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29066: Sprague (Article) Rape victims march for justice in Haitian capital (fwd)
Rape victims march for justice in Haitian capital
The Associated Press
Published: September 1, 2006
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti Wearing white dresses and black masks, 150 rape victims
marched through Haiti's capital Friday to demand justice and an end to
discrimination against them.
Chants of "We will not give up the fight!" rose up as the protesters —
including teenagers and elderly women — walked slowly to Haiti's National
Palace. It was the first public demonstration in years by women calling
attention to rape, which is rarely prosecuted in Haiti and carries a stigma
"When you are raped ... you feel like you are no longer human because those
close to you don't want anything to do with you," said Elisena Nicola, a
38-year-old mother of five.
She said paramilitaries broke into her Port-au-Prince home in 1991 and raped
her before killing her husband. She said she was raped again in 2004 during
lawlessness that erupted following a revolt that ousted former President
"We want the government to support us and bring our perpetrators to justice,"
Haiti's minister for women's affairs, Marie Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue, said her
office was trying to raise funds for initiatives to protect women from violence
and help rape victims.
"Right now, women who are raped have nowhere to go for help," Lassegue told the
women, who gathered outside her office and declared their demands.
The protest was organized by the Commission of Women Victims for Victims, which
was founded by women raped during a 1991-1994 military regime that toppled an
earlier Aristide government. The group provides medical treatment and
counseling to rape victims.
Under the military regime, soldiers and the paramilitary group Front for the
Advancement and Progress of Haiti — known by the acronym FRAPH — waged a
campaign of systematic rape, torture and killings to punish supporters of
Aristide, human rights groups say.
In a civil hearing in New York this week, a woman testified she was gang-raped
by soldiers loyal to FRAPH's feared former leader, Emmanuel "Toto" Constant.
The hearing was to decide whether Constant owes damages to three women named as
plaintiffs. Constant is in jail on Long Island on mortgage fraud charges and
did not attend the hearing.
The State Department in 1996 allowed Constant to avoid deportation to Haiti and
live freely in the United States even though he led FRAPH's terror campaign.
Constant says he worked for the CIA at the time.
Haitian officials suspected the United States lost interest in deporting
Constant because he knew too much about CIA activities in Haiti, but the agency
publicly denied any role in antidemocratic actions in this country.
Anne Sosin, director of the Port-au-Prince-based human rights group Haiti
Rights Vision, said rape against women remains common in the impoverished
Caribbean nation, especially within densely populated slums controlled by
warring gangs. Fear of being shunned or ignored by police keeps many victims
from seeking help, she said. "There's absolutely no accountability for
perpetrators of rape or those that back them," Sosin said.