Port-au-Prince: One of the unmentioned effects of last month’s earthquake in Haiti is that women and young girls are suffering a rising number of rapes and sexual assaults, according to leading aid agencies.
So widespread are the reports – and they include the rape of a girl of 12 by her rescuer after she was pulled out from the rubble, that emergency measures are now being taken.
According to The Independent, displaced men and women patrol some camps with makeshift arms to ward off attackers; girls wear jeans under their skirts for protection if they go out after dark; temporary women-only health centres are being set up; and NGOs try to deliver aid to dangerous neighbourhoods where women are too scared to go out in search for food.
Sarah Spencer, gender-based violence co-ordinator for the International Rescue Committee (IRC), who arrived in Port-au-Prince two weeks ago, said: "Violence against women was a problem in Haiti before this crisis. Now, women and girls are dramatically more vulnerable to attack.”
“Many women have been left without male protection because their husbands or brothers were killed. All of this means the risk to women in post-disaster Haiti have elevated dramatically," Spencer added.
The Ti Source camp, which is home to 3,000 refugees and is located 30-minute from Port-au-Prince, has formed a male security group to prevent rape of women.
Martine Josil, 24, said: "After the earthquake we felt very afraid because people were talking about rapes and robberies in other camps. We were all sleeping out in the open on the streets and things were very chaotic. There were many women who had lost their husbands and they felt very vulnerable. We didn`t want to get raped so we asked the guards to protect us."
The men, and some women, carry makeshift weapons – iron bars and knives – and guard the camp throughout the night in groups of five.