Haiti: UN experts say Government must act to end gang violence against women and girls

Geneva,  10 May, 2023.- UN experts* today expressed grave concern over increasing violence in Haiti, including sexual violence and exploitation perpetrated by gangs against women and children.

«Scenes of chaos have been reported on the streets of the capital Port-au-Prince and the surrounding areas, forcing residents to remain in their homes and depriving them of access to basic services, education and medical care,» the experts said. «Growing insecurity has reportedly forced thousands of people to settle in makeshift camps, before being evicted, hunted down and assaulted again, including by the police.»

Armed gangs have reportedly taken control of urban areas and are engaged in killings, violence, rape, kidnapping and intimidation in order to expand their influence, in a context of widespread impunity.

«Within the context of such terror, it appears that systematic violence against women and girls, including sexual violence, is used as an instrument of power and as a means of exerting territorial control by rival gangs that have devastated the capital for more than a year,» the experts said.

«We have received reports of gang rapes in public, and in front of relatives and children, without the deployment of sufficient resources to stop such violence, to bring those responsible to justice or to protect and compensate victims.»

The experts stressed that it was difficult to quantify the number of victims in Haiti, as the majority of cases are either ignored or go unreported, making any data produced unreliable.

«Gender-based and sexual violence against women and girls in a conflict, post-conflict or peacekeeping context must never be normalised,” the experts said. “Gender-based violence, including sexual violence, must be recognized for what it is, namely forcing communities and individuals into submission and as a form of punishment for those who resist,» they said.

According to the experts, the current economic and political crisis in Haiti is exacerbating the climate of fear in the country.

In areas where opposing factions operate, marginalised communities are being impacted the most, with some being drawn into using weapons and entrenching the power of rival gangs, they said. They noted that the situation was even more critical given access to high-powered weapons and ammunition being smuggled into the country from abroad.

«We urge the Haitian authorities to adopt adequate measures to stem the ongoing violence and hold perpetrators of violence, including sexual violence, to account, in accordance with the rule of law and the national strategy on disarmament, dismantlement, reintegration and community violence reduction adopted by the Government in July 2021,» the experts said.

They also urged the international community to support the Haitian Government and other international and local actors to increase the capacity of relevant institutions, maintain civic space, ensure accountability for human rights violations, including gender-based violence, and ensure victims receive necessary and adequate protection and support.

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