War for control of Haiti’s capital targets women’s bodies

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Nadia silenced a crying three-month-old baby in her arms and kissed her softly on the forehead.

She was 19 and unprepared to be a mother. But the young Haitian’s life changed last year when she walked home from class down the dusty streets of the gang-controlled neighborhoods of the Haitian capital.

She is blindfolded and dragged into a car by a group of kidnapped men. For three days she was beaten, starved and gang-raped.

A few months later she found out she was pregnant. Her dreams of studying and supporting her family financially disappeared quickly.

like haiti gang toxic slate They continue to plunder the crisis-hit Caribbean nation, kidnapping, deporting and extorting civilians.

Women like Nadia live with consequences.

“The hardest part is not having anything to give her,” Nadia said of her daughter. “When she gets older and asks about her father, she’s scared because she doesn’t know what to say…but I explain to her that I was raped. Have to.”

The woman provided only Nadia’s name, not her real name, to the Associated Press, which did not identify the survivor of the sexual assault.

Haiti has long been plagued by crises such as natural disasters, political turmoil, severe poverty and cholera waves. 2021 Assassination of President Jovnel Moyes.

Sexual violence has long been used as an instrument of war around the world. This is a barbaric way of instilling fear in the community and claiming control.

“They are running out of tools to control people,” said Renata Segura, deputy director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the International Crisis Group. “They extort, but there is only so much money they can rob from the really poor. This is the only thing they can give to the population.”

That terror ripples through Port-au-Prince. Parents are hesitant to send their children to school, fearing that they will be kidnapped or raped by gangs. At night, the busy streets of the city are emptied.

Especially for women, going out of the house is dangerous. The same goes for running away. Gangs use the threat of rape to stop communities from abandoning their territories.

Haiti’s UN envoy, Helen La Rime, told the Security Council in late January that gangs are using sexual violence to “destroy the social fabric of communities,” especially in areas controlled by rival gangs. Said he was using

They raped girls and boys as young as 10, she said.

It is a severely underreported complex that makes it difficult for any authority to grasp the full extent of the damage. Women fear gangs will seek revenge on them, and they trust Haitian police as well.

The country’s current government, which many consider illegal, declined to comment on what it is doing to address the issue.

The United Nations has documented 2,645 cases of sexual violence in 2022, a 45% increase from the previous year. This number is only a fraction of the actual number of attacks.

Nadia was among those who did not report.

When she found out she was pregnant, she agonized over whether to keep the baby, but decided to give her daughter the best life she could. are in short supply, leaving new mothers unable to work or continue their studies.

Meanwhile, doctors like Jovania Michel are trying to fill that gap.

Michel works in one of the few hospitals in Cité Soleil, the epicenter of gang violence in Port-au-Prince. There she saw her mothers gang-raped after her husband was killed. Victims of sexual violence live on the streets, unable to return home for fear it will happen again. A survivor suffering from a sexually transmitted disease.

“Sexual violence is a way to paralyze and scare people. As soon as sexual violence increases, everyone stops moving and people are too scared to go to work,” said Michelle. “It’s a weapon and a way to send a message.”

The 36-year-old woman who spoke to the AP wore a bright red rose shirt and had her hair carefully braided. She requested her anonymity for fear of retaliation.

This woman used to run a boutique with her husband in the Haitian capital and sent their two daughters and sons to school. In July, a group of armed men, members of the gang G-Pep, showed up on their doorstep and told them they needed money for bullets.

Unable to get cash, man took husband away at 8pm

The next day she found his dead body in a ditch. She fled her neighborhood and sent her children to live with her friends and family elsewhere in the city. Meanwhile, she has been sleeping alone on the streets, joining at least 155,000 other Haitians who have been forced from their homes by violence.

In December, gangsters raped and beat her as she tried to return home.

“I’m a professional, but bandits came out of nowhere and I lost everything. I’m not good. I’m not okay. It all makes me really angry. It makes me want to kill myself.” I did,” said the woman.

Standing straight with a firm chin and tilting her head up, she wiped the tears from her face.

When she tried to report the rape to the police, they told her they weren’t dealing with gang cases.

Today, sleeping in a park with other forcibly displaced Haitians, her only hope is that her children, whom she rarely sees, can have a better life. That’s it.

But she worries about what severe instability and rising gang rule in Haiti means.

“I don’t live in a good country,” she said.