over 25 with secondary education 22.5% (2012)
Women in labour force 60.6% (2012)

Women in Haiti have equal constitutional[2] rights as men in the economic, political, cultural and social fields, as well as in the family.

However, the reality in Haiti is quite far from the law: "political, economic and social features of Haiti negatively affect most Haitians, but Haitian women experience additional barriers to the full enjoyment of their basic rights due to predominant social beliefs that they are inferior to men and a historical pattern of discrimination and violence against them based on their sex. Discrimination against women is a structural feature in Haitian society and culture that has subsisted throughout its history, both in times of peace and unrest."[3]

Political representation[edit]

Michele Pierre-Louis, former Prime Minister has proven a fervent promoter of women's rights in Haiti

The Haitian government contains a Ministry of Women’s Affairs, but it also lacks the resources to address issues such as violence against women and harassment in the workplace. A number of political figures such as Michele Pierre-Louis, Haiti's second female Prime Minister, have adopted a determined agenda in order to fight inequalities and persecutions against women. Her position in office as Prime Minister has had positive effect on female political leadership in a country where the percentage of women in government at ministerial level was 25% in 2005.[4]

Sexual violence[edit]

Women in Haiti suffer constant threats to their security and well-being because of rape, kid-napping and human trafficking. Women suffer the most from Haiti's chronic political instability.

Documented cases of politically motivated rape, massacres, forced disappearance, and violent assaults on entire neighborhoods increased greatly at the end of 1993 under the military dictatorship of Raoul Cédras. Reports from women’s rights groups in Haiti revealed that women were targeted for abuse in ways and for reasons that men were not. Uniformed military personnel and their civilian allies threatened and attacked women’s organizations for their work in defense of women’s rights and subjected women to sex-specific abuse ranging from bludgeoning women’s breasts to rape.[5]

The troubles around the 2004 coup were seen by many as "a “rewind” back to the time of the 1991-94 coup d’etat, a period characterized by random violence in poor neighborhoods, a terror campaign employing rape, murder and disappearance as tactics, and rapidly increasing insecurity undermining all economic activity of the informal sector."[6]

To this day, Haiti is "gripped by shocking levels of sexual violence against girls"; of particular concern is the number of cases of sexual violence reported in the run-up to or during Carnival.[7]

Amnesty International[8]and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights[9] have laid particular pressure on the duty of the state to act in due diligience necessary to prevent and eradicate violence and discrimination against women.

Though the MINUSTAH has come with a peace-keeping mandate, a number of cases have arisen where the UN soldiers were found to have abused women.[10]


Women in Haiti do not benefit from an equal access to education. The rural-urban difference is also considerable as nearly 25% of the women in urban areas have finished secondary school, compared with less than 2 percent in rural areas. Though most Latin American countries have achieved universal or near universal primary education for all children, for Haiti primary education, the enrollment rate of boys was still somewhat higher than that of girls in 1987, but it is narrowing as the average growth enrollment has been significantly greater for girls than for boys. [11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Table 4: Gender Inequality Index". United Nations Development Programme. Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  2. ^ Constitution of the Republic of Haiti, Title III: "Art. 17: All Haitians, regardless of sex or marital status, who have attained twenty-one years of age may exercise their political and civil rights if they meet the other conditions prescribed by the Constitution and by the law. Art. 18: Haitians shall be equal before the law, subject to the special advantages conferred on native-born Haitians who have never renounced their nationality."
  3. ^ Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)on “The Right of Women in Haiti to be Free from Violence and Discrimination.” OEA/Ser.L/V/II, Doc. 64, 10 March 2009.
  4. ^ UNDP 2007/2008 Human Development Report, Haiti Factsheet
  5. ^ Rape in Haiti: A Weapon of Terror, Human Rights Watch (HRW), 1 July 1994
  6. ^ "Rewinding History: The Rights of Haitian Women" 2005 Report of the Let Haiti Live Women’s Rights Delegation sponsored by the Ecumenical Program on Central America and the Caribbean (EPICA), January 2005. Obtained June 3rd 2009
  7. ^ Amnesty International, Press Release, Embargoed Until Noon, Thursday, Nov. 27, 2008. Obtained June 3, 2009
  8. ^ Amnesty International launched a grass-roots campaign to send postcards to the Prime Minister of Haiti to remind her of her duty to protect Haitian women. The text of the letter was such: "Dear Prime Minister: I am writing to you to express my deep concern at the levels of sexual violence perpetrated against girls in Haiti, particularly during the carnival period. While the true extent of sexual violence against girls is not known, every year, in Port-au-Prince alone, dozens of girls report being raped at gunpoint by groups of young men. I therefore urge you and your government to implement all necessary measures to prevent rape and protect girls’ right to live free from violence, to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice and that the victims receive adequate support and reparation. Yours respectfully,"
  9. ^ Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on “The Right of Women in Haiti to be Free from Violence and Discrimination.” OEA/Ser.L/V/II, Doc. 64, 10 March 2009.
  10. ^ "108 Sri Lankan peacekeepers in Haiti to be repatriated after claims they paid prostitutes". International Herald Tribune. 2007-11-02. 
  11. ^ Women's Education in Developing Countries: Barriers, Benefits, and Policies, pp.183-184. By Elizabeth M. King, M. Anne Hill. Published by World Bank Publications, 1998. ISBN 0-8018-5828-3


  • Haiti Rapes, Lyn Duff, Pacific News Service, Haiti Action Net, 10 March 2005
  • Walking on Fire: Haitian Women's Stories of Survival and Resistance, Beverly Bell. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2001
  • Gender and Politics in Contemporary Haiti: The Duvalierist State, Transnationalism, and the Emergence of a New Feminism (1980-1990), Carolle Charles. Feminist Studies. 1995
  • Challenging Violence: Haitian Women Unite Women's Rights and Human Rights, Anne Fuller, Association of Concerned African Scholars. Spring/Summer 1999

External links[edit]