Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
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. 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. International observers noted that 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 and infrequent prosecutions.
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. 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 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.
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. Due to the lack of clear legal or administrative structures to deal with such cases, however, authorities frequently dropped or did not pursue cases when the offender was also a minor or the survivor was an adult.
Students at the magistrate school–who serve as 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.
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, but observers indicated that sexual harassment occurred, particularly in factories. Such incidents were unreported because of high unemployment and because victims had little confidence in the ability of the judicial system to provide protection.
Anecdotal evidence also suggested that sexual harassment and other derogatory treatment was a particular problem for female law enforcement officers, who constituted 9 percent of the HNP. Female police officers reported facing challenges their male counterparts did not, including less access to training, fewer promotion opportunities, and discriminatory administrative policies.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Approximately 45 percent of Haitians lived in rural areas with poor access to health care services. Reports estimated the lifetime risk of maternal death to be 1 in 90, and according to UN estimates, the maternal mortality rate was 359 per 100,000 live births. According to UN Population Fund estimates, skilled health personnel attended only 37 percent of births in 2015. The primary cause of maternal death was pre-eclampsia and eclampsia (37.5 percent), followed by hemorrhage (22 percent). High maternal death rates were attributed to inadequate health-care facilities and trained health practitioners, low percentage of skilled birth attendants, and high-risk deliveries in nonqualified health facilities. Complications from abortions, which are illegal in all cases, also contributed to high maternal death rates.
Despite high levels of general knowledge of contraceptive methods and the government’s active engagement, 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. According to UN Population Fund 2015 estimates, only 34 percent of women ages 15-49 used a modern method of contraceptives. 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. According to a demographic survey produced by the Ministry of Public Health and Population (EMMUS 5), contraceptive prevalence among adolescent girls (ages 15-19) was only 9 percent. The adolescent birth rate remained high in 2015 at 65 per 1,000 women ages 15-19, according to UN Population Fund estimates.
Discrimination: The law does not provide for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. 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.”
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.
Women continued to be underrepresented in supervisory or managerial positions in government and in the private sector. The Ministry on the Condition of Women and Women’s Rights reported that while 70 percent of the government workforce consisted of women, they mostly worked in low-level positions as secretaries or janitorial staff. Conversely, women held only 12 percent of managerial positions.
By law men and women have equal protections for economic participation. In practice women faced barriers to accessing economic inputs such as land ownership; receiving profits from work (particularly agricultural labor); and securing collateral for credit, information on lending programs, and resources for financial security and growth for themselves, their families, and their businesses.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived through an individual’s parents; only one parent of either sex is necessary to 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 the age of two years, after which it can be difficult and expensive to obtain a birth certificate, particularly in the provinces. The government continued to increase efforts to reduce the number of unregistered births, particularly in the country’s most impoverished rural communes.
Birth documents are legally necessary to open bank accounts, apply for credit, gain admission to hospitals, and vote. Individuals who did not possess required birth documents were not denied emergency medical services or educational opportunities on that basis.
Obtaining birth certificates was extremely difficult for individuals living outside the country (see section 2.d., Stateless Persons).
Education: Constitutional provisions require the government to provide free and compulsory primary education for all children; however, neither primary nor secondary education was compulsory, free, or universal. The government’s free national education program officially continued, however, following the departure of President Martelly, the Ministry of Education shifted its focus from increasing access to education to improving the quality of education.
Child Abuse: The law prohibits domestic violence against minors. The government continued to lack sufficient resources and an adequate legal framework to fully support or enforce existing mechanisms to promote children’s rights and welfare, but it made some progress in institutionalizing protections for children. The government closed several nurseries after assessing them as substandard. The government continued to station outside the capital more personnel from the Brigade for the Protection of Minors (BPM) and IBESR. The BPM and IBESR expanded partnership with international organizations and training opportunities for government officials on how better to recognize victims of child abuse and exploitation. Both offices had representatives in each of the 10 departments, as well as a presence at official border crossing points; however, most of their outreach and collaborative efforts with local community-based organizations to promote children’s rights focused on Port-au-Prince.
A study launched by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, published in December 2015 in collaboration with national and international organizations, estimated there were 286,000 children working in indentured domestic servitude (referred to as “restaveks”). Host families often abused restaveks and subjected them to domestic servitude, a form of trafficking in persons (see section 7.c.). The IBESR worked with international and local NGO partners to promote and strengthen community dialogue on the problems and abuses and trafficking associated with the restavek system. The IBESR initiated a national marketing campaign during the year to encourage families not to send their children away to work as domestic servants.
For more information see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/ and the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/ .
Port-au-Prince’s population of several thousand street children, the majority of whom were boys, included not only many who were dismissed from or fled employers’ homes or abusive families, including situations of domestic servitude, but also some children who lost parents or caretakers in the 2010 earthquake. NGOs reported that street children were likely to be sexually or otherwise abused, received little or no education, and were easily exploited and subjected to forced prostitution and forced begging by trafficking recruiters. Criminal gangs also reportedly forced minors to commit illegal acts. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor and the OPC as well as several NGOs and international organizations provided direct social support services and other assistance to street children and victims of exploitation.
The IBESR has official responsibility both for child protection and for monitoring and accrediting the country’s numerous residential care centers. As of October, IBESR representatives stated there were approximately 30,000 children residing in 770 institutions nationwide. They assessed that 90 percent of residential care centers were not up to standards.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage is 18 years. No data was available regarding early and forced marriage, but early marriage was not a widespread custom.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sex is 18 years. The law prohibits the corruption of youth under the age of 21, including by prostitution, with penalties ranging from six months’ to three years’ imprisonment for offenders. The antitrafficking law provides significant penalties. For example, those guilty of human trafficking can serve prison sentences ranging from seven to 15 years and pay a fine ranging from HTG (Haitian Gourdes) 200,000 to HTG 1.5 million ($3,750 to $28,140), and the penalties for those guilty of human trafficking committed with aggravating circumstances is up to life imprisonment. Similar penalties apply to exploitative employers and individuals attempting to obtain sexual services from a victim of trafficking, and the law provides for increased penalties for offenders when there are aggravating circumstances, including trafficking involving minors.
Recruitment of children for sexual exploitation, pornography, and illicit activities is illegal, but the United Nations reported that armed gangs recruited children as young as 10 years old for such purposes.
Displaced Children: Displaced children continued to reside in IDP camps and were at risk for exploitation and abuse.
Institutionalized Children: Children residing in orphanages and residential care centers were at times at risk of being abused or placed in a situation of forced labor. For more information see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
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 travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
The Jewish community numbered fewer than 100, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The constitution stipulates that persons with disabilities should have the means to provide for their autonomy, education, and independence. 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. There was no information available on the extent of government enforcement of these legal protection mechanisms. Government officials also took steps to include protections for persons with disabilities to vote.
The 2010 earthquake substantially increased the size of the community of persons with disabilities. Because of widespread and chronic poverty, a shortage of public services, and limited educational opportunities, persons with disabilities remained disadvantaged. Additionally, individuals with disabilities faced significant social stigma because of their disability. Persons with mental or developmental disabilities were marginalized, neglected, and abused in society. The Office of the Secretary of State for the Integration of Handicapped Persons (BSEIPH), which falls under the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, is the lead government agency responsible for providing assistance to persons with disabilities and ensuring their civil, political, and social inclusion. International and local NGOs continued to provide most direct services to persons with disabilities. Access to quality medical care posed a significant challenge for persons with disabilities. Hospitals and clinics in Port-au-Prince did not have sufficient space, human resources, or public funds to treat such individuals. Where facilities existed to treat and rehabilitate them, the conditions were below international standards.
The BSEIPH has several departmental offices outside the capital and continued to refine a strategic development plan to guide the institution’s efforts. The BSEIPH also offered scholarships and grants to students with disabilities and ran a program to help fund the study of disabilities-related issues at Haiti State University.
The BSEIPH ensured that existing efforts to craft or reform legislation took into account the needs of persons with disabilities. The BSEIPH provided technical assistance to governmental efforts to harmonize the labor code to the law on the integration of persons with disabilities, reform domestic adoptions framework, and conform the building code (in partnership with representatives from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, IBESR, and Ministry of Public Works, Transport, and Communications) to standards of universal accessibility. Similarly, the BSEIPH worked with international NGO Handicap International and the Ministry of Public Health to develop standardized training protocols for physical therapists and other health practitioners.
In March three deaf and mute women who were travelling together, Vanesa Previl, Monique Vincent, and Jesula Gelin, were tortured and killed when they stopped at a distant relative’s house to ask for shelter for the night. The relatives claimed to have believed that the women were supernatural creatures, a claim not uncommon in criminal cases in rural areas. The killings sparked large demonstrations and statements of outcry from disability rights groups, women’s rights groups, and human rights groups throughout the country. A trial for those charged with the offense continued at year’s end.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
No laws criminalize sexual orientation or consensual same-sex conduct between adults, nor were there any reports of police officers actively perpetrating or condoning violence against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community.
While no laws criminalizing the changing of one’s gender or sex, local attitudes remained hostile to outward LGBTI identification and expression, particularly in Port-au-Prince. Religious and other conservative organizations actively opposed the social integration of LGBTI persons and discussion of their human and civil rights. Leading presidential candidates publicly noted that they would not and should not consider any type of LGBTI rights legislation, particularly one calling for marriage equality.
No antidiscrimination laws protect LGBTI persons and minority groups. Additionally, traditional mistrust of law enforcement and judiciary officials, along with a historically low rate of successful prosecution of SGBV and related crimes, hindered LGBTI advocates and community members from successfully cooperating to reduce violence and discrimination experienced by the group. Some civil society advocates claimed that in the greater Port-au-Prince area, HNP authorities were inconsistent in their willingness to document or investigate LGBTI persons’ claims of abuse.
LGBTI advocacy groups in the capital reported a greater sense of insecurity and less trust of government authorities than did groups in rural areas. Several local NGOs and international organizations provided direct support to LGBTI persons who alleged discrimination due to their sexual orientation or gender identity or being victims of SGBV.
LGBTI advocacy groups said that LGBTI individuals were uniquely targeted for abuse due to their LGBTI status. In May a gay man attended a workshop for LGBTI individuals in Gonaives. Because of his participation, his community learned that he was gay and burned down his house. In September in Pacot, just outside of Port-au-Prince, a mob burned down the home of two men suspected of being gay. A woman in Port-au-Prince was beaten by her husband when he learned she was having an affair with a woman. When she reported the crime to police officers, they refused to take her complaint allegedly because she was a lesbian. LGBTI advocacy groups said that victims were afraid to report their crimes because they were afraid of the police, and because the police themselves were afraid of repercussions from their own community if they were seen to be supporting the claims of LGBTI victims.
In September organizers of the Massimadi LGBTI film festival canceled the event due to threats of violence and a prohibition by Port au Prince chief prosecutor Danton Leger. Despite the announced cancellation of the event, the organizers of the event nonetheless received death threats and threats against the facilities hosting the festival.
Reporting of rape and sexual assault remained low across all demographics of the LGBTI community. Although advocates and international partner institutions insisted that the incidence of such abuse remained high, there was a lack of consensus among advocates on the extent of abuses. The women’s victims organization KOFAVIV claimed that since the 2010 earthquake, cases of rape and other forms of SGBV perpetrated against women, children, and LGBTI persons rarely yielded arrests and convictions of the perpetrators. LGBTI advocacy groups also expressed fear of reprisal from perpetrators if they report crimes to police.
HNP academy instructors incorporated a community policing framework and philosophy, teaching police officers to respect the rights of all civilians without exception, into their human rights training curriculum. The curriculum specifically trained new officers on crimes commonly committed against the LGBTI community.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
In the country’s most recent demographic and health survey (2012), 61 percent of women and 55 percent of men reported discriminatory attitudes towards those with HIV.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
According to MINUSTAH reports, vigilante reprisals, including by lynching or burning persons alive, remained a problem, especially in rural areas outside the capital. Limited or nonexistent presence of law enforcement and judicial authorities meant that in practice such reprisals had few or no legal repercussions. Citizens often retaliated against police officers, particularly after incidents in which police officers attempted to quell mob violence.