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Addressing Domestic Violence in Haiti

Violence against women is “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.” (The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women)

The domestic violence issue is a real one that occurs in Haiti. It is particularly widespread throughout rural communities. The issue is that it is very hard to have an accurate study on the percentage of women it affects in the rural communities, so the best we can say is it is a very high rate, because "the majority of cases are not reported, and the women do not want to file a complaint" (AFASDA). The more pressing issue though, is that these types of situations are simply accepted in rural communities. It can all be easily traced to “a lack of education, information and training, and especially by poverty and a lack of family planning.” (Fanm desde)

The Haitian system does not even protect its women against such situations. Did you know that marital rape is not a crime in Haiti? Well, neither is domestic violence against adults. With that knowledge, few women go to the police with their cases, and even fewer get justice in the first place. Some are even “met with indifference, or worse, harassment and abuse.” (MADRE). These women do not have the means to retain a lawyer, and filing a complaint could jeopardize their safety (MADRE) and due to the earthquake, there has been an influx in the cost of living, reducing “women's disposable income and savings, making them dependent on men and, accordingly, more vulnerable to domestic violence.” (Collectif Haïti Égalité)

In rural towns around Haiti, such as Jérémie, sexual violence is more often committed by acquaintances of the victims, but the authorities are more inclined to treat the situation as domestic violence so they won’t be obliged to intervene. The problem is, “Whose fault is it?” It could easily be argued that it is a cultural problem, as much as one can argue it’s a monetary issue, for the police forces all across Haiti are under-funded with many having to pay for their own transportation and cell phone cost, leaving them with no means of handling issues. “Empowering women through educational and financial resources, however important, is not in itself enough to reduce violence against women in Haiti… Public health campaigns against violence against women, and improved legal response to crimes of violence against women, can help to redress this hidden epidemic.” (Ju Yon Kang)

Facts:

• According to The Haitian Times, 70% of women in Haiti have been targeted for violence due to their gender.
• In another study, 10.8% of women between the ages of 15-49 reported sexual violence directly from partners.
• 2,037, or 85.94 percent, of the 2,370 women victims of violence taken in by SOFA in a survey were victims of domestic violence.

Fondation Enfant Jesus has initiated an open discussion through its Chache Lavi program (Seeking Life) on how to stop domestic violence towards women and children in rural communities.
The program "Chache Lavi (CLV)” is designed with the intention to combat extreme poverty within Haitian societies by giving those living in poverty the necessary tools to achieve a positive and sustainable change in their lives, in addition to, giving them the possibility to participate in a social business approach that will transform their existence.
Situations of Haitian women:
- Women are the backbone of Haitian society, yet they have little access to financial or business support.
- They are often hindered in their capacity to develop their business due to lack of self-esteem, gender issues, limited knowledge of their rights, as well as the importance of hygiene, nutrition and family planning.
- Women are not well versed in their civil rights.

What are Chache Lavi’s aims?
- Chache Lavi will ensure that Haitian women in rural areas, like Lamardelle, and women and men on Ile a Vache, will be given the opportunity to complete what we see as a full circle initiative. The program begins with education in civil rights, healthcare (including family planning), nutrition, family budgeting and self-empowerment.

Chache Lavi aims to help the participants of this program have a better understanding and make conscious commitments to combat domestic violence in their homes and in their community. FEJ has started with an initial workshop which will be followed by a series of workshops to address this issue that makes victims of so many women and children in rural villages throughout Haiti.
In the initial workshop on March 17, 2016, the following topics were addressed:
1) Learn what domestic violence is
2) Be able to know when you are a victim of violence.
3) Understand the impact of violence on your self-esteem and on the lives of your children.
4) Possible legal options
5) How to accompany a person victim of domestic violence.
6) Identify the warning signs of domestic violence.