HAITI: After Haiti's Quake, Another Form of Horror

Thursday, July 1, 2010
NY Times
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

“Sexual Assaults Add to Miseries of Haiti's Ruins” (front page, June 24) was timely. As Nancy Dorsinville, a policy adviser in the United Nations' Office of the Special Envoy to Haiti, recently told a gathering of experts in New York, there is an urgent need for training peacekeepers, humanitarian aid staff, local law enforcement and social workers to prevent gender-based violence in refugee camps and other vulnerable areas.

The gender dimension of aid and security policies has only recently come under scrutiny, despite widespread occurrences of sexual assault and rape. There is neither an adequate system for documentation of these claims, nor judicial capacity to handle sex violence reports.

Training is absolutely essential. For example, while there is now a domestic violence hot line through the police department in Port-au-Prince, there's a need for training agents on how to respond to callers with sensitivity and appropriate action.

Without training all those who can help to prevent sexual assaults and rape, these horrific instances of violence against women will continue.

Linda Basch
President, National Council
for Research on Women
New York, June 24, 2010

To the Editor:

“Sexual Assaults Add to Miseries of Haiti's Ruins” is another reminder that sexual violence is a worldwide epidemic that worsens after natural disasters and wars, and complicates efforts to recover and rebuild. Our response is grossly inadequate, leaving women to suffer unspeakable trauma and pain.

The United States cannot solve all these problems, but we can prioritize stopping this violence in countries like Haiti, Sudan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and elsewhere.

The International Violence Against Women Act, which Congress is likely to consider this summer, would do that. This bipartisan legislation would, for the first time, make stopping violence against women and girls a priority in American diplomacy and foreign aid. It would provide funding and training to better address violence against women and girls in humanitarian situations like Haiti.

Esta Soler
Ritu Sharma
Washington, June 24, 2010

The writers are presidents of, respectively, the Family Violence Prevention Fund and Women Thrive Worldwide.