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Haiti : Violence – a bad legacy bequeathed to kids

By: Hugo Merveille,

Editorial Staff, Le Nouvelliste

In Haiti, the violence exerted on children seems quite a normal thing. Children, as a category of the  population, are the first to suffer the consequences of everyday-violence in society.  Being dependent and fragile, kids bear the brunt of all kinds of frustrations at the level of the community as well as the family.

In recent years, several initiatives have been launched to sensitize public opinion on an issue of which the immediate consequences are not felt, but which has serious repercussions on those who will make up tomorrow’s society.

 Under Haitian law, children are defined under the term of minor.  Article 392 of the Civil Code defines the minor as every person who has not reached the age of 18 years.  According to Haitian law, a child cannot be brought before court.  This prerogative belongs to the parents or guardians who represent the child.  These conditions make the child very dependent on adults, even though he or she may receive direct help from the Citizens Protector.  As a consequence, a child can be seriously exposed to violence in a society where this is tolerated, because there is no legal framework to prevent or punish it.

Several people have raised their voice in the past years to condemn violence exerted on children in Haiti and to sensitize people on new educational approaches which exclude the physical punishment and other forms of abuse practised on children.

Table I: Population per Department and per age group as estimated in 2002

Department  Population 0-14 years 15-64 years 65 years +
West 3.071.306 1.042.931 1.931.726 96,649
South-East 490.350 199.340 266.596 24.414
North 852.488 374.013 446.786 31.689
North East 272.502 116.889 144.220 11.393
Artibonite 1.152.876 491.906 615.411 45.559
Centre 552.405 242.313 288.003 22.089
South 714.802 299.095 384.685 31.022
Grand Anse 707.802 295.661 380.525 31.616
North West 489.531 223.619 242.751 23,161
Total 8.304.062 3.285.767 4.700.703 317,592

Source: Institut Haïtien de Statistique et d’Informatique (IHSI)

The forum “Childhood and violence” organized in 1996 and the law voted into force in September 2001 by the Haitian parliament, put under scrutiny an evil which eats Haitian society away and especially its kids. In November 2001, Haiti hosted the first regional meeting on violence within the family.  Many sectors of the society took advantage of that meeting to complete a survey of the problem of violence in general, and in particular that exerted on children, and to envisage solutions.

Dr. Legrand Bijoux, psychiatrist at the “Centre d’Education Speciale” (CES – Centre for Special Education), defines violence as each situation which hurts a person in his / her body or in his / her personality.  Psychologist Vania Berrouet, who lectured at the forum on childhood and violence in 1996, points out that there is violence when, in an interaction with an individual, a constraint is exercised which lifts certain personal rights, attacks his / her moral or physical integrity, or limits or lifts his / her decision-making rights[1].

Children in Haiti face these situations everyday. No matter if it is at school, within the family, in the street or in their relations with the State, violence pursues children and is part of their everyday life.

To learn under the threat of the whip

Physical punishment at school has been prohibited since 1843 under the government of Jean Pierre Boyer (President of Haiti from 1816 to 1843).  In 2002 however, most schools in the country still continue this practice in one or another form.  The “Rigwaz” (Cow skin – dried and stretched), “matinet” (small whip), and the wooden ruler belong to the teachers’ implements, especially at primary school, to “encourage” the pupils.  In certain schools there is systematic use of the whip, while in others the teachers may decide on its use, without any form of direct intervention by relevant associations or the Government.

Other forms of physical punishment are also administered: teachers put pupils on their knees in the sun, pinch them with their finger nails, pull their ears, and so on.

Verbal violence is also very much practiced in classrooms. Children are often designated “moron” or called silly when they don’t manage to understand a lesson given by the teacher.  Vania Berrouet, now collaborating with the Haitian Foundation for Private Education (FONHEP), determines forms of cultural violence.

“It is a fact that schools are unaware of the reality of the children’s life style.  They are told that what they have is no good, that what they are going to be taught is the truth, because their truth is not good[2],” Mrs Berrouet said.

However, based on several training seminars for teachers on the question of violence at school which she organized, it can be concluded that the infractions reported by those teachers were minor ones.

“In Haiti we don’t have the worst cases, where there is attack on the integrity of the other, as we see nowadays in the United States, where kids are obliged to pass a firearm or knives detector[3],” she noticed.

Although laws forbid corporal punishment, no supervisory structure has been put into place.  Mrs Berrouet made clear that during the period from 1986 to 1996, only three complaints provoked the dismissal of teachers.  In these cases, there were fractured fingers or fore-arms of a child.

Two children encountered in a bus, Henry (7 years) and Albert (9) told that they were beaten at their school.  Their mother, who was present in the bus, said that it this had to happen because her children are very boisterous.

“I know they can get to the end of their unruly spirit at that school; that’s why I enrolled them there,” she said.

As such, parents are accomplices in the violence exerted on school children.  Besides, violence is even omnipresent within the family.  A survey under various levels of society, carried out in August 2002 by a group of 20 kids trained by Plan Haiti in the city of Jacmel, revealed that teachers form the second category of people who do not respect the Rights of the Child.  The category “illiterate people” came in first place.

The family : First responsible

The family circle, where the child should feel itself secure, is the first place where he/she encounters violence.  Whether carried out against him/her or against family members, the child grows up in an environment punctuated by brutal scenes.  Even the most humiliating punishments are considered to be means to provide the child with a good personality. [4]

About nine women and nine men out of ten think that it is normal to slap the children in their face once-in-awhile or to smack their bottoms in order to make them obey, according to a survey on mortality, morbidity and the use of services (EMMUS III) carried out by the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population in 2000.  Additionally, 15% of women and 23% of men think that it is normal to give physical punishment to children.

87% of women and 74% of men admitted to have given, sometimes or often, slaps to children in their face or on their bottoms to make them obey.  Moreover, 39% of men said to have given corporal punishment to children[5].

These figures indicate a state of mind which puts the child in a situation of inferiority, with regard to adults.  Dr. Bijoux summarizes this fact through two Haitian proverbs: “Timoun se ti bet” (Children are little animals) and “Ti neg se baton ki fe l mache” (It is the whip which makes the little guy walk).

Parents who were polled think that they have the rigtht, even the obligation, to correct their children. “Children are so boisterous, disobedient and disrespectful that they well-deserve the stick,” Elvie said, a merchant of fried food.  Patrick, her son, doesn’t like it when his mother beats him.  He said that sometimes he is beaten without even knowing why.

Table II: Domestic violence and ill-treatment of children

  Conjunto Area metropólitana

Area Urbana

Conjunto Urbano

Rural

Mujeres afectadas por la violencia física  desde la edad de 15 años (%) 35 34 41 35 35
Mujeres de 15-49 años afectadas por la violencia física durante el embarazo (%) 7 6 7 7 7
Mujeres/hombres  que piensan que  es  normal infligir castigos corporales a los niños(%) 15/23 13/16 16/28 14/20 17/25

  

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source : EMMUS III

Why do, in Haiti, women come out on top of the statistics dealing with violence exerted on children?  A story told by psychologist Edwige Millien during the forum “Childhood and violence” can enlighten us on this:

“Jeannette is a little girl who was beaten often by her mother.  Jeannette’s mother was beaten as a  child.  She was first of all beaten by her father, and to escape from his ill-treatment, she married when she was very young.  Her husband was a drunkard and kept on beating her.”[6]

This shows that violence is a chain and the weakest ones are those who are going to be the greatest victims.  In Haiti, women are much victimized by violence. The results of EMMUS III reveal that in the geographical regions where violence towards women is the highest, equally violence exerted on children tends to be more important.  Thus, the EMMUS III inquiry reveals that the women who approve of beating children most frequently, are those living in Grande Anse (21%), the North-West and the Artibonite[7].  Those departments are characterized by the highest rate of domestic violence.

“Violence results of our incapacity to resolve our conflicts in a peaceful manner.  This requires communication, negotiation and critical reflection.  These techniques are not taught in schools.  People should know that children can be disciplined without the use of a stick,” Mrs. Stefanie Conrad said, Officer in charge of communication at Plan Haiti, a non-governmental organisation which places children in the centre of all its activities.

Several specialists admit that the consequences on a child are more serious when it has been eyewitness to violent scenes than when it has been subjected to them.  Dr. Bijoux asserts that research done in Canada demonstrates that the effects of violence are deeper when a child is a direct witness of the violence or that violence is carried out against a person that he/she loves.

A survey by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in Nicaragua very well illustrates the effects that violence can have, especially with regard to the education of children.  According to this study, 63 % of children coming from families where women suffer domestic violence repeat a school year, and, on average leave school when they are nine years old, while that age is 12 years for children whose mothers are not victims of serious ill-treatment.[8]

“Domestic violence is a problem which concerns health, law, economy, education,  development, and before all, human rights,” Merhr Khan said, during the year 2000 Research Director of “Innocenti” (a UNICEF publication).

Children in domestic service: the most ill-treated

Although Haitian legislation on child labour is very restrictive, domestic service is a  widespread  phenomenon in Haiti.  Aged from 5 to 18 years, thousands of children are torn from their families to go to work free of charge or in return for assistance such as access to school.

Even as the Labour Code authorizes the placement of children in domestic service at age 12, the Institute for Social Well-Being (IBSR), which is charged with providing advise, categorically opposes it.

On the other hand, the minimum age for paid labour is fixed at fifteen (15) years, with the authorization of the Labour Directorate.

If the majority of Haiti’s children is not being spared from violence, les restavèk, the name given to children in domestic service (from “staying with”), are those who experience most brutality.  According to the first results based on data collected during an inquiry in 2001 by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) through its “International Programme for the Elimination of the worst forms of Child Labour (IPEC),” the number of children in domestic servitude in Haiti ranges between 90,000 and 120,000 of which 75% are girls from 7 to 15 years old.

Attorney-at-law Betty Casty who works with UNICEF and was speaker at a regional meeting on violence within the family (November 2001), said that many children carry out domestic tasks which are above their physical capacity.  Often, they have no access to health care, education and leisure.  Worse, they are victims of sexual abuse.

Table III: Children in domestic service in the Caribbean and Central America

Country Child population Children in domestic service %
El Salvador 447782 21508 4,8
Dominican Rep. 428720 48017 11,2
Honduras 336136 20764 6,2
Nicaragua 311464 17694 5,7
Costa Rica 147087 12498 8,5
Panama 67247 9300 13,8

Source: ILO/IPEC

60% of the children in domestic service who were questioned in the scope of an inquiry carried out by the Psycho-Social Family Institute in 1998 told that they have been punished by the head of the household.  Moreover, they are continually insulted, which reinforces the never-ending humiliation they are subjected to.

Until now, only about forty countries in the world have adopted specific legislation concerning domestic violence, among which are 13 countries of Latin America.

Dieuseul (12 years old), interviewed within the context of this briefing, tells that he was severely beaten by a lady with whom he came to Port-au-Prince at age 8.  The lady honoured certain promises made to his mother, such as sending him to school.  But the domestic tasks he had to do did not leave him time to study.  He had to spend the entire day to do his tasks well and not be reprimanded by her.  “After three years, I was worn out.  One day I ran away.”

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) organized on 27-28 May 2002 a seminar for journalists with purpose to make them more aware on the subject of child labour in Haiti, in particular related to domestic servants.  The judge for children, Mr Emmanuel Lacroix, had detected contradictions in the Haitian legislation relative to child labour, pointing out that Haiti as yet has not ratified Convention 182 on the elimination of the worst forms of child labour and Convention 138 on the minimum age of children to be employed.  The journalists who attended that seminar expressed their will to raise awareness among the population in order to eradicate the worst forms of child labour.

16 % of children in Latin America and the Caribbean are mistreated when adults judge that their behaviour is wrong.  Verbal insults represent 13 %, against 16 % for corporal punishment.  Haiti is the country in the region with the highest rate of beaten children (40%), followed by Guyana (23 %) and the Dominican Republic (20%).

Street children : left to themselves

Street children are those who haven’t got any place else to live but the street.  Other children spend their day in the street but at night they have a place to sleep: those children are called children in the street.  The number of street children is about 2,000 according to figures provided by father Attillo Stra, in charge of a home for street children named Lakay (situated in La Saline, Port-au-Prince).

Street children experience violence from day to day.  Left to their own devices, they undergo violence and they use it to survive. “Subject to a general insecurity and deprived of everything, the street child lives on violence to survive,” Mrs Casty said.

In the street, the child is initiated to violence and sees it every day.  These children are very exposed to violence in its most brutal forms.

“Generally, drug-addicted or not, the street child of Port-au-Prince lives in an early familiarity with death and in an abnormal promiscuity with its most violent and revolting forms, such as murder and lynching.  Actually rare among these youth are those who didn’t experience the useless death of someone more or less close, sometimes a comrade of the same base (group), of another group or of a well-known adult.  Few are those who have not seen in the early hours of the day a body corpse covered with blood left along the roadside, and often left to rot in the sun for several hours, “ Frantz Lofficial explains[9].

“Some among them have even witnessed lynchings and other revolting forms of violent death.  The fact that violence is a feature of every day life for street children and that there is a depreciation of human life, should be kept in mind when considering certain atrocities committed by some street kids.  When considering death as child’s play, they only replicate an established model, without worrying of the consequences, for the life of others nor their own seem to have value,” he adds.

Prey for themselves and for other children on the streets, street children often are also the victims of police violence, and see their rights trampled underfoot.  Most of the incarcerated children are street children.  For mere offences or fines, they are incarcerated, although the law concerning minors prioritizes rehabilitation and education.

The judge for minors, Mr. Emmanuel Lacroix, declared that the incarceration of minors is illegal according to the law of 7 September 1961.  Even in the case of criminal sentencing, a minor should be placed in the reception centre Duval-Duvalier.  Children who commit offences are presently incarcerated in Fort National.  For Mr. Lacroix this situation is a non-respect of children’s rights.

Harmonising communication between children and the police force

At the other hand, in order to improve the relations between police authorities and children in difficulty, in particular street children, the National Police of Haiti in cooperation with UNICEF organized from 21-23 February 2001 a training workshop on communication techniques with children, in which  twenty police instructors took part.

For the organizers, this event “responded to the necessity to heighten the respect for child rights and especially to develop knowledge on the situation of children in difficulty, and social care for vulnerable children.”[10]

The workshop was centred on the need of the police to start listening to children, and to establish a specialized detachment to deal with the cases of minors and of more police specialisation in the protection of children.

The instructors learned to establish the difference between justice for children, aiming at the protection and rehabilitation of the delinquent minor, and justice for adults, which aims to repress the offender.

Criminal law and childrenThe age of criminal majority is laid down at about 16 years.  Children from 13 to 16 years old who commit crimes and offences are brought before the tribunal for children.  Only the sixteen-year old minors are liable to the Court for minors.Criminal responsibility and measures which deprive freedom (detention) are strictly speaking not relevant to children.  The judge for children decides here, according to the nature of the crime or offence committed by the minor, on protective measures to adopt in the greatest interest of the child.  In one or another case, this measure is limited to placing children in a reception centre in order to protect them from the crowding of the prison for adults, and only concerns children among thirteen (13) and sixteen (16) years (law of 7 September 1961 on the protection of stray minors or those in physical or mental danger).

The minor under 13 years old benefits from the principle of criminal irresponsibility.  Only  measures of assistance, protection, monitoring and education can be pronounced against them. In the case of offense, the Tribunal of police is competent, but against minors over thirteen (13) years, it can only pronounce an admonition or a fine.

Report of follow-up on the application of the Convention on the Right of the Child, November 2000, pages 11-12.

SOS Timoun (SOS Child): Coming to the assistance of ill-treated children

Because of the numerous cases which have been submitted to it over recent years, in 2000 the Institute for Social Well-being  and Research (IBESR), a governmental organism under control of the Ministry of Social Affairs, opened a service called SOS Timoun (SOS Child).  This service puts a phone number at the disposal of children who are victim of or witness to violence: 133.  It receives calls from Monday to Friday from 6 A.M to 6 P.M.  The SOS Timoun service was launched on the National Day of the Child, the second Sunday of June 2000.

“Its creation forms a response to certain problems linked to violence towards children within the families, the children in domestic service and street children, for whom the Institute for Social Well-being is constantly approached,” the Principal of Social Protection at IBESR, Marie Carmelle Déjean, noticed.

She said that the service of which she is in charge often receives severely  beaten children, brought in by the police or by someone near to the child.  Those children sometimes have very serious injuries, she emphasized.

Table IV: Distribution of the children received, by age group and sex (October 2000 – September 2001)

Age group Male Female Total
6-10 7 15 22
11-15 23 9 32
Total 30 24 54

Source : IBESR

Table V: Number of calls with their origin (October 2000 – September 2001) 

Calls Child victims Parents Neighbours Others
725 350 24 276 75

Source : IBESR

Table VI: Cases treated according to sex and status (October 2000 – September 2001)

  Male Female Total
Abandoned children 2 6 8
Lost children 2 4 6
Incarcerated children 8 4 12
Children in domestic service 34 98 132
Total 46 112 158

Source : IBESR

“The majority of those attacks are committed within the family, especially towards the children in domestic service,” she pointed out.

When a child is brought in or requests the intervention of SOS Timoun, the Service for the Protection of Minors at IBESR makes an inquiry.  The parents may be invited in order to convince them of the danger of violent practices.  In the past, seminars for teachers were organized in primary and secondary schools.  The lack of logistic means hampers the assistance of the Service in treating urgent cases, Mrs. Déjean explained.

Children are sometimes placed in another family or in a partner institution of IBESR, like ESCALE, a non-governmental institution which cares for ill-treated children in domestic service.  However, such a solution is an exception, for it is always better that the child remains with its family, she added.

Economic reasons are the first cause of violence towards children in Haiti, Marie Carmelle Déjean stated.

“When the lady of the house wakes up and doesn’t know how she is going to feed the family, she takes it out on the children,” she said.

Although SOS Timoun is a good initiative, it suffers from the lack of telephone lines in Haiti.  Moreover, a taboo reigns on an external intervention to solve a family problem.

For Jimmy (8 years old) residing at Carrefour-Feuilles, “it is out of the question to call the police” regarding his parents (Jimmy compares SOS Timoun to the police).  “Even if they beat me, I put up with it. One day I will be adult and they will not be able to beat me anymore.”

A man (of about forty years old) interviewed on the street and questioned on the subject, told that if he would beat a child for its own benefit and the child would call the police to arrest him, he would abandon that child.

Kathia (13 years) is a domestic.  She doesn’t know SOS Timoun.  “When they beat me, I call a neighbour for help.  If I knew that there was a phone number to call for help I would already have done so.  But if people in the house would overhear me on the phone, I would be severely beaten,” she told.

A phone call is not a condition for an intervention by IBESR within the context of its service SOS Timoun.  A person can directly go to the institution to inform it about a case of violence towards a child.  However, IBESR has only three offices throughout the country (Port-au-Prince, Gonaives and Cap-Haitien).

It appears that many cases do not reach the ears of the authorities or of organizations working in the field of the protection of children’s rights.  In Port-au-Prince, the Directorate for the Protection of Minors has only one car.  Very often, even for a case of moving someone, the victim is obliged to wait.

Elaborating one sole registration of cases of violence

Statistical data on violence in general and that towards children in particular are rare in Haiti.  This can be explained, on the one hand, by the fact that victims hesitate to lodge a complaint, and on the other hand, by the fact that there isn’t a uniform method to register the information in this domain.

In view of this, the Centre for Intervention, Rehabilitation, Research and Expertise for Victims of Violence (CIRREV), a non-governmental organization working against violence towards women and children, has proposed to several institutions active in this field to elaborate a sole registration sheet for cases of violence.

“It is very difficult to make a complete report of the status of violence in Haiti and to draw the necessary lessons in order to modify activities for the different types of violence,” Marjorie Joseph, a medical doctor at CIRREV, said.

“This new instrument (which is in an experimental phase) will permit the preparation of better prevention and public awareness programmes on the phenomenon,” according to Mrs. Joseph.  She facilitates also the preparation of proposals to the public authorities, which could assist to adapt policies and to develop laws in relation to the realities observed.

Miguelina Rousse, a social worker with CIRREV, revealed a relatively high rate of rape of young girls.  Over a month, about twenty rape cases are registered at “Hopital de l’Université d’Etat d’Haiti” (State University Hospital of Haiti).  Most of them are between 8 and 12 years old.

About a hundred cases of violence have been reported to CIRREV since January 2001, 25% of which concern children (under 18 years of age).  Mrs. Rousse said that the children in centres for children in difficulty are often violent, because they have been themselves victim of violence.

Having a say in the matter

The media have a part to play in the struggle against violence in society, Mrs. Rousse believes. Several radio and television stations have put their aerials at the disposal of CIRREV and have carried out broadcasts aiming at educating the population on non-violence.  Several broadcasts have been done on the waves of Radio Planète Creole, Radio Guinen and the National Television of Haiti (TNH).

Mrs. Rousse indicated that broadcasts concerning sexual attacks have been re-broadcast.  They inform listeners on how to implement a judicial appeal in the case of a rape, for example.

In Haiti, about 7 out of 10 teenagers think that they are little or not informed about their rights, according to a survey by UNICEF, entitled “The Voice of Children”[11], published in 2000.  The survey measures the knowledge of Latin-American and Caribbean children on their rights.

Children from urban areas and from a more-or-less high socio-economic level are better informed about their rights than other children.  It should be underlined that “to be informed” doesn’t mean that the children are completely aware of their rights.  The rights which are the most spontaneously mentioned by them are: education (59%), health (38%), leisure (25%), the freedom to speak (23%)  and the right not to be ill-treated (16%).  Concerning the latter right, this rate is 37% in the Dominican Republic and 41% in Jamaica.

The Haitian child remains deeply embarrassed by expressing its opinions and feelings.  The report “The Voice of Children” specifies that half of the children and adolescents polled pointed out that they have difficulties to express their opinion at home and at school.  The reason most often given is a lack of courage to take the floor (52%).

In Haiti, this figure is 41%, in the Dominican Republic 57% and in Jamaica 10%.  The percentage of children who answered that teachers don’t listen is 9% (Haiti), 19% (Dominican Republic) and 16% (Jamaica).  80% of those polled declare that they rarely experience feelings of well-being at school.

The absence of information presents itself even in very important areas, such as sexuality.  Two (2) children out of three (3) are little or not informed in the matter of sexual education, the inquiry of UNICEF reveals.

“Most of the data from Haiti are different from those from other countries in the region (a better knowledge of rights, stronger feeling of well-being, appreciation of the school environment, rejection of domestic violence),” Mrs. Rousse mentioned.

Over recent years, several initiatives in the media have helped children to gain access to information or to work for the change of bad aspects in the relations between children and adults.  The newspaper “Le Nouvelliste,” reserves a weekly supplement, “Le p’tit Nouvelliste” (the little Nouvelliste) for young readers.  The subjects covered aim to give children responsibility.

In the scope of that supplement, the paper collaborates with some organizations which work to improve the children’s lot.  For example since January 2002, together with the Panos Institute and Plan Haiti, there is a series covering the experiences, in various regions of the country, with the training of child journalists.  These child journalists regularly write short texts which are published by the P’tit Nouvelliste.  In the North-east of Haiti, the child journalists conceptualize and produce their own radio programme, which is broadcasted on Radio Gamma in Fort Liberte and on Radio Hispaniola in Trou-du-Nord.

In Haiti, one radio and one television station have been created with the core part of their programming intended for children.  Mr. Eddy Trofort, Director of Radio Timoun (Children’s Radio) told that most of the broadcasts deal with issues related to the situation of children.  Radio Timoun also grants an important place to educating parents.  According to him, the ill-treatment of children in the country is due to the lack of education of parents.

Creating new parents – children relationships

Stephanie Conrad, in charge of communication at Plan Haiti, informed about the work accomplished by her institution for the improvement of children-parents relationships.  The programme ”Children and media” is an example of the activities undertaken by Plan Haiti for that purpose.

The children’s broadcasts show to parents that children can be responsible beings. “This instills the parents’ respect and confidence.  They have the possibility to see their kids express themselves and show their capacities,” she pursued.

Mrs. Nicole Pierre-Louis, person in charge of Child Rights at Plan Haiti, emphasized the rights of children but also their duties.  According to her, it is very important to make the children aware of their responsibilities.  This contributes to the growth of respect between adults and children.

She signalled that within the “quality school programme,” a joint project between  FONHEP and Plan Haiti, carried out by different institutions active in the educational field, the issue of violence at school was broached to teachers.  They were shown how an environment where a child feels secure favours a greater output on the academic level.

On the other hand, since April 2001, a group of national and international organizations have undertaken a series of awareness activities in other to promote the enforcement of child rights.

This mobilisation is done in the scope of an international campaign: “Global Movement for Children.” One of the rallying cries is the arrest of the ill-treatment and exploitation of children.

The Haitian Coalition for the Defence of the Rights of the Child (COHADDE) is one of the organizations which participates in the Global Movement for Children.  Since 1991, this organization, which associates nearly forty institutions working for the protection of child rights, promotes the development of children on the ground.  At present, COHADDE organizes training sessions for children from various regions of the country in order to allow them to take part in the promotion of their own rights.

According to Mr Emmanuel Lacroix, President of COHADDE, about a hundred children will have been trained at the close of that programme.  Their task will be to train other children in order to create regional networks for the protection of child rights throughout the country, within the framework of the Global Movement for Children.

Corporal punishment is henceforth forbidden

On 6 September 2001, the Haitian Government through the intervention of the parliament formally forbid corporal punishment exerted on children.  In Article 1, the legislators say: “Inhuman treatment of whatever nature, including corporal punishment against children, is forbidden.”

“By inhuman treatment is meant every act which provokes a child with a corporal or emotional shock, such as striking or jostling a child, inflicting a punishment which attacks his/her personality, by or without the use of an object or a weapon or the use of force,” Article 2 specifies.

This law envisages a series of clauses concerning corporal punishments which are still being inflicted at school. Sanctions are provided against all those who refuse to respect this law.

However, several experts in the field of the protection of child rights bring forward that a law cannot change mentalities; and  that structures should be conceived of to facilitate the application of the legal norms.

Almost in the same street where the Institute for Social Well-being is located (Rue des Marguerites), there are schools which still use the whip.  A teacher questioned about this, answered that Haitian children are not ready as yet to learn without the whip.  “We obtain better results with the whip,” he said.

Long before this law was adopted, some schools had already forbidden use of the whip.  However, in many schools, teachers who are reluctant to lay down the whip are tolerated.

Parliamentarian delegate Wilner Content thinks that follow-up clauses must be formulated, as foreseen in the adopted law.  Mr Content realizes that many points in this law will not be applied automatically.  He thinks that especially the Ministries of Social Affairs and National Education must be “very watchful” in the preparation of a framework for application.

“There are many laws in the country but that doesn’t prevent us from noticing gaps every day. Whether it is at home or at school, corporal punishment is still being practised.  These follow-up clauses are needed to monitor this law and apply the provided sentences,” he declared.

To work for the elimination of abuse exerted on children will be very difficult because of the mentality of parents who think that the whip can improve children’s behaviour, according to Mr. Content.

“The difficulty can also be explained by the fact that the Department of Justice will have to take the reality into account. That’s why the Ministry of Social Affairs must set up programmes to make parents aware of this legislation, to make them understand that their job is to watch over the full development of their children,” he added.

The law adopted by the Haitian Parliament is a step towards the harmonization of Haitian legislation with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by Haiti in 1994.  During the Special Session of the United Nations on Children, which took place from 8-10 May 2002, the Haitian government presented the adopted measures, which are to make the rights acknowledge by that Convention effective in Haiti.

Article 19.1 of the Convention of the United Nations on the Rights of the Child: The signatory States take all the appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures appropriate to protect the child against all forms of violence, physical and mental attacks or brutality, abandonment or negligence, ill-treatment or exploitation, including sexual violence, while he/she is under the guardianship of parents or one of them, the legal representative(s) or any other person to whom he/she has been entrusted..

Teaching for non-violence

Several people met in the scope of the preparation of this briefing, expressed their anxiety about the phenomenon of violence in the country.  Dr. Bijoux emphasized the risk of a perpetuation of violence by the “complex of reproduction,” which leads the victim to identify himself / herself with the agressor.

According to Dr. Bijoux it is difficult to build a society founded on violence.  “Although the history of the country, full of violence, can explain the extent of the phenomenon in the minds of people, after two centuries it is time to break with this.  These practices have brought nothing positive to our society.”  Dr. Bijoux thinks that after several generations an education for non-violence can bear fruit.

That was also the appeal of several Haitian-American elected representatives on visit to Haiti in January 2002.  While speaking at the office of public affairs of the United States Embassy in Haiti, on 18 January 2002, Mr. Ossman Désir, a member of the municipal council of Miami North (United States), pointed out that since Independence, the Haitian people often have resorted to violence.

The mayor of the city of Miami North, Joseph Celestin, also criticized the fact that violence is omnipresent in the Haitian mentality.

“We have sufficiently tried violence.  Now, it is time to explore other alternatives to see results, founded on principles of non-violence,” Marc Villain said, Chair of the Committee for Haitian-American political actions.

Some reference institutions

Escale 

Drouilard près de la fontaine Duvivier

Port-au-Prince

Contact : Nadine Burdet

Timkatec ( Timoun k ap teke Chans)

59, Rue Derenoncourt

Pétion-Ville

Tel : (509) 557-2410, 257-1397

Contact : Père Joseph M. Simon

Lakay

Boul. Jean Jacques Dessalines # 10

Port-au-Prince

Tel : (509) 510-7137 , 556-8203

Contact : Père Attilo Stra

Foyer Maurice Sixto

Brochette 97-99, Rue Saint Louis# 90

Port-au-Prince

Tel : (509) 510-4766, 222-7464

SOFA 

Nazon, Rue Monplasir, 1ère ruelle à gauche, # 1 bis

Port-au-Prince

Tel : (509) 245-4460

Contact : Marie-Frantz Joachim

PEJEFE (Programme d’encadrement des jeunes Femmes et des Enfants)

Rue Becassine # 61

Port-au-Prince

Tel : (509) 221-3485

Contact : Erlande Merceron

CIRREV (Centre d’intervention, de réhabilitation, de recherche et d’expertise pour les victimes de violences)

Rue M # 4, Turgeau

Port-au-Prince

Tel : (509) 245-1869

Contact : Marie Desmousseaux

IBESR ( Institut du Bien-Être Social et de Recherches)

Rue des marguerites # 13

Port-au-Prince

Tel : (509) 245-1346, 245-0271, 245-6485

Contact : Marie Carmelle Déjean

Tribunal pour enfants

Rue Pétion #16

Port-au-Prince

Tel : (509) 556-3083

Contact : Juge Norah Amilcar Jean-François

Service social de l’Hôpital de l’Université d’Etat d’Haïti (HUEH)

Rue Mgr Guilloux

Port-au-Prince

Tel : (509) 222-3247, 222-3249, 223-9131, 222-4253

Contact : Jeannette

Plan-Haïti

3, impasse Lily, Rue Stephen, Delmas 60

Port-au-Prince

Tel : (509) 510-9471

Contact : Stefanie Conrad, Nicole Pierre-Louis

Centre d’Education Spéciale (CES)

73 , Rue de l’Enterrement, Port-au-Prince

Tel : (509) 223-6167/ 222-2154/ 222-5544

Contact : Legrand Bijoux

COHADDE

23, 3ème Rue du Travail

Port-au-Prince

Tel: (509) 245-5014

Contact: Emmanuel Lacroix


 Forum enfance et violence, Haiti, 1996, page 10

2 Forum Childhood and Violence, Haiti, 1996

[3] idem

[4]  idem,  page 13

5  Haïti : Enquête Mortalité, Morbidité et Utilisation des services 2000, ministère de la Santé publique et de la Population (MSPP), USA, June 2001

7 Forum Childhood and violence, Haiti, 1996, page 22

8 Haïti : Enquête Mortalité, Morbidité et Utilisation des services 2000, ministère de la Santé publique et de la Population (MSPP), USA, June 2001, page 304

[8] La violence domestique à l’égard des femmes et des filles, UNICEF Digest Innocenti, No 6, juin 2000, page 13

11 Frantz Lofficial, Lakay :Un foyer pour les enfants des rues, UNICEF, 1998

[10] La lettre des Nations-Unis en Haïti, numéro 11, la police et les techniques de communication avec les enfants

13 La lettre des Nations-Unis en Haïti, July-September 2000, no 9, page 6