Global Associate Malya Villard: In Her Own Words
Making Progress in the Fight Against Gender-based Violence
On behalf of KOFAVIV, the Commission of Women Victims helping women Victims, I extend our appreciation to everyone who has helped to provide services to women and girls who have been victims of sexual violence in Haiti. The 2010 earthquake led to significant increase in insecurity and impoverishment in a country already coping with economic hardship and instability. The natural disaster impacted negatively the nation as a whole, where everyone was grieving over the loss of a loved one, their homes, or both. People had to take shelter in public areas or parks as the government didn’t have the resources to safeguard affected individuals and areas.
As a result, there was a rapid increase in the number of women and girls who were attacked in the months after the earthquake shattered Haiti.
We are happy to report that the number of incidents documented by KOFAVIV have steadily decreased from 2010 to 2015:
Sadly, the ratio of arrests to incidents remains relative low due to a justice system that has meager technical and human capital resources. In too many cases, there is still no justice for victims and their families. However, with the financial assistance of the supporters of the Goldin Institute, we are making progress.
Thanks to your support, charges have been pressed against a small but growing percentage of defendants who have been prosecuted and convicted. Moreover, the Goldin Institute’s team of male sensitization agents continues to provide physical security within our facilities as they continue their outreach programs to bring anti-GBV awareness.
The team is working together to ensure that victims are encouraged to come forward swiftly, get medical and pyscho-social assistance, and press charges within 72 hours at local precinct. These interventions and services are crucial. Sadly, our team was needed on March 30th when an infant (2 years 6 months old) was raped by a young 22 year old man. The defendant was convicted of rape and is currently serving 15 years in prison. The conviction is significant for the family and also the justice system. Although the family wasn’t able to afford a lawyer, our partners at the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, provided pro-bono legal services to the victim and her family every step of the way and succeeded in obtaining a measure of justice.
We have built crucial relationships with the Police captains in Port-au-Prince, Potay St Joseph and Precinct Potay Leoganne, where increased police action has resulted in defendants who have been arrested for alleged rape charges against women and adolescents. Too often, however, the defendants are released before the victims even get home, which endangers the victims’ lives further. This year, we will target people and organizations in Haiti who can help make a difference, such as the Chief of Police, governmental representatives, the Minister of Justice, media outlets and hospitals. We will continue the outreach programs in prevalent areas and camps such as Petion Ville, Matisan, Cite Solei, Kafou Fey, Gran Ravinn, Tibwa, Gran Gwav, Laskawobas and Okay Maniche.
We hope to continue this year and many years to come with these outreach programs because of the ongoing success, even in the most vulnerable communities. Hopefully, the outreach programs will help build awareness and action from all sectors, public and private, and to make our neighborhoods a healthy environment for our women, young girls and their families.
Malya Villard Appolon
(with thanks to our friend and colleague Marie Boursiquot for translation assistance)