Haiti Moves to Tighten Laws on Sexual Violence

Women protest insecurity and living conditions at a tent camp in central Port-au-Prince, January 2011.
Women protest insecurity and living conditions at a tent camp in central Port-au-Prince, January 2011.

Published the day before International Women’s Day last week by Inter-Press Service:

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Mar 7 2013 (IPS) – Haiti is poised to enact major reforms to its penal code to make it easier for victims of rape to prosecute their attackers.

The amendments to the penal code would precisely define sexual assault in accordance with international law, legalise certain types of post-rape abortions, and criminalise marital rape.

The changes also mandate state-funded legal aid to victims who cannot pay for counsel. Discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation” would be banned in limited circumstances, in a first for Haitian law.

“I think it’s an exciting time,” Rashida Manjoo, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, said in February at a conference on the reforms. “It’s a small start with the penal code, but it’s a good start.”

Lawyers and activists at the conference pored over a three-page draft of the reforms. They’re optimistic that Haiti’s parliament will approve them within the year. Haiti’s prime minister and the ministry of justice have indicated they support the amendments. Continue reading “Haiti Moves to Tighten Laws on Sexual Violence”