Saturday, April 17, 2010

FemIssue: Help Women in Haiti

I just received this from Amnesty International. I thought our readers should know:

A bill pending in Congress would help protect women and girls at risk during crises.
Help countries like Haiti combat violence against women and girls.

Dear Megan,

Michelle Obama's trip to Haiti this week was a powerful reminder to us all how much further there is to go before Haitians fully recover from the catastrophic January 12th earthquake.

According to the most recent estimates from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), roughly 460 makeshift camps are still the homes to more than 1 million displaced people in Port-au-Prince alone1.

Conditions are horrid all around, but for women and girls in particular, the situation in Haiti has become a perfect storm for increased violence and exploitation. Before the earthquake, Kay Fanm, a Haitian women's rights organization, estimated that 72% of Haitian girls surveyed had been raped and at least 40% of women were victims of domestic violence2. Amnesty International findings show that in the aftermath of the disaster, Haitian women and girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence.

Help countries like Haiti prevent and respond to violence against women and girls.

The International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) was specifically created to combat violence including in humanitarian situations such as Haiti. If passed, IVAWA would provide valuable services like rape counseling, medical assistance and even economic opportunities to women and girls in countries around the world devastated by humanitarian crisis.

Many Senators and Representatives have already pledged their full support for IVAWA. But if we're going to help countries like Haiti combat violence against women and girls once and for all, then we've got to get more members of Congress standing up for women's human rights and supporting IVAWA.

Have your elected officials signed on to support IVAWA yet?

Last month, when our researchers traveled to Haiti on a mission to investigate human rights violations, what they found was appalling. Women were being forced to bathe and go to the bathroom in public Security was sparse – officers were rarely seen patrolling the camps to maintain security. The flimsy shelters hardly offered any sense of added protection or privacy.

Gender-based violence has been a problem in Haiti for many years, but the earthquake has exacerbated the problem. In fact, we spoke to one women's organization that reported 19 cases of rape in only a small section of the large camp site located in the Champ-de-Mars3. Far too many are exploiting this humanitarian crisis and endangering the lives of Haiti's women and girls in the process.

But by urging more members of Congress to support IVAWA, we can fight back against this dangerous reality and empower women worldwide, especially those living in times of crisis.

Thank you for your support,

Daphne Jayasinghe
Advocacy Director, Women's Human Rights
Amnesty International USA

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