Protests, taking place throughout the country, have negatively affected the economy and the ability of schools and clinics to function. While this is regrettable, protestors are fighting for a government that is more accountable, more responsive, and that invests in the people rather than enriching themselves. Without that, nothing will change for the better. High level leaders hide while sending out the security forces, who as demonstrated by Amnesty International, have committed abuses on numerous occassions. This is unacceptable - visit the Amnesty International website to read the full report and see accompanying videos.
In collaboration with Doctors Without Borders (French acronym: MSF), photojournalist Benedicte Kurzen took a series of photos with sexual assault survivors in Port au Prince. The intent of the project was to emphasize their resilience, raise awareness and promote dialogue around an important but stigmatized issue in Haiti. To learn more about gender-based violence and other human rights issues, take a look at the U.S State Department's 2015 Human Rights Report for Haiti. Stay informed about MSF's work in Haiti, consider supporting them financially, and follow Kurzen on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
In Haiti and other countries around the world, mental health problems cause significant suffering by decreasing a person’s ability to complete daily tasks, work, learn, and/or build supportive relationships with others. Discussing mental illness in Haiti can be sensitive – but it is a very important and often overlooked aspect of public health.
Below is an excellent Foreign Policy article by Jacob Kushner explaining how Haiti's unclear land tenure policies undermine investment and cause displacement on Ile a Vache. While the article focuses on one small island, these issues are playing out throughout the entire country. Improving the climate for investment and human rights requires high-level committment for addressing one of the most politically sensitive issues in Haiti. The full article follows.
Below is an article by the International Press Service's Ansel Herz describing upcoming legislative changes that would make it easier for survivors of rape to prosecute their attackers. The reforms have high-level support and could pass within a year. While much more remains to be done, these reforms would represent significant progress.
Equal Times has produced a compelling report on the abuse of Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic. It is concise, features remarkable photography and raises important issues such as the extent to which Dominican employers and law enforcement collude with traffickers. Preventing and responding to abuses is necessary for developing a bilateral relationship between Haiti and the Dominican Republic based on mutual respect.
Below is a recent report by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) on the state of the Haitian justice system. Prior to the earthquake, Haiti was making slow but much needed progress on improving access to justice. The Haitian government is not starting from scratch but now has the added challenge of rebuilding courts, prisons, and police stations while continuing reform efforts. Promoting a society that understands and values human rights and government that can monitor and enforce them is essential for Haiti's long term development.
The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) has been working with the Haitian Government to reform its sorely outdated criminal laws, more suited to the needs of 19th Century France than Haiti at present. For this reason, Haiti's justice system has not been able to address moden crimes which include trafficking in persons, drug trafficking, and violations of human rights. President Preval has initiated a comprehensive reform process with the participation of civil society, the United Nations, and think tanks such as USIP. This process could help bring about a new chapter in Haitian history where criminal laws protect rights instead of violating them, and serve all the people of Haiti, including the poor and vulnerable.
There was an interesting post on Corbett's List today which described how Jimmy Jean-Louis, who plays "The Haitian" on NBC's Heroes, is kicking off a campaign to fight human trafficking in Haiti. The campaign intends to raise awareness concerning the 200,000 children in Haiti who are the victims of modern-day slavery, trafficking and exploitation. You can visit the website here.
The United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery makes grants available for up to $15,000 for programs of humanitarian, legal and financial assistance to individuals whose human rights have been violated as a result of contemporary forms of slavery. Human trafficking and restaveks are just two areas where these funds could make a difference in Haiti. No awards were given for Haitiian programs last year, but hopefully a number of organizations will apply this year. Attached and below is background on this fund and the programs it supports.