Since 2010, MADRE and our local Haitian partners have been advocating for revisions to the penal code that would provide historic progress on addressing sexual and gender-based violence in Haiti. These provisions include:
- Legalizing abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, when the physical or mental health of the mother is threatened, or in the case of rape and incest;
- Defining the crime of rape based on consent, including specific codification of marital rape as a crime;
- Banning hate crimes and discrimination against LGBTIQ persons; and
- Criminalizing sexual harassment.
Despite great momentum for the passage of the draft penal code in 2013, political instability caused it to go into hiatus until recently. In June 2020, Haiti’s president enacted a penal code reform decree that includes our proposed revisions. The decree will go into effect in two years from its 2020 enactment. We hope that the next Parliament will affirm these reforms through democratic legislation. Haiti does not currently have a functioning Parliament to make such changes to the penal code, but an election commission is determining the next steps for upcoming elections. We support calls for meaningful democracy in Haiti, as democracy and gender justice are inextricably linked.
Creating Dialogue: Looking back on our workshop series
In 2012 and 2013, MADRE and our partners gathered more than 200 participants for a series of workshops to bring together government, civil society, and other relevant actors concerned with addressing sexual and gender-based violence in Haiti. In partnership with the Haitian Ministry of Justice and Public Security, the Haitian Ministry on the Condition of Women’s Rights and Affairs, and several local and international women’s rights organizations, the third workshop launched the draft penal code revision law with our proposed three revisions on defining the crime of rape, banning LGBTIQ hate crimes, and criminalizing sexual harassment. If passed, the penal code revision law would be a major advancement in legislation addressing gender-based violence and discrimination.
In collaboration with civil society groups and Haitian officials, MADRE convened three workshops that brought together a diverse group of government officials, civil society leaders, and key international human rights experts on gender-based violence in post-disaster or post-conflict settings.
- In February 2012, more than 100 grassroots women’s rights activists, medical professionals, judges, lawyers, prosecutors, and members of government came together for an open dialogue about the role of medical certificates in the prosecution of crimes of sexual violence, international best practices in this area, and potential solutions.
- In June 2012, more than140 participants came together for a workshop discussing best practices to address stigma and discrimination associated with sexual violence.
- In February 2013, more than 200 attended the third workshop in the series to discuss the pending draft penal code revision law and implications for addressing gender-based violence and discrimination in Haiti.
These workshops created consensus among stakeholders and built the foundation for positive policy changes.
Long-awaited penal code reforms provide stronger legal protections against gender-based violence – but reforms must be democratically enacted.
In June 2020, Haiti’s president enacted a penal code reform decree that includes our proposed revisions. The decree will go into effect in two years. We hope that the next Parliament will affirm these reforms through democratic legislation. Haiti does not currently have a functioning Parliament to make such changes to the penal code, but an election commission is determining next steps for upcoming elections. Efforts to build a meaningful democracy in Haiti must include gender justice, for the two go hand in hand.