On the occasion of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, peasant women, political activists, social activists, feminists, from across Haitian territory, will unite their voices on the streets. In their mobilizations to be held on November 25, they seek to publicly and internationally denounce the political violence against them, the repression and silencing of women of the working class sectors by paramilitary forces and instruments of the Haitian government.
Following in the footsteps of the three Dominican Mirabal sisters, whose brutal assassination in 1960 inspired the commemoration on the November 25, they will denounce the racist, anti-Haitian and xenophobic violence against Haitian refugee women by the Dominican government and its public policies so similar to those of the former dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina.
During the last four years, Haitian working class women have been in the streets permanently to denounce the crisis in the country resulting from the disinterest of the current national leaders. Within this economic, political, and social crisis, women have had their rights systematically violated and been particularly targeted by repressive forces. Thousands have been forced to flee due to this violence and threats from paramilitaries and armed gangs. In the neighboring Dominican Republic, where thousands of Haitians have fled, many have been restricted from accessing public services and been deported by security forces in subhuman conditions.
It should be recalled that feminist organizations in the Dominican Republic have already publicly denounced President Abinader, who has threatened to increase deportations of Haitian people, including girls, adolescents, and women (including pregnant women) from the decree 668-22 which can become an instrument of ethnic cleansing. They warned: “today we are facing an alarming escalation of the racist and xenophobic policy of the Dominican government, which includes the call for an international military intervention against Haiti.
In a public note from the peasant organization Tèt Kole Ti Peyizan, a majority female organization with around 50,000 members, denounced that “The massacres committed have a strong impact on the lives of women and girls as victims. Not only are their homes burned, but they are also abused collectively. After these massacres, they take refuge in public squares. It is true that women face many other forms of violence such as: sexual abuse, burns, domestic violence, mistreatment, beatings, kidnappings by the State, sexual, verbal, psychological, economic and physical violence, etc. This violence instrumentalized by the State is already so well established in the country, now the PHTK paramilitaries leave the capital with their teams, to continue massacring and causing sadness to the peasant communities.”
Worrying increase in violence against women
In addition to their street mobilizations on November 25, Haitian women activists will also conduct workshops on the issue of political violence against women, based their struggles on relatively recent cases of violence without a response from the government, which is also “illegal and illegitimate”. For example, it has been a year since the murder of political activist Antoinette Duclaire, yet there is no progress in the case.
More recently, on August 22, 2022, Sarahdjie and Sondjie Desenclos, and their mother Josette Desenclos, were publicly burned alive in their vehicles by paramilitaries, in the Tabarre area (North-East of Port-au-Prince). In response, the government only published a tweet. No arrest or investigation was announced.
Outside of the capital, in the Artibonite Valley, the paramilitary group called “Grand Grif” carried out a massacre from November 9 and 10, 2022, wherein they killed 17 peasants and burned 75 houses. After that, they began to threaten to kill women journalists, as in the case of Bertude Horace. They even attacked her mother’s house.
In 2021, human rights organizations publicly warned that the control of working class neighborhoods by paramilitaries has increased the cases of gender violence by up to 377%. However, there has been neither a manifestation of will nor concrete action by the government to address these problems. As a result, at least 52 women and girls were victims of collective and repeated sexual abuse by paramilitaries from July 7 to 17, 2022, in Cité Soleil (a neighborhood in the north of Port-au-Prince). Among the victims are a 14-year-old minor and 12 survivors between 18 and 25 years of age.
It is because of this concerning situation of increased violence, that thousands of women from working class neighborhoods, peasant movements, and political and human rights organizations, will take to the streets to denounce the government of Ariel Henry for incompetence, illegitimate, and unconstitutional and Luis Abinader for racist and xenophobic. This denouncement extends to the foreign interventionist and imperialist governments for pushing for military occupation in Haiti, which, historically, ends with sexual abuse of hundreds of women, girls and adolescents in addition to violating the sovereignty and self-determination of the Haitian people.
Jackson Jean is a Haitian journalist and works with teleSUR.