Sexual violence against Women in Haiti

Sexual violence against women in Haiti is widespread and has a long history. There are records of women being raped by soldier that arrived in Haiti with Christopher Columbus from 1492.


When Haiti was the French colony known as Saint-Domingue (1625 - 1789) rape was a popular method of torture in the slavery based economy. Sexual violence was also rife during the Haitian Revolution (1789 - 1804) and the American occupation of Haiti (1915 - 1934).

In an effort to suppress political opposition, thousands of women were subjected to sexual violence during the dictatorships of Francois Duvalier, Jean-Claude Duvalier and Raoul Cedras, in the 20th century.

Nowadays, sexual violence against women in Haiti is still commonplace. It is difficult to ascertain accurate figures with under reporting common due to a number of factors including: the fear of reprisals, mistrust of the police, difficulties arising from a convoluted reporting process and efforts to avoid the social stigma attached to being raped.

UN reports from 2006 suggested that half of the women living in Port-au-Prince's slums had been subjected to sexual violence at some stage. The recent 2010 earthquake may have exacerbated this situation although it is difficult to say for sure as many instances go unreported. However, more than a million Haitians have been displaced to refugee camps where the conditions are poor and women are less protected from opportunistic perpetrators of sexual violence.

Human rights groups are taking action to help protect women such as providing self-defense training and whistles to call for help.

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