Rape and Domestic Violence: While the law prohibits rape, it does not recognize spousal rape as a crime. The penalty for rape is a minimum of 10 years of forced labor, increasing to a mandatory 15 years if the survivor was less than 16 years old or if the rapist was a person of authority. In the case of gang rape, the maximum penalty is lifelong forced labor. Actual sentences were often less rigorous, and prosecution frequently was not pursued due to lack of reporting and follow-up on survivors’ claims. By June the HNP reported having received 301 complaints of rape and rape-related crimes since the January 2010 earthquake. Suggesting that the actual number of documented rape cases exceeds what police authorities have reported, one prominent women’s rights NGO claimed that approximately 600 rape cases had been reported to the HNP and forwarded to the judiciary for prosecution during that same period; of these, however, only five cases had resulted in a conviction or sentencing for the perpetrator. The criminal code excuses a husband who kills his wife or her partner found engaging in an act of adultery in his home, but a wife who kills her husband under similar circumstances is subject to prosecution.
The law similarly does not classify domestic violence against adults as a distinct crime. Women’s rights groups and human rights organizations reported that domestic violence against women remained commonplace and underreported. Police rarely arrested the perpetrators or investigated the incidents, and the survivor sometimes suffered further harassment and reprisals from perpetrators. Judges often released suspects arrested for domestic violence and rape.
SGBV was a chronic problem. In August MINUSTAH noted in its Special Representative’s Report a “lack of diligence on behalf of police and judicial authorities in treating [SGBV] cases, leading to a high degree of impunity.” The weakness of the justice system made it difficult for SGBV survivors to find redress, and the fear of reprisals and social stigma attached to being a survivor of SGBV contributed to underreporting.
Human rights groups and lawyers said barriers to reporting rape remained high and included stigmatization, fear of reprisal, and distrust of the judiciary and legal system. They also said there were wide disparities in access to and the quality of medical services from hospitals treating rape survivors. Multiple credible groups said that legal authorities often asked rape survivors inappropriate questions, such as whether the survivor was a virgin before the incident and what clothing the survivor was wearing at the time of the alleged rape. In some cases, authorities advised survivors against pressing charges in order to avoid the public humiliation of a trial. Survivors of rape and other forms of sexual violence faced major obstacles in seeking legal justice, as well as access to protective services such as women’s shelters.
MINUSTAH’s August report on the police and judicial response to rape cases gathered and analyzed data from seven of the country’s 10 departments between January 2012 and March 2013. The data showed that various actors in the criminal justice system inadequately handled the vast majority of rape cases. The report concluded that the state failed in its obligation to conduct investigations and to ensure that rape victims had sufficient access to victims’ services or the judicial system. The barriers to justice for rape survivors included the requirement that women obtain a medical certificate verifying the rape. Justices of the Peace, who statutorily had no jurisdiction to handle this type of crime, also at times attempted to “amicably resolve” rape complaints by negotiating a financial settlement for the victim in exchange for dropping the complaint. The lack of clerical rigor in properly registering rape complaints also contributed to systemic underreporting.
The vast majority of rape survivors never filed a complaint. Those who did choose to file a complaint could do so with the police, the prosecutor’s office, or with a justice of the peace. Survivors could also request the doctor at the medical center call the HNP on their behalf. While the UN report found that 81 percent of women who chose to file a rape complaint did so with the police, very few of those cases that formally entered the judicial system via the police, prosecutor’s office, or the justices of the peace were ever resolved. According to the report: (1) police handled only 47 percent of the cases reported to them; (2) the justices of the peace forwarded to the proper judicial authorities 61percent of the cases they received from either the police or victims; (3) prosecutors pursued 64 percent of all rape cases they received; (4) investigating magistrates’ chambers only pursued 10 percent of the cases received from victims or prosecutors; and (5) first instance courts only handled 34 percent of the cases they received from the investigating magistrates’ chambers. Overall, only a small percentage of complaints filed went to trial. The data suggested that, in practice, fewer than 2 percent of rape complaints made it to the trial phase, and an even smaller percentage resulted in a conviction.
One high-profile cases illustrated weaknesses of the justice system and the stigma faced by rape survivors when reporting SGBV. In late November 2012, 27-year-old Ministry of Interior secretary Marie Danielle Bernadin accused Josue Pierre-Louis – a one-time minister of justice and first president of the electoral council created by President Martelly in August 2012 – of assault and rape. Pierre-Louis denied the allegations, claiming the two were involved in a long-term, consensual relationship. He also filed his own charges against Bernadin, alleging she engaged in “espionage” by accessing files on his cell phone. Bernadin’s family volunteered that associates of Pierre-Louis had offered significant financial and professional inducements in an attempt to persuade her to drop the case. In December 2012 the investigative judge handling the case recused himself, and the media reported he was threatened by Pierre-Louis’ family. While the president eventually removed Pierre-Louis from his position on the electoral council, authorities never prosecuted him because Bernadin eventually dropped her complaint.
Attorneys who represented rape survivors said that authorities were reasonably responsive to cases involving the rape of minors, as the law is clear and judicial measures exist to deal with such cases, which often were accompanied by outrage from local communities. Authorities, however, frequently dropped or did not pursue cases when the offender was also a minor or the survivor was an adult due to the lack of clear legal or administrative structures to deal with such cases. The attorneys claimed authorities often “provisionally released” juvenile offenders in rape cases back to their parents’ recognizance as allowed for in the law.
Through international donor funding and support, the government took significant measures to combat SGBV. Since June 2012 authorities referred over 2,300 SGBV survivors to voluntary counseling and testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, as well as reproductive health and psychological support services. Similarly, health care providers at 30 different facilities were trained to identify and manage GBV cases and provide referrals to social and legal services. In addition, authorities sensitized and surveyed approximately 9,200 persons on SGBV, including 113 medical staff and over 9,000 patients. These developments were part of a much larger, multi-year public awareness and survey project that specifically targeted SGBV and reached approximately 115,000 persons living in high-risk areas.
Students at the magistrate school – who serve as new judges, prosecutors, and court clerks upon graduation – received training on SGBV and strategies for improved investigation and prosecution of such crimes, victim assistance, and evidentiary procedures. Funding from the international community added a special advisor to the HNP’s SGBV Unit to strengthen law enforcement’s capacity to prevent and respond to SGBV crimes. International institutions and NGOs also provided training to 40 women from the Jean Marie Vincent IDP camp to serve as mediators in family disputes to mitigate the incidence of domestic violence through dialogue between partners.
Government and international partners also conducted mentoring sessions on SGBV as part of pilot program for chief judges, prosecutors, and justice of the peace courts in Hinche and Mirebalais in order to increase the number of SGBV cases sent to the prosecutors’ office for prosecution. Since the project began in 2011, Hinche saw a 75 percent increase in the number of SGBV cases sent to the prosecutors’ office (28 by July 2013).
Sexual Harassment: The law does not specifically prohibit sexual harassment, although the labor code states that men and women have the same rights and obligations. Data concerning sexual harassment in the workplace were not available, although observers suggested that sexual harassment was common, particularly in factories. Such incidents were unreported because of high unemployment and because survivors had little confidence in the ability of the judicial system to provide protection.
Anecdotal evidence also suggests that sexual harassment and other derogatory treatment was a particular problem for female law enforcement officers, who constituted 10 percent of the HNP. Female police officers interviewed early in the year reported facing challenges their male counterparts did not, including co-worker gossip, more limited access to training, fewer promotion opportunities, and discriminatory administrative policies.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals had the legal right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of children and have the information and means to do so free from discrimination. According to the UN Population Fund, the contraceptive prevalence rate for married women or women in union ages 15 to 49 increased from 24.8 percent in 2006 to 31.3 percent in 2012. According to the 2012 Haiti Demographic Health Survey (DHS), approximately 73 percent of women could participate in decisions about their own health care. Despite high levels of general knowledge of contraceptive methods and the government’s active engagement in this domain, social, cultural, and legal barriers often impeded women from acquiring additional information on family planning methods and reproductive health care. In the largely conservative society, modern contraception was often socially discouraged. A lack of adequate family planning resources continued to hamper protection of women’s reproductive rights. Young, sexually active women found it especially difficult to gain access to family planning services. Governmental family planning services, often located in public health facilities such as hospitals, generally did not have private or confidential screening areas for patients.
The UN Population Fund reported that only 25 percent of all deliveries in 2011 occurred in health institutions or with a skilled attendant present. Most women used “matrons,” often experienced but untrained local women, to help them give birth at home or in nonmedical facilities. Health-care professionals attributed this practice to the poor and inconsistent quality of maternity services at hospitals and clinics. According to the DHS, approximately 90 percent of pregnant women went for at least one prenatal visit. While most women in rural provinces chose to deliver at home, many women in urban areas with access to professional delivery services also chose to deliver at home.
UN, World Bank, and local health professional estimates of health trends placed the maternal mortality rate between 300 and 670 per 100,000 live births, although this number could not be confirmed, since authorities conducted no nationwide survey since 2005. A combination of strict laws, unmet family planning needs, lack of medical services, lack of emergency obstetrics, and a high level of unwanted pregnancies contributed to the high maternal mortality rate.
Discrimination: Women did not enjoy the same social and economic status as men, despite the constitutional amendments recognizing the principle of “at least 30 percent women’s participation in national life and notably in public service,” but conditions improved during the year. Increased civil society and government advocacy heightened awareness of the link between women’s empowerment and national development.
In some social strata, tradition limited women’s roles. The majority of women in rural areas remained in the traditional occupations of farming, marketing, and domestic labor. Very poor female heads of household in urban areas also often faced limited employment opportunities, working in domestic labor, sales, and as merchants.
International partner institutions and NGOs provided social support mechanisms to various groups, including women. Minister Delegate Auguste used the various social and poverty reduction programs her ministry had responsibility for to help economically empower small business owners and single mothers, and provided opportunities for cultural expression to disadvantaged youth and detainees (see section 5).
While women continued to be underrepresented in supervisory or managerial positions in government and in the private sector, more women held such positions than in previous years. The HNP also saw sustained and significant increases in the number of female recruits and inducted officers. The December 2012 23rd promotion class included 6 percent female cadets, while almost 10 percent of the 24th promotion class (nearly1,000 cadets), which graduated in November, were women.
Under the law, men and women have equal protections for economic participation. In practice, however, women faced barriers to accessing to economic inputs such as land ownership, reaping of profits from work (particularly agricultural labor), securing collateral for credit, as well as information on lending programs, as well as resources for financial security and growth for themselves, their families, and/or their businesses.