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Rape Cases has Decreased in Jordan

In 1960, the country of Jordan adopted Article 308, a law allowing rapists to escape punishment if they married their victim. After years of persistent campaigning, women’s rights groups across Northern Africa and Western Asia influenced countries throughout the Middle East, including Jordan, to abolish such laws. After an annual increase in rape cases since 2015, the number of rape cases in Jordan has decreased. Here is a guide to why the number of rape cases has decreased in Jordan, a description of the positive impact of Article 308’s abolishment and what obstacles women’s rights groups still need to overcome.

Article 308

Elspeth Dehnert, a journalist from Huffpost, recounts the story of a Jordanian woman named Aya whose family arranged her to marry her rapist. They did this to protect the rapist from jail time and avoid a “scandal” they believed would ensue if Aya and her attacker were not married. Yet after months of suffering more abuse from her husband, Aya decided to file for divorce and publicize her situation. In a letter she wrote to the Jordanian Parliament and local media, she declared how she knew her husband only married her to escape imprisonment.

Ever since Jordan adopted Article 308, Jordanian men have used this law to escape punishment for rape. Those who supported the law claimed it protected the victim and her family from the shame of rape. Yet women’s rights organizations, like the Sisterhood is Global Institute (SIGI), and many Jordanians disagreed. The SIGI asked Jordanians what they thought motivates rapists to offer marriage to their victims. An estimated 62.5 percent of respondents said the offender wants to escape prosecution, trial or execution of the penalty. Similarly, about 15 percent of respondents said the rapist wants to avoid social stigma against him. According to Jordan’s Ministry of Justice, 159 rapists had used Article 308 between 2010 and 2013 to evade punishment.

The Abolition of Article 308

In October 2016, Jordan’s King Abdullah II ordered the creation of a royal committee to reform the judiciary and review Jordan’s entire penal code. Three years before this review, the women’s rights movement worked to gain broad support. Activists from organizations like the SIGI created a base of evidence to defeat arguments made by Article 308’s proponents. These proponents argued Article 308 keeps families together and protects women from the stigma of extramarital sex.

In doing so, activists based their stance in the horrific stories of local women and girls forced to marry their rapists. This strategy helped combat accusations from opponents claiming their campaign was being led by feminists with a Western agenda who had no right to be interfering in family law. Fortunately, the campaign of the women’s rights movement was so successful in Jordan that the Jordanian Parliament removed all the legal loopholes letting rapists evade punishment for their crimes and abolished Article 308 altogether, rather than repeal or amend it.

The Impact of Article 308’s Abolishment

Because of this abolishment, the Annual Statistical Report 2018 issued by Jordan’s Department of Statistics says the number of rape cases has decreased in Jordan. Complaints of rape in 2018 declined from 145 complaints in 2017 to 140 complaints in 2018. The SIGI issued a press release stating this is the first year Jordan has seen a decrease in annual rape cases since 2015. The SIGI also said these figures represent cases filed at police stations, some of which resulted in suspects being tried and convicted. Other cases were classified as something other than rape.

The Culture of Shame

Even though the number of rape cases has decreased in Jordan, experts say that even in countries where legal loopholes were abolished or never existed at all, the custom of allowing rapists to avoid imprisonment by marrying their victims is still widespread. Many families throughout the Arab world believe that when they expose their daughter’s rape to the public, they risk social shame. This has lead, in some cases, to a family killing their own daughter to preserve the family’s honor. From their perspective, marriage is an easier, more private solution.

The number of rape cases has decreased in Jordan, yet the culture of shame that protects rapists from punishment is still alive and well. In response to statements made by Equality Now’s legal equality program manager Antonia Kirkland, Dehnert says more effort needs to be made by judges, law enforcement and medical workers. She also states these same people need to make sure women and girls know their legal rights. If these efforts are made, women in Jordan and throughout the Middle East will experience a safer and liberated future.

– Jacob Stubbs
Photo: Flickr

Refugees in LibyaHundreds of thousands of refugees have passed through Libya on their journey toward Europe, where they cross a short distance over the sea from Libya into Lampedusa, Italy. These refugees in Libya face grave danger from Libya’s Islamic State militant group and from human traffickers.

The Libyan government must take the steps necessary to protect these refugees; however, Libya has been without a centralized government since 2014. Here are ten facts that outline the trials and tribulations faced on the journey of refugees in Libya:

  1. The number of refugees passing through Libya has quadrupled since 2013. The increase in refugee traffic results in an increase in migration through Europe, where refugees are able to create their new lives.
  2. Previously, 87 percent of the almost one million refugees who crossed into Europe arrived through Greece. Now these refugees have been redirected through Libya as a result of the EU-Turkey deal that resettles one refugee for every one turned away.
  3. These hundreds of thousands of refugees in Libya are traveling from over 12 countries, mostly from Sub-Saharan Africa. Refugees face many dangers on their journey, but the new start that awaits them beyond the Libyan border is motivation enough to brave any sort of obstacles.
  4. However, refugees who do pass across the Libyan border are sometimes intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard and detained in overcrowded detention centers until they are deported back to their home countries.
  5. Aside from the coast guard, many refugees are taken in by human traffickers and subject to torture. This results from a lack of government centralization and control to reduce the crime that occurs in Libya, which could be improved by foreign aid to assist the Libyan government to create a safer environment for its citizens.
  6. Armed groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant also intercept refugees on their journey toward Europe. These armed groups are able to infest Libya by way of a weak government that has little ability to remove or keep out these dangers, though the Libyan government also poses a danger to its citizens.
  7. Refugees in Libya are at great risk of religious persecution. Those who are persecuted can be detained by the Libyan government.
  8. Female refugees in Libya can face rape and starvation at the hands of human traffickers or smugglers who sell them to criminal gangs. Despite it being incredibly dangerous for refugees to pass through Libya, many still risk it to cross into Europe.
  9.  Mass rape is such a significant issue for refugees in Libya that women often take contraceptive pills before traveling through the area.
  10. The deputy director of Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa has called for the Libyan government and authorities as well as the European Union to protect refugees from abuse as they pass through Libya.

In order to protect refugees from facing abuse, the Libyan government and the EU should focus on finding safer routes and methods of exit for the refugees who are trapped in Libya instead of focusing on keeping refugees away. Refugees who come from over a dozen countries to pass through Libya may traverse dangerous roads, but it is with the intent to create new lives for the refugees and their families.

Amanda Panella

Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking
There are several types of human trafficking, and they all have a common denominator: an abuse of the intrinsic vulnerability of the victims.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, human trafficking is defined as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the treat or use of force or other forms of coercion.”

Trafficking of individuals is a serious crime and a heinous violation of human rights.

“Every year, thousands of men, women and children fall into the hands of traffickers, in their own countries and abroad. Almost every country in the world is affected by trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims,” said the UN.

The following are various categories linked to human trafficking:

Sex Trafficking

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime suggested that 53 percent of the victims are forced into sexual exploitation. “Sex trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, or harboring of persons through threat, use of force, or other coercion for the purpose of sexual exploitation. This includes movement across borders, as well as within the victim’s own country,” affirmed Human Trafficking Search.

The International Labour Organization estimated that there is a worldwide profit of $100 billion for forced commercial sexual exploitation.

Additionally, “the perceived inferior status of women in many parts of the world has contributed to the expansion of the trafficking industry,” confirmed Human Trafficking Search.

Involuntary Domestic Servitude

Involuntary servitude happens when a domestic worker becomes enslaved in an exploitative position they are incapable of escaping.

“Domestic servitude is the seemingly normal practice of live-in help that is used as a cover for the exploitation and control of someone, usually from another country. It is a form of forced labor, but it also warrants its own category of slavery because of the unique contexts and challenges it presents,” said End Slavery Now.

Forced Labor

According to Human Trafficking Search, “Forced labor is work or service that is extorted from someone under the menace of any penalty and work or service that the person has not offered voluntarily.”

The International Labour Organization estimated that approximately 20.9 million people are enslaved to forced labor, and 4.5 are subjected to sexual forced exploitation.

Debt Bondage

“Debt bondage is a type of forced labor, involving a debt that cannot be paid off in a reasonable time,” said Human Trafficking Search. It is a period of debt during which there is no freedom, consequently, it is also known as debt slavery.

Child Soldiers

Child soldiers are described as persons under the age of 18, who have been recruited by armed forces in any capacity. Currently, there are thousands of soldiers worldwide.

“The definition includes both boys and girls who are used as fighters, cooks, porters, messengers, spies, or for sexual purposes,” added Human Trafficking Search.

Child Sex Trafficking

There are approximately 1.8 million children subjected to prostitution or pornography globally.

The Human Trafficking Search defined it as “a sexual exploitation by an adult with respect to a child, usually accompanied by a payment to the child or one or more third parties.”

Child Labor

A child is considered to be involved in child labor activities if this minor is between the ages of 0 and 18, is involved in a type of work inappropriate for their age and in a dangerous work environment.

However, there are several forms of child labor. The most common ones are related to the informal sector of the economy and are linked to agricultural labor, mining, construction and begging in the streets.

Said by the Polaris Project, “human trafficking is a form of modern slavery – a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that denies freedom to 20.9 million people around the world. And no matter where you live, chances are it’s happening nearby. From the girl forced into prostitution at a truck stop, to the man discovered in a restaurant kitchen, stripped of his passport and held against his will. All trafficking victims share one essential experience: the loss of freedom.”

Isabella Rolz

Sources: Human Trafficking Search, UNODC, End Slavery Now, Polaris Project, United Nations, International Labour Organization

Darfur Genocide
The Darfur Genocide is one of the worst human rights abuses of modern time. Over 90 diverse tribes and sub-clans populate the region of Darfur which is located in western Sudan. With a pre-conflict population of 6 million people, tensions within the region leading to the Darfur Genocide were produced by multiple interconnected factors including ethnic conflict, economic instability and political opportunism.

The level of violence and destruction at the height of the Darfur genocide was staggering. In 2005, the Coalition for International Justice interviewed 1,136 Darfur refugees located in 19 camps in neighboring Chad. A staggering 61 percent of the respondents noted that they had witnessed the killing of one of their family members.

 

Top 10 Darfur Genocide Facts:

 

  1. In 1989, then-General Omar al-Bashir seized control of Sudan through a military coup. The country was in the middle of a 21-year civil war between the North and South regions when the leader came to power and tensions continued to build. Conflicts began to increase within the ethnically diverse Darfur and weapons started flowing into the area due to a struggle for political control.
  2. The conflict escalated in 2003 when two non-Arab rebel groups within Darfur, the Sudan Liberian Army and the Justice and Equality Movement, accused the government of neglecting the region and took up arms against it. The Sudanese government, led by al-Bashir, quickly responded with a counter-insurgency campaign against the rebels and began backing a brutal Arab militia known as the Janjaweed. Civilians within the country were the ones to ultimately pay the price for the escalating violence and began receiving a barrage of attacks from government, pro-government troops and rebel groups.
  3. The dispute is generally racial and not religious in nature. Muslim Arab Sudanese (the Jajaweed militia group) systematically targeted, displaced, and murdered Muslim black Sudanese individuals within the Darfur region. The victims are generally from non-Arab tribal groups.
  4. According to the United Human Rights Council, over 400 villages were completely destroyed through the conflict, forcing mass amounts of civilians to be displaced from their homes. The Janjaweed would set out to destroy the houses and buildings within the community, shooting the men and gang raping the women and children. Families would be separated and killed. Those who escaped the brutal onslaught would then be faced with an arduous journey to find refuge.
  5. Many citizens fled the violence and relocated to refugee camps within the area and neighboring Chad. According to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, approximately two million individuals are still displaced due to the violence, with the majority having left their homes between 2003 and 2005 — the height of the conflict.
  6. Malnutrition, starvation and disease were serious concerns. Residents have been able to receive limited humanitarian assistance during the conflict due to the Sudanese government hindering aid efforts within the region and violence against humanitarian programs already in place. According to UNICEF, attacks on humanitarian vehicles, convoys, and compounds are common, impacting the availability of vital aid services. Approximately 25 to 30 international relief organizations have left the area due to security concerns or have been expelled by the government, as reported by The Washington Post.
  7. In June 2005, the International Criminal Court (ICC) launched investigations into the human rights violations occurring in Darfur. According to the United Human Rights Council, the government refused to cooperate with the investigations and denied any connection with the Janjaweed militia group.
  8. On March 4, 2009, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir became the first ever sitting president of a country to be indicted by the ICC for directing a campaign of mass killing, and rape against civilians in Darfur. His accusations according to the BBC include crimes of humanity including murder, extermination, rape and torture, as well as war crimes including attacks on civilians in Darfur, and pillaging towns and villages.
  9. The United Nations estimates that as many as 300,000 individuals have been killed since the start of the Darfur conflict in 2003. The majority of these casualties are from civilian men, women and children who lived within communities throughout the area.
  10. While the conflict has eased, it is by no means over. According to the Thomas Reuters Foundation, levels of violence have increased since the start of 2013. Approximately 400,000 individuals were displaced from their homes during the first half of 2014 alone as the Darfur crisis persists.

Lauren Lewis

Sources: BBC, United Human Rights Council, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Darfur Australia Network, UNICEF, The Washington Post, Sudan Research, Analysis, Advocacy
Photo: Haiku Deck

women's bodies
In many places around the world, women and young girls are viewed as commodities. Whether or not they are raped themselves, women’s bodies are used to atone for crimes committed by others. More than 700 million women alive today were married under 18, and more are used as a way to bring justice to criminals.

In some countries, it is legal for a rapist to escape prosecution if he marries his victim, who is usually a minor. This practice is allowed in Algeria, Bahrain, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria and Tunisia. The law was also up for debate in Mozambique earlier this year. Even in places where the law is not on the books, often rural, traditional customs allow for it.

This year, a man in Zimbabwe raped a 14-year-old girl. He had been harassing her, and her grandmother told her to marry him. After the rape, her grandmother continued insisting she marry the man, and he took her away from her home. Against the law of the state, he called her his wife and continued raping her until her mother paid for her bus fare to get home.

A 13-year-old girl in India also reported that cops forced her to marry one of her attackers after being gang-raped.

The motivation behind the marriages has to do with honor. Girls who lose their virginity are seen as worthless, or unable to find a husband, so their families will often marry them off to their rapist in order to restore their honor. Some countries do not view marital rape as a crime, so anything happening within marriage is seen as honorable. Sometimes there is external pressure to force their child into marriage.

In 2012, 15-year-old Amina Filali killed herself by ingesting rat poison after she was forced to marry her rapist. She endured continued rapes and beatings before committing suicide. Her family and her rapist’s family agreed to have the two married, in part because of honor, but also because of pressure from authorities.

Families also force children into marriage because of war. Child marriage is seen as protection from the raping and kidnapping that often happens in conflicts.

Honor is a major factor, and rape causes shame for the victim, not the attacker. Sometimes the quest for honor affects justice for rape victims. In Northern Africa, the punishment for rape depends on whether the victim is a virgin or not. In Pakistan, although a Women’s Protection Bill was passed in 2006, if a woman is of “generally immoral character,” punishments are not as severe or are completely ignored.

A Somali girl named Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow was gang-raped by three men in 2007. The family reported the incident to the militia, but instead of prosecuting the perpetrators, Aisha was stoned to death. According to the local police force, she had committed adultery.

The honor associated with young girls’ virginity extends beyond their own sexual experiences. Sometimes local law will allow young girls to be raped because of crimes committed by family members. The idea is that a girl’s loss of virginity is a blow to the entire family’s honor, so the crime of the family can be paid by her body.

This year, in a northern Indian village, a leader ordered the rape of a 14-year-old girl. Her brother had sexually assaulted another woman. The victim’s husband was to carry out the rape himself, while she received no assistance. A 22-year-old was ordered to be gang-raped by 13 of her neighbors for going outside her community for a relationship. A 24-year-old was gang-raped because her brother eloped with another man’s wife. She was then forced to marry one of her attackers.

All of these women’s bodies are being used in the name of justice. The highest reports of rape come from Europe and America, but the social stigma, discriminatory laws and patriarchal culture of some areas of the world prevent women from speaking out against their attackers.

Women fear the consequences of speaking out. Sometimes they are not even related to a crime, but their bodies are used to exact “justice,” anyway.

– Monica Roth

Sources: Amnesty International 1, Amnesty International 2, Al Jazeera America, Jezebel, UNICEF, Mumbai Mirror, The Nation, The Daily Beast, NewsdzeZimbabwe
Photo: The Daily Beast

rape
Bollywood, the large Hindi-language film industry based out of Mumbai, India,  is speaking out against rape and the abuse of women. Seeking to spread awareness about these issues within and without the industry, the campaign’s targeted audience is all people throughout the country. The initiative is led by a top radio station, with actor John Abraham as its ambassador. The entire movement utilizes the slogan, “Now the nonsense ends, change begins.”

The focus is on women’s safety at work, at home and in public spaces, which builds on previous campaigns emphasizing the need to change sexist language and to stop acid attacks against women. Bollywood is attempting to draw pressing issues within Indian society into the spotlight.

On the radio, celebrities like Abraham have begun to use their influential positions to voice their backing for the anti-rape movement. This comes as a pivotal change because in the past, stars normally avoided speaking on any pressing social issues.

The public outcry and protests after the 2012 gang rape and death of a young woman in Delhi are in large part responsible for the change in attitude. While a number of celebrities were advocates for social change before, the shocking Delhi incident resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of movie stars and individuals in the general public taking a stand against rape culture.

Celebrities’ participation in the anti-rape effort helps maintain the pressure to change both social and political views on rape. In India, like in many countries, rape is a critical problem. The number of reported cases increased by 902 percent from 1971 to 2012. Due to social stigma and shame, many cases still go unreported.

Although the backbone of India’s anti-rape movement remains predominantly with the public and the media, Bollywood stars’ involvement is helping to strengthen and sustain it. For example, actor and director Farhan Akhtar is using many different media outlets to lead the MARD, Men Against Rape and Discrimination, which seeks to redefine the perception of masculinity.

Others are making movies that directly address the issue of gang rape, such as producer Siddhartha Jain’s film “Kill The Rapist?” Scheduled to premiere in October 2014, the movie allows audiences to participate in deciding what should happen to the rapist in the story. The overarching message of the film aims to deter potential rapists and engage the public about the need to report rapes.

And all of these efforts appear to be bringing change. In the capital alone, the number of reported rape cases increased dramatically from 433 in 2012 to 1,036 in 2013.

The film industry, though, has often reaffirmed misogynist culture on screen by objectifying women and even, at times, condoning sexual harassment in their movies. Despite the fact that not all of Bollywood has completely shed its sexist and male-dominated ways, the stance many stars are taking demonstrates that both the industry and all of India can change their attitudes about women.

Although completely redefining public opinion about rape and the role of women in society will not occur overnight, the positive steps taken in the public, the media and in Bollywood have made the issue part of the mainstream dialogue. With continued efforts to raise awareness and encourage conversation, the people of India seek to better protect and value the rights of women.

– Kathleen Egan

Sources: Aljazeera, The Scotsman, The Washington Post
Photo: Curry Culture

Rape_In_India
Last month, two girls were found hanging from trees in India’s Katra village. Another woman claimed she was gang-raped by four police officers. India has had a women’s rights problem for a while now, yet it is only increasing, despite more strict laws. The body of a 19-year-old was just recently found hanging by her scarf from a tree in Uttar Pradesh, making her the state’s fourth female victim in only two weeks.

Rape in India is a rising problem, yet one that is not easily solved. According to official statistics, around 25,000 rapes are committed every year in India, though the number is thought to be much higher due to a common fear of punishment and social stigma. Simply, the problem lies in attitude, not a lack of legislation or protection. “Even though the laws are there, many people feel they can get away with anything, an attitude that some of our politicians have gone out of their way to encourage,” said Ranjana Kumari, a prolific women’s rights activist in New Delhi.

Certain politicians have only exacerbated the problem. Earlier this June, Madhya Pradesh state Home Minister, Babulal Gaur (who oversees police,) claimed that rape was a “social crime,” which depended on the man and woman. “It is sometimes right and sometimes wrong.” Gaur’s statements came just months after Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav opposed the death penalty for rape, claiming “boys will be boys. Sometimes they make mistakes.”

The most recent victim was thought to have been raped and murdered by two men who she told her family had been bothering her. While they have filed a report claiming their suspicions in her death, the case is basically smoke and mirrors: a district police officer told the New York Times that a preliminary postmortem examination found no evidence to suggest rape.

Unfortunately, this ability for men to “get away” with their crimes is exactly what has caused it to spread to this extremity. “This is not something that is particular for Uttar Pradesh,” said Amnesty International India’s senior researcher, Divya Iyer, on the most recent death. “These sporadic news of rapes bring the issue to the fore, but it is important to see it as a continuum. For every case of rape, there are many more that are not reported, because of the stigma attached and the fear of reprisals. It is important to hold politicians accountable for their statements in order to send the right signals to the community.”

— Nick Magnanti

Sources: Fox News, Religion News, Time, NY Times
Photo: Asia Society

rape
Rape and sexual violence are used as weapons of war because they are inexpensive and have longer lasting effects than guns or other weapons. UNICEF has noted that sexual violence “erodes the fabric of a community in a way that few weapons can.” Sexual violence and rape not only have negative, long-term impacts on women, but also their children, their families and their communities.

The effects are far reaching. Women suffer both psychologically and physically, as well as socially and economically.

When women are victims of sexual violence, they often suffer physically from persistent pain, fistula and infertility. Women can also contract HIV or other STDs, that put them at a severely disadvantaged position for the rest of their lives. In instances where women are injured so severely that they are unable to work, they suffer economically as well.

Psychological effects can emerge years later and have a long lasting impact including depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), low self esteem and suicidal thoughts.

During conflict, women are at risk for being victims of sexual violence, and in post-conflict societies, women are at risk of the social impacts resulting from being raped or experiencing sexual violence. Using rape as a weapon of war causes long lasting impact on the lives of the victims.

Due to the stigma of rape, women are often forced from their families or divorced by their husbands. This can be extremely problematic in societies where a woman’s economic security depends on marriage. When women are isolated, they are often forced into a life of poverty.

In instances where women become pregnant after being raped, they are isolated from their communities for birthing an “enemy child.” This is detrimental to a woman’s well-being in a multitude of ways, as they are cut from communities that once helped support them. The mental impact is equally severe, while it is even further enhanced by the economic impact of having to raise a child.

On the other hand, societies where a woman’s value is dependent on her ability to have children, infertility as a result of being raped or a victim of sexual violence can seriously affect a woman’s social standing and perceived worth.

Sexual violence and rape as  weapons of war damage entire families and communities whether women stay within them or are outcast. As women are isolated, communities are broken. If they stay, men are affected as they feel they have failed in their role as “protector.” The physical, mental, social and economic impacts felt by women, men and children can last decades and even multiple generations.

— Kim Tierney

Sources: Harvard, The International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict, ODI
Photo: Woodmark

lack_of_toilets

The lack of toilets is one of the main causes of rape in India.

In Lucknow, India on May 27, two teenage girls went out into the bamboo fields to relieve themselves since they did not have a toilet in their own house. This is common among many of the households in India. The two young girls were raped and killed, then hung from a mango tree in their village.

“More than 60 percent of the rapes in the state occur when the victims step out to relieve themselves because they do not have toilets at their homes,” the state’s top cop says.

According to UNICEF, almost 50 percent of people living in India relieve themselves outside in public due to the lack of toilets.

While the bigger issue due to the lack of toilets is women getting sexually assaulted, another issue to think about is lack of sanitation and the humiliation that women have to go through. The lack of toilets dehumanizes, degrades and makes women feel even more powerless despite all the other issues pertaining to poverty.

According to an article in The World Post, U.N. figures show that out of the 1.2 billion people, 665 million of them do not have a private place to go to the bathroom.

According to a study done by the World Bank in 2010, the lack of toilets in India costs more than $50 billion a year because of deaths and hygiene-related diseases.

Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of the Sulabh Sanitation and Social Reform Movement , an organization that makes low-cost toilets, decided to build toilets in 108 of the houses in the village where the two girls were from.

– Priscilla Rodarte

Sources: The Star, Huff Post
Photo: CNN

Rape_in_haiti
Loutchama was just 12 years old when she was a victim of rape in Haiti. Her attacker, a man named Etienne Rene, and Loutchama’s neighbor at the time, reportedly had noticed none of her family members were home on April 30, 2011. After hearing of the rape, a physical altercation between Rene and Loutchama’s mother, Adrienne, would result in Adrienne’s eventual arrest.  Yet, while Rene, too, was arrested at his home soon afterward and would eventually be put on trial and sentenced to 15 years in prison, Adrienne feels devoid of justice. Loutchama died on August 26, 2013, and Adrienne believes it to be a direct result of Rene’s sentencing.

It would not be until a year and a half after Loutchama and her mother filed for rape against Rene that he would be sentenced. Haiti’s Minister of Justice, Jean Renel Sanon, says that it usually takes “four months” from the time a rape is reported to make it to court. Yet, all too regularly, cases are prolonged. Inevitably discouraged by Haiti’s judicial patriarchy, cases are usually given up by the victim mere months after their happening.

Poverty is a factor, too. Those with more money can afford to have warrants served expeditiously, guaranteeing them quicker justice. Yet, for the majority of poor Haitian women, their cases which are at the hands of the judge can be held stagnant for as long as five years if they are not dropped prior. A UN study conducted in 2012 proved just this. In a sample of 2010 reports, only one of a total of 62 rape cases filed over a three-month period made it to court.

For women like Loutchama, going through the judicial process is a constant reminder of their attack. Many of these women, most who work as street vendors, cannot afford a day off from work to go to trial and, subsequently, resort to unofficial monetary arrangements with their rapists. Of course, this poses a major problem. More often than not, poor rapists cannot actually afford to pay their victims, and zero judicial ties to the promise results in complete injustice.

Now crippled by her daughter’s death and worried for her own safety, Adrienne who, prior to the case, had never even heard of the term “human rights” believes Rene’s payback has just begun. “I’m poor,” she said. “And I will never have justice.”

Yet, Rene’s 15-year sentence may just be the long-awaited beginning of said justice for rape victims in Haiti. Through the recent works of Haitian organizations such as the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, more rapists are being persecuted than ever before. In 2011, 13 of 22 rape cases resulted in conviction. While rape culture in Haiti is still all too prominent, many of these women are just beginning to feel secure enough to stand up for their own human rights.

– Nick Magnanti

Sources: IJDH, JJIE, Salon
Photo: Ehowzit