For Immediate Release
September 1, 2006
CONTACT: Anne Sosin, Vizyon Dwa Ayisyen, 509-445-2868, [email protected]
or Eramithe Delva, Commission of Women Victims for Victims, 509-779-9155, [email protected]
Haitian Rape Victims Risk Their Lives to Demand Their Rights
Port-au-Prince, Haiti, September 1, 2006: Despite the threat of violence amidst continuing arson attacks and gun battles in Port-au-Prince’s poorest neighborhoods, hundreds of women victims of rape will march through the capital today with faces veiled to raise their voices against ongoing violence and discrimination against women. The march will begin with a rally at 10 am in Place Jérémie.
The march is organized by the Commission of Women Victims for Victims (KOFAVIV), the largest community-based rape crisis group in Haiti. Marchers will take their cry for justice to the Haitian Government by visiting the Ministry of Justice, Ministry for Women, National Palace and Parliament.
A leader and founder of the group, Eramithe Delva explains, “We are veiling our faces because this is how they come to our homes to rape us, beat us, destroy our homes, burn our things. The veil also is a symbol of how we as women are silenced and marginalized in all spheres of public life.” In the wake of a massive exodus from the neighborhood of Grand Ravine, more than sixty new victims have come forward to tell harrowing stories of the escalating violence and their desperate efforts to survive and save their children.
In a declaration released today to correspond with the march, women state: “We demand that all groups responsible, including those that are perpetrating the rapes and those that are encouraging these groups, stop using rape against women. At the same time, we ask the state to take all action necessary to prevent this from happening.” KOFAVIV further calls upon both the Haitian government and the international community to take concerted action to address the conditions at the root of violence. “Protecting women’s rights does not only mean providing security in the streets or putting perpetrators in jail when they commit rape. We are asking for everyone’s rights to be respected, because we know that poverty is one of the causes of violence.”
KOFAVIV was founded by a group of survivors of rape from the country’s 1991-94 military dictatorship to provide emergency medical assistance and peer support to new women victims. Since its formation in late 2004, KOFAVIV has assisted more than 1,000 victims of rape. KOFAVIV believes that these figures represent only a fraction of the total victims, as many women are afraid to report that they have been raped or to seek treatment.