Human Rights Groups Connect Spike in Sexual Assaults in Haiti to Repressive, U.S.-Supported Government

By Institute For Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), Oct. 17, 2022

Read the PDF version here.

The Haiti-based Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and Komisyon Fanm Viktim pou Viktim (KOFAVIV), along with international partners Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS), CUNY School of Law’s Human Rights and Gender Justice Clinic, and MADRE have filed a report with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) connecting the sharp increase in sexual violence in Haiti to the practices of the country’s unconstitutional and U.S.-supported regime. The submission is an update to protective measures granted by the IACHR in response to a petition filed in the wake of the 2010 earthquake (called Precautionary Measures), which required the Haitian government to enhance safety for women and girls in internally displaced person camps, improve the police and justice system responses to sexual assault, and ensure that grassroots women’s groups are included in planning and executing related policies. 

The submitting human rights organizations report that Haiti’s implementation of the original precautionary measures was always limited and has in recent years collapsed, against the backdrop of an inadequate response to sexual and gender-based violence more broadly. They ask the IACHR to extend and expand its Precautionary Measures to better protect Haiti’s women and girls, especially those displaced by subsequent natural disasters and political upheaval.

As context for their specific updates on the precautionary measures, the submitting organizations emphasize an acute governance crisis in Haiti that “both drives and impedes a resolution to the resulting humanitarian and human rights emergency.” Women and girls suffer disproportionately because of systematized discrimination and pre-existing social inequalities – themselves the legacies of enslavement and foreign interference. Empowering women is ultimately indispensable for resolving both the scourge of sexual and gender-based violence and for a sustainable resolution to Haiti’s crises. 

“The international community installed a de facto government that has systematically dismantled Haiti’s democracy and supported gangs to attack dissidents” noted Mario Joseph, BAI Managing Attorney. “The deluge of sexual assaults in Haiti is a horrible symptom of a broader profound unconstitutional interruption of Haiti’s democratic regime, with the most vulnerable Haitians–women and girls from impoverished neighborhoods–paying the highest price. The solution is a return to an elected government accountable to the Haitian people, which requires an end to foreign interference in Haiti’s government.”

“Women and girls in poor neighborhoods across Port-au-Prince are suffering from daily, horrific violence, including murder, brutal sexual assaults, kidnappings – that often include brutal sexual assaults and murders, shootings, beatings, forced displacement, and theft of all their valuables,” said KOFAVIV co-Founder Malya Villard Appollon. “At the same time, they cannot obtain food, water, medical attention and other basic needs for themselves and their families.” A report subsequently released by the United Nations about gangs using sexual violence as a tool of conflict echoes these observations of harms and resource gaps and calls for urgent action, noting that the crisis does not exonerate Haitian authorities from core obligations to victims.

“Effective responses to sexual and gender-based violence in the form of judicial action and resources for survivors are badly needed. And they must be matched by a serious commitment to dismantling the systematic discrimination and inequality that keeps women and girls vulnerable in the first place,” said Sasha Filippova, Senior Staff Attorney for IJDH

“Empowering women is ultimately indispensable for Haiti’s long-term stability. Any solution to Haiti’s political and humanitarian crises thus requires including women in decision-making and leadership, as well as generally prioritizing the specific needs of Haitian women and girls.”

“The Precautionary Measures the IACHR awarded in 2010 were never truly implemented,” said Blaine Bookey, CGRS Legal Director. “While some minimal steps were taken in the first two years, for example the creation of some specialized police units, the failure to continue those programs demonstrates the lack of political will to advance women’s rights and gender equality in Haiti. The result of these failures has been devastating, with women and girls bearing the brunt. There are urgent measures Haiti can take now to prevent more harm and the IACHR should use its authority to make sure it does.” 

“U.S. and international support for Haiti’s illegal government undermines the Haitian people’s democratic rights and is contrary to the Inter-American system’s core principles,” said Lauren Dasse, Senior Director of Advocacy and Policy for MADRE. “The Inter-American system is currently failing to meet its corresponding obligations, just as it has fallen short of sustaining its efforts to protect Haiti’s women and girls from sexual violence, especially in situations of displacement.”

The submitting organizations requested the following five urgent actions from the IACHR, even as they emphasized that many longer-term measures are required to fully realize the rights of Haitian women and girls under the human rights principles core to the Inter-American system:

  1. Extend and expand the precautionary measures to cover all women and girls living in situations of displacement at least in Port-au-Prince and ideally in all of Haiti.
  2. Extend requirement for including grassroots women’s groups in planning and executing policies intended to combat sexual violence to ensure broadly that (i) women who represent impacted communities are included in all stages of response efforts, and (ii) the needs of women and girls are central to all programs and policy planning, especially with respect to those impacting security, livelihoods, political participation, and health.
  3. Issue a new measure directing the de facto government of Haiti to urgently return Haiti to a status of constitutional, democratic order required under the Inter-American system and direct all State Members of the Organization of American States to respect Haitian self-determination by ceasing support for the illegitimate, corrupt, and lawless de facto government at the expense of locally-driven solutions and instead to fully fund necessary humanitarian programs consistent with the obligations and values of the Inter-American human rights system.
  4. Issue a new measure directing the Haitian government to collect and publicly disseminate data about sexual and gender-based violence and to disaggregate all other important data by sex.
  5. Issue a new measure requesting an assessment and regular reporting from the Haitian government regarding the status of implementation of the IACHR’s precautionary measures.


Media Contacts:
Sasha Filippova, (925) 997-0171, (English, French)
Mario Joseph, +509 3701 9879 (Kreyòl, French, English)
Blaine Bookey (415) 703-8202 (Kreyòl, English, Spanish)


Posted Oct. 23, 2022