Thursday, December 13, 2012

Haiti's Draft GBV Law

Dear Anita,

We write to you with some unprecedented and wonderful news----that reflects the culmination of work in Haiti by Rhonda Copelon. 

Haiti’s Ministry of Justice is currently considering a draft penal code revision law that, if approved by the Haitian Parliament, would be a major advancement in legislation addressing gender-based violence and includes a landmark provision on LGBT rights both in Haiti and much of the world. Although not public yet, among its advancements, this penal code revision would change the discourse for women’s rights in Haiti through three critical provisions:

1. Legalize first trimester abortions that threaten the health of the mother and in instances of rape and incest; criminalize marital rape;

2. Modernize the definition of rape, including specific codification of marital rape as a crime; 

3. Protect Haiti’s LGBT community by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. 

While the penal code revision process is public, the specific provisions are not, and we ask that you keep these provisions confidential until the MOJ decides to make them public. 

In partnership with the Haitian women’s organization KOFAVIV, MADRE and the IWHR Clinic have been working diligently for the past two years with Haitian civil society and specifically, Haitian grassroots women’s groups on the substance and mobilization of this draft law. Now that the law is complete it will be submitted to Parliament in January and voted on for passage this spring. 

As the final step in this two-year process, the IWHR Clinic and our partners worked to put together a civil society workshop to generate the civil society support and build the momentum needed for its passage. This workshop was supposed to take place on October 25, in Port-au-Prince Haiti. Unfortunately hurricane Sandy hit Haiti before heading to New York and forced us to cancel the event. With international speakers already in town and the event venue paid for in advance, we lost the funding we had secured to make the event possible.

We are urgently writing in hopes of raising the $16,000 needed to host the event again on February 6, 2013 in Port-au-Prince. We are working in partnership with the Ministry of Justice, and grassroots Haitian organizations and believe that this conference is crucial and is the final action needed in order to get this law passed. 

As you know, Rhonda laid the groundwork for the current efforts to end sexual violence in Haiti. In 1994, after Haiti experienced a surge in politically motivated sexual violence, the IWHR Clinic, under Rhonda’s leadership, pulled together a team to file a brief with the Organization of American States arguing that the rape of Haitian women by State actors that was underway amounted to torture under international law. Nearly fifteen years later, when Haiti suffered another surge in sexual violence, this time due to the devastating earthquake in 2010, the same organizations that Rhonda had rallied in the 1990s, came together to file our petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The decision was striking as the Commission expanded on Rhonda’s work to call attention to the State’s due diligence obligation to end sexual violence committed by private actors. The Commission not only called on immediate measures to be implemented, it also implored the Haitian government to draft law that would strengthen women’s rights and eliminate inconsistencies that exist around the prosecution of sexual violence crimes. In response, the Government started drafting such a law. 

The total estimated cost for this workshop is $16,000 and any amount of support you may be able to give would greatly help. The IWHR Clinic, MADRE and our other partner groups have formed the Gender Law and Policy Project as a coalition of organizations who are working to educate lawmakers on this draft law. Checks can be made payable to the CUNY Law School Foundation with Gender Law and Policy Project written in the memo. The address is 2 Court Square, Long Island City, NY 11101. Donations are tax-deductible.

If you have any questions feel free to contact us at anytime and thank you for your consideration.

In Solidarity,

Lisa Davis                                                Yifat Susskind
Clinical Professor of Law                     Executive Director
IWHR Clinic, CUNY Law School      MADRE