Haiti: Men Supporting Women's Rights

Sunday, November 20, 2011
The Guardian
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence
Reconstruction and Peacebuilding

Powerfully built with a livid scar across one cheek, Jacques is an unlikely looking women's rights defender. His decision to join a pressure group in Champ de Mars displacement camp was made in the aftermath of a particularly brutal string of camp attacks, one of which included his sister.

"We won't accept it, this level of violence," says Jacques, age?, speaking with a surprisingly gentle voice. "It is not normal to rape. The men who do this make me feel ashamed. What happens to our mothers, our sisters, our daughters, it affects us all."

Jacques is one of 27 male activists, aged between 18 and 35, working around the clock in Champ de Mars camp to set up effective security patrols. The camp, which has a population of 20,000 people, is in the centre of Port-au-Prince, close to the presidential palace, which was severely damaged in the earthquake.

Operating hand-in-hand with women's groups in the camp, the men are supported and trained by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and by Kofaviv. They have been given T-shirts and badges to identify them as a group working to make the camp more secure.

"We cannot stand by, allowing this to happen in the heart of our community," says Delra, aged 26. "The Haitian police cannot be relied on. And long ago we lost faith in the UN. So we have taken it into our own hands.

"We send out a strong message that these attacks will not be tolerated and that those using sexual violence are weak, not strong men and will be brought to justice."