HAITI: Open Source Database Helps Combat Sexual Violence in Haiti

Tuesday, April 5, 2011
The Utopianist
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Human Rights
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

The UN recently reported that a staggering 50 percent of Haitian women and girls living in the displacement camps in Haiti after the tragic February 2010 earthquake have been sexually assaulted.

Women in the camps, according to the Amnesty Report, feel that the police are unwilling to do anything about his problem. Since the police reporting practices are so shoddy and inadequate, women feel they true have nowhere to go, and are often fearful of reprisal attacks. There is also the cultural stigma and shame associated with being raped.

One of the Amnesty Report's conclusions, along with increasing lighting in the camp, suggesting that the Haitian police and UN safekeepers patrol inside the camps at night and during the day (not just outside on the perimeter), and better sanitation and shelter, is to:

“establish a uniform and nation-wide mechanism to record reported cases of sexual and gender-based violence, providing tracking support to health care providers, the Haitian National Police, judicial authorities, and women's rights organizations.”

The folks at Digital Democracy are doing just that. Since February, Digital Democracy has been working with KOFAVIV (a grassroots Haitian NPO for rape victims) to digitize their database of women reporting sexual violence against themselves and their children.

Haitian women can now go to special centers with free Internet access to report the attack. These reports are then staticized and published through Noula (translation: “We're Here”), which is “an open-source incident reporting platform for crises in Haiti. The overall goal is to provide a digital platform where this data can be channeled between the public and the government or international groups who are providing services.”

Basically, this would allow for statistics to be generated instantly, so the international community can start paying more attention to this truly appalling problem.

Although Haiti is now legally bound by Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to implement what petitioners like the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) are seeking after the March 25th conference, it may still be quite some time until conditions in these camps improve to the point where the Haitian women and children living in them feel safe enough to sleep at night. In fact, many women interviewed in the Amnesty Report tell of having to sleep under mere bed sheets, their tent tarps having been washed away in the rains.

Malya Appolon-Villard, co-founder of KOFAVIV, explains: “Every day, we see women and girls who have been raped. They have no protection in the camps, and their attackers go unpunished. The IACHR's binding decision for the Haitian government is a first step, and we are ready to work with the IACHR and all of our international partners to ensure that the Haitian government fulfills these demands.”