Ms Alexandra Cohen, an eighth grader from Montreal, Canada has made a passionate plea for effective measures to protect Haitian women and children from sexual violence.
In a letter to the Montreal Gazette, the girl recalls a gruesome report by the UN that said in 2008 almost half the girls and young women living in poverty in Haiti had been raped. UNICEF estimated that 100,000 Haitian girls are currently held captive as sex slaves.
“The incidence of rape has more than doubled since the earthquake, particularly in the camps where the threat of sexual attacks is constantly looming. Offenders are rarely prosecuted, and the victims are shamed, ignored and intimidated. Often they are subject to retaliation by their attackers if they report the rape. Since there is no enforced punishment for rape and sexual slavery in Haiti, the problem continues to escalate.”
Urging fellow readers to mount a sustained campaign in support of the hapless girls, Cohen wrote movingly, “These women and children have no voice, but each of us can help speak for them so that Haiti is rebuilt as a safer place for everyone.”
Thousands attended memorial services at Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital. on the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake that struck the poor Caribbean nation at 4:53 p.m. a year ago, killing around a quarter of a million people.
Papal envoy to Haiti led the memorial service at the ruins of the National Cathedral in the wrecked capita. Many other religious leaders, government officials and foreign dignitaries too attended the service. Local mourners stretched out their arms, calling out aloud the names of dead loved ones and imploring God's help.