Gender-Based Violence and Economic and Social Rights in Haiti

The January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti killed an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 people and left over a million people homeless. The devastating situation confronted emergency responders, public health professionals, and human rights workers with the complex challenge of rebuilding public health and housing infrastructure and providing immediate humanitarian assistance. In response to a need expressed by human rights advocates and women’s groups in Haiti, who were among the first to expose abuses suffered by women and girls in the camps for internally displaced (IDP) people in Port-au-Prince, the Global Justice Clinic launched its Project on “Gender-based Violence and Women’s Access to Food and Water in Post-Earthquake Haiti”. Supported in part by a grant from NYU’s Global Public Health Research Challenge Fund, and working closely with CHRGJ staff and partner organizations, this project built on the Center’s many years of previous work in Haiti, which was often situated at the intersection of economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) and gender issues.

The primary goal of the Center’s Project on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) was to meaningfully help develop solutions to reduce rights violations, placing the experience and concerns of rights-holders at the center of humanitarian and development efforts. Designed following extensive consultations with grass-roots and human rights organizations in Haiti, the project aimed to explore, through empirical evidence:


You cannot defend human rights when you are ‘above’ and the people you are defending are ‘below.’ In a horizontal space, the people have information, consider it, and determine a course of action. - James Olriche Pierre, KJM
You cannot defend human rights when you are ‘above’ and the people you are defending are ‘below.’ In a horizontal space, the people have information, consider it, and determine a course of action. - James Olriche Pierre, KJM


In order to examine the rates of GBV in IDP camps, the project developed and implemented a household survey in several camps. It used quantitative data resulting from the survey to identify correlations between sexual violence and a variety of food-and water-related variables, as well as other variables related to economic and social rights. Preliminary results and observations were bolstered by qualitative data from focus group discussions and interviews with experts, survivors, and service providers to understand, contextualize, and question the correlations found through quantitative methods.

These methodologies were developed and implemented over the course of the 2010-11 academic year, the summer of 2011, and the fall of 2011 by several groups of students and interns working alongside the Project’s Primary Investigator, Professor of the GJC, and Faculty Director of the Center, Margaret Satterthwaite, and the Center’s Executive Director, Veerle Opgenhaffen, as Co-investigator. Teams from both the Fall 2010 and Spring 2011 GJC created and implemented the survey, and gathered qualitative data through focus groups and interviews. The Center’s summer interns and Scholar in Residence continued the work, conducting quantitative data analysis alongside coding and analysis of focus group data and interview results. The Fall 2011 GJC team completed data collection, planned a community report-back mechanism, and began a new project focused on the issue of sexual exchange and exploitation alongside partner organizations.

Briefing Paper and Final Report

briefing paper highlighting preliminary results of the household survey, administered in January 2011, was published in March 2011 in order to make public the most pressing and salient descriptive results of the survey and to make them useful to partner organizations who continued to express an urgent need for this kind of tangible information. Among the findings were higher sexual violence prevalence rates than previously recorded in post-earthquake Haiti and heightened vulnerability among young women, particularly those experiencing severe food deprivation. The final report, aggregating all of the quantitative and qualitative data, with in-depth analysis, was published in January 2012. The Clinic disseminated the findings of the report and conducted related advocacy in an effort to improve public health and housing infrastructure in IDP camps in Haiti, so as to reduce rights violations, and to identify lessons for future humanitarian responses to disaster.

Related Documents

Yon Je Louvri: Reducing Vulnerability to Sexual Violence in Haiti’s IDP Camps (2012) [French version]

Struggling to Survive: Sexual Exploitation of Displaced Women and Girls in Port au Prince, Haiti (2012)

Sexual Violence in Haiti’s IDP Camps: Results of a Household Survey (2011)


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