Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process
The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.
Recent Elections: Legislative, municipal, and presidential elections were completed in 2016. While there were isolated allegations of voter fraud, the elections were generally regarded as credible by international and domestic observers. Although voter turnout was low, citizens generally accepted the elections, and public demonstrations against the election results were muted, compared with previous years. Legislative and local elections scheduled for October did not take place and as of December had not been rescheduled.
Political Parties and Political Participation: Some political parties exercised undue influence at the local level, including through threats to journalists and civil society organizations.
Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit the participation of women or members of minorities in the political process, but social norms and the threat of electoral violence discouraged women from voting and, to a much greater extent, from running for office. The constitution requires that at least 30 percent of elected officials be women, but both chambers of Parliament fell well short of this quota (3 percent in the Senate, 2.5 percent in the Chamber of Deputies). Local elections, in which candidates run in groups where women must be at least 30 percent of the candidates on the ballot, did reach the quota. Civil society organizations noted female political candidates had little access to campaign financing and that female participation in politics was hindered by cultural norms rejecting female participation in politics.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape of men and women but does not recognize spousal rape as a crime. The penalty for rape is a minimum of 10 years of forced labor. In the case of gang rape, the maximum penalty is lifelong forced labor. Actual sentences were often less severe. The criminal code excuses a husband who kills his wife, her partner, or both found engaging in adultery in the husband’s home, but a wife who kills her husband under similar circumstances is subject to prosecution.
The law does not classify domestic violence against adults as a distinct crime. Women’s rights groups and human rights organizations reported domestic violence against women remained commonplace. Judges often released suspects arrested for domestic violence and rape.
In July, Judge Jean Baptiste Louis Jean acquitted Pastor Onold Petit of the rape of a 14-year-old girl despite DNA evidence confirming that Petit was the father of the child the girl conceived as a result of the assault. The OPC intervened in the case, citing allegations of corruption and irregularities, and called on the CSPJ to intervene. The CSPJ removed Jean from his post in July pending a disciplinary hearing, and the verdict in the rape case was appealed. Civil society organizations continued to denounce the laxity with which sexual assault cases are handled in the Grand’ Anse Department, noting there were 118 pending cases. The OPC representative in Grand’ Anse reportedly received threats from government officials, including from Senator Jean Rigaud Beliziare, who accused the OPC of interfering in the judicial process.
Victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence faced major obstacles in seeking legal justice, as well as in accessing protective services such as women’s shelters. While women were more likely to report cases of sexual and domestic violence than in the past, civil society organizations reported many victims failed to report such cases due to a lack of financial resources. Due to familial responsibilities, victims were usually unable to dedicate the time necessary to follow through with legal proceedings. According to some civil society organizations, many local nonprofit organizations that provided shelter, medical and psychological services, and legal assistance to victims had to reduce services due to a lack of funding. There were reports that in rural areas, criminal cases, including cases of sexual violence, were settled outside of the justice system. According to MINUJUSTH and other judicial observers, prosecutors often encouraged such settlements.
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. Observers indicated sexual harassment occurred frequently. There were no programs to address sexual harassment.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: Women did not enjoy the same social and economic status as men, despite the constitutional amendments requiring that women’s participation in national life and in public service (i.e., political candidates, elected officials, and civil servants) be at least 30 percent of the positions.
By law men and women have equal protections for economic participation. In practice, however, women faced barriers to accessing economic inputs and securing collateral for credit, information on lending programs, and other resources.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived through an individual’s parents; either parent can transmit citizenship. Citizenship can also be acquired through a formal request to the Ministry of the Interior. The government did not register all births immediately. Birth registry is free until age two. Approximately 30 percent of children between the ages of one and five lacked birth certificates or any other official documentation. Children born in rural communities were less likely to be documented than those in urban areas.
Education: Constitutional provisions require the government to provide free and compulsory education for all children up to grade nine (when students are approximately age 16); nonetheless, the government did not effectively enforce these provisions. When transitioning to secondary school, children older than age 13 must join a special group that attends school during the evening shift.
Child Abuse: The law prohibits domestic violence against minors. The government lacked an adequate legal framework to support or enforce existing mechanisms to fully promote children’s rights and welfare. The government made some progress in institutionalizing protections for children.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage is 18 years. No data were available regarding early and forced marriage, but early and forced marriage were not widespread customs.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sex is 18 years, and the law has special provisions for rape of persons who are 16 years of age or younger. The law prohibits the corruption of youth younger than age 21, including prostitution, with penalties ranging from six months to three years of imprisonment for offenders. The law for human trafficking prescribes prison sentences of seven to 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine ranging from 200,000 to 1.5 million Haitian Gourdes (HTG) ($2,070 to $15,500). The penalty for human trafficking with aggravating circumstances, which includes cases involving the exploitation of children, is up to life imprisonment.
MINUJUSTH reported the HNP investigated 136 cases of sexual and gender-based violence between January and June. Of the 140 victims in those cases, 57 were minor girls and eight were minor boys. Several civil society groups reported impoverished children were often subjected to sexual exploitation and abuse. According to these groups, children were often forced into prostitution or transactional sex to fund basic needs such as school-related expenses. Recruitment of children for sexual exploitation and pornography is illegal, but the United Nations reported criminal gangs recruited children as young as 10 years of age.
Institutionalized Children: The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor’s Institute of Social Welfare and Research (IBESR) has official responsibility for monitoring and accrediting the country’s orphanages and residential care centers. According to the international NGO Lumos, an estimated 25,000 children lived in the more than 750 orphanages in the country. An estimated 80 percent of those children had at least one living parent.
In October 2018 the IBESR announced that only 35 (revised to 29 as of March 2019) of the more than 750 orphanages it inspected complied with the minimum standards for childcare. The IBESR study identified 3,019 potential trafficking victims within the orphanage system. The IBESR attempted to close the orphanages with the most egregious violations but could only do so as quickly as they could find new placements for the affected children. It closed eight orphanages between April 2018 and March 2019 and relocated 52 minors from those facilities. The government accredited 121 families for its newly developed foster care program to make children less vulnerable to trafficking or being revictimized. Local and international antitrafficking organizations noted the government had not provided adequate resources for transitional centers or other temporary housing and care facilities.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.
The Jewish community numbered fewer than 100 persons, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
The constitution stipulates that persons with disabilities should have the means to provide for their autonomy, education, and independence. The law requires all public buildings and spaces to be accessible to persons with disabilities. The law prohibits discrimination in employment practices against persons with disabilities, requires the government to integrate such persons into the state’s public services, and imposes a 2 percent quota for persons with disabilities in the workforces of private-sector companies. This quota was not met, and the government did not enforce these legal protections.
Local disability rights advocates continued to state that persons with disabilities faced significant obstacles to voting. Persons with disabilities had difficulty obtaining a national identification card, a requirement to vote, because the National Identification Office was inaccessible to persons with disabilities.
Individuals with disabilities faced significant social stigma because of their disability. Persons with mental, developmental, or physical disabilities were marginalized, neglected, and abused in society. The Office of the Secretary of State for the Integration of Handicapped Persons (BSEIPH) in the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor is the lead government agency responsible for assisting persons with disabilities and ensuring their civil, political, and social inclusion.
Local disability rights organizations reported that the Village of Hope, a deaf community in the town of Leveque in the West Department, suffered from repeated acts of burglary and forced eviction by criminals. Local activists said government authorities, despite being aware of the situation, took no action to protect the community.
The BSEIPH had several departmental offices outside the capital, and it effectively lobbied the government to pass legislation to benefit persons with disabilities. Nonetheless, its efforts were constrained by a limited budget, and there was little progress towards creating a strategic development plan. The BSEIPH provided persons with disabilities with legal advice and job-counseling services. It regularly convened meetings with disability rights groups in all its regional offices.
Some disability rights activists said that social services available to persons with disabilities were inadequate and that persons with disabilities had a significant challenge accessing quality medical care. Hospitals and clinics in Port-au-Prince frequently did not have sufficient space, human resources, or public funds to treat persons with disabilities.
No laws criminalize sexual orientation or consensual same-sex conduct between adults, but there are no antidiscrimination laws to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
In October, four members of an LGBTI organization, including its executive director, suffered significant injuries following an assault. As a result of the assault, the organization’s executive director fled the country. In November, three members of the same organization were harassed and threatened in public by a group of individuals waving bottles and sticks. On November 25, Charlot Jeudy, the head of LGBTI rights advocacy KOURAJ, was found dead at his home in Port-au-Prince. Despite some speculation of foul play, the circumstances of his death remained unclear as of December.
There were no reports of police officers actively perpetrating or condoning violence against LGBTI individuals. Some LGBTI groups reported the HNP and judicial authorities were inconsistent in their willingness to document or investigate LGBTI persons’ claims of abuse. HNP academy instructors taught police officers to respect the rights of all civilians without exception. The curriculum specifically trained new officers on crimes commonly committed against the LGBTI community. As a result some civil society leaders noticed a marked improvement in the efforts of the HNP’s Gender and Community Police Units to address the needs of the LGBTI community.
The HNP Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) unit remained understaffed. The unit had satellite offices at Fort National and Delmas 33. The HNP assigned officers who had received SGBV training to serve as regional SGBV representatives in all 10 departments. These officers had minimal links to the SGBV unit in Port-au-Prince.
Local attitudes, particularly in Port-au-Prince, remained hostile toward LGBTI individuals who were public and visible about their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. Some politicians, societal leaders, and organizations actively opposed the social integration of LGBTI persons and discussion of their rights. LGBTI advocacy groups in Port-au-Prince reported a greater sense of insecurity and less trust of government authorities than did groups in rural areas.
Stigma against persons with HIV or AIDS was strong and widespread. UNAIDS reported 70 percent of persons would not use the same toilet as someone with HIV, and 67 percent would not employ or recommend for employment someone whom they know with HIV.
The Demographic and Health Survey 2016-17, published in 2018, reported 57 percent of women and 52 percent of men who heard about HIV said they would deny school entrance to HIV-positive children, and 65 percent of women and 62 percent of men said they would not buy vegetables from persons with HIV.