Thursday, March 08, 2007

Solidarity with the Women of Haiti

Today is International Women's Day. In that spirit, the letter that I've posted below has been circulated by Jubilee South in Argentina as a collective call for solidarity with the women of Haiti.

This statement of solidarity will be issued today, International Women's Day, and will also be presented to the Inter-American Development Bank during their official meetings in Guatemala City in mid March (16-20). The IDB is considering cancellation of its claims to Haiti's debts, as well as Nicaragua, Bolivia, Guyana, and Honduras. Though, I've learned that Haiti's portion of this cancellation may be delayed.

Solidarity with the Women of Haiti

On this March 8, we issue a special call for solidarity with the women of Haiti who are suffering a situation of extreme physical, psychic and economic violence as a result of the military occupation and financial plunder of their country.

Since mid 2004, Haiti has suffered foreign military intervention through the United Nations Stabilization Mission – MINUSTAH- that supposedly was charged with the task of reducing violence and guaranteeing the protection of human rights and security of the population. After two years, the Mission has clearly failed in its objectives. The supposed peace-keeping troops have been converted into an occupation force which violates the rights of the population, especially those of women and girls.

News of cases of rape, abuse of women, boys and girls, and sex trafficking has multiplied. Even the United Nations itself has to recognize that its peace-keeping troops have violated the rights of women and girls. In the last two years, 189 soldiers, police, and civilian employees were sanctioned for these crimes. In the first 10 months of 2006, 63% of the incidents of reproachable conduct on the part of these troops are related to acts of sexual aggression. To mention just two examples, this was the case when an 11 year old girl was raped by soldiers in front of the Presidential Palace, and when a boy, less than 14 years of age, was raped at a UN naval base.

This situation of physical and psychological violence comes on top of economic violence. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the continent. 80% of the population lives below the poverty line and four million people do not have enough to eat. The continual payment of external debt is financially bleeding the country. In 2005, over $80 million dollars was designated for payment of interest and debt service that continues to be charged by the International Financial Institutions. The illegitimacy of this debt is amply demonstrated. 45% of the debt that is owed today was contracted during the Duvalier family dictatorship. The deadly consequences of debt payment fall principally on women and children who are deprived of their most basic rights.

For these reasons, we demand total and unconditional cancellation of the external debt and that these resources be designated for health, education and life for the people of Haiti. We should accompany the struggle for just alternatives, demanding restitution and reparation for the looting of the country over the years, and demonstrating that women are the principle creditors of this enormous debt: the financial, social, cultural and gender equity debt accumulated throughout patriarchal colonization and continuing under capitalist exploitation today.

We commit ourselves to demand that our governments withdraw troops from Haiti and implement policies of true solidarity, respecting the sovereignty, self-determination and human rights of the people of Haiti.

For the right to LIFE for the women of Haiti!
Stop violence and sexual abuse!
Stop the military and economic occupation!
Total and unconditional cancellation of external debt!
MINUSTAH Troops out of Haiti!

[UPDATE: You are invited to read and widely disseminate this declaration as part of International Women's Day activities. The list of initial endorsements as well as Spanish and Haitian Creole versions of this letter are available from Tom Ricker at Haiti Reborn. Please send additional signatures of support to the mailbox of Jubilee South/Americas' Gender Area.]

More information about the sexual exploitation of Haitian women by UN Peacekeeping Forces is available here.

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