Gender Equality in Haiti
Flag of Haiti
|Population (in Mil.)||10.17|
|Gross Domestic Product (In USD Billions - WB)||7.89|
|Sex Ratio (m/f)||0.98|
|Life Expectancy Ratio (f/m)||1.049180328|
|Estimated Earned Income (f/m)|
|Tertiary Enrolment Ratio (f/m)||..|
|Women in Parliament (in %)||4.2|
|Human Development Index||161/187|
|Social Institutions and Gender Index||31/86|
|Gender Inequality Index||161/186|
|Gender Equity Index||126/168|
|Women’s Economic Opportunity Index||/128|
|Global Gender Gap Index||/68|
|More information on variables|
- 1 In the News
- 2 Social Institutions
- 3 The FAO Gender and Land Rights Database
In the News
Special Focus - Haiti's rape crisis Article 18 of the Constitution of Haiti prohibits discrimination and, in 1994, the government established a Ministry for the Status of Women. Tradition still restricts Haitian women in the exercise of their rights, however, and they do not have the same social and economic status as men. Women in rural areas remain most confined to traditional roles and activities. Nearly half of Haitian households are headed by women.
Sharing the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, Haiti was the first Black-led republic, and the first Caribbean country to gain independence (from French colonial rule). The country’s recent history has been beset by political and economy instability, violent conflict, and massive economic inequality between the French-speaking elite and Creole-speaking majority. A massive earthquake in January 2010 devastated a large portion of Haiti and in particular the capital city of Port-au-Prince, killing more than 230,000 and injuring another 300,000. Most civil institutions, including the government’s ability to perform basic services without international assistance, have effectively been demolished. The long-term implications for the situation of women in Haiti are unclear at this point, although there have been reports of both increased sexual and physical violence against women as well as vigilante-style justice. The impacts of the earthquake were compounded by an outbreak of cholera ten months later, which killed an estimated 6000 people. The poorest country in the Americas, Haiti is classed as a low-income country by the World Bank.
The 1987 Constitution of Haiti guarantees equal rights of citizenship regardless of sex, however it does not specifically prohibit discrimination on the grounds of gender, although the ratified International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ostensibly mandates such protections. In 1994, the government established a Ministry for the Status of Women, but it has suffered from Haiti’s recurring political instability. Haiti is a patriarchal society that assigns different social roles for men and women, where men are seen as the head of the family with power to make economic decisions. This is especially true for women in rural areas. Yet even prior to the 2010 earthquake, women served as head in 42% of households. In its 2009 Concluding Observations on Haiti, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee) noted its concern at the very high levels of violence against women in the country, the low numbers of women in positions of political leadership, and high unemployment among women.
Haiti ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1981; it has not yet ratified the Optional Protocol. The country acceded to the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women (‘Convention of Belém do Pará’) in 1997. Haiti is ranked 158th in the 2011 Human Development Index (out of 187 countries), with a score of 0.454. The country’s Gender Inequality Index score is 0.599 (123 out of 146 countries). Haiti is not ranked in the 2011 Global Gender Gap Index.
Discriminatory Family Code
The minimum legal age for marriage is 15 years for women and 18 years for men. Over the last fifteen years the percentage of girls between 15 and 19 years of age that were married, divorced or widowed has stayed around 19%. According to UNICEF, 30% of Haitian women between 20 and 24 years of age were married before the age of 18. A small fraction of marriages in Haiti are still arranged or forced, particularly in cases of rape or pre-marital pregnancy.
The Haitian Civil Code recognizes only marriages that are between one man and woman Nevertheless more than half of women of childbearing age living a union other than formalized marriage. Polygamy is relatively common in Haiti, although the incidence is declining sharply. The 2005-2006 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) found that 18 percent of women were in polygamous relationships, although the number may be higher as a further 17% of respondents did not know whether their husband had any other spouses. 9% of men report having two or more wives.
Haitian law accords equal rights to both spouses in marriage, but according to the 2008 report to the CEDAW Committee, by law the husband’s views take precedence in the event of a conflict. If a couple divorces, the decision regarding custody is made with the child’s best interests in mind, but both parents have an obligation to provide financially for the child; it is not clear whether courts tend to favour fathers or mothers in custody cases. However, many people in Haiti live in unregistered ‘consensual unions’ rather than marriages. However, children born outside of marriage are subject to legal discrimination in that an article of the Civil Code denies their right to know their father’s identity, unless he acknowledges them as his children. Women do not appear to have the right to pass citizenship onto their children; rather, a child born to a Haitian mother and a foreign father must wait until they reach the age of majority before applying for Haitian citizenship. Married Haitian women do not face any legal discrimination in the matter of inheritance, but women whose unions are not officially recognized are deprived of inheritance rights, even to property acquired jointly. Further, according to tradition they are generally awarded smaller shares than men.
Restricted Physical Integrity
Rape is a crime in Haiti and is punishable by up to ten years in prison, but sentences are often not given at the maximum penalty level. Spousal rape is not recognized as a crime. The law prohibits and provides penalties in the case of domestic violence against children, but there is no specific legislation addressing domestic violence against adults. As domestic violence and adultery are traditionally seen as internal family matters, they are also not addressed by the Penal Code. Sexual harassment is not recognised as a crime in Haiti. According to the US Department of State’s 2010 human rights report, there are substantial social disincentives in Haiti that discourage women from reporting sexual violence, including tacit cultural acceptance, low rates of successful prosecution, and lack of aid facilities. Rape is often seen as a family or community matter, rather than as a prosecutable offence; in addition, victims often fear violent retribution if they report attacks. Violence against women remains a serious issue. According to a 2006 UN study, 21% of women aged 15-49 reported being abused by their partner in the last 12 months. According to the US Department of State, the association Solidarité des Femmes Haïtiennes (SOFA) estimates that eight in ten Haitian women have been victims of domestic abuse. In half of these cases, the husband or partner is the perpetrator. In most cases, abuse goes unreported, due to fear of reprisal and police failure to investigate. Nearly one-third of Haitian women believe that wife-beating is justified under certain circumstances.
In the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, rape and sexual violence have been reported as serious issues in the IDP camps in which many Haitians are still living. The impact of sexual violence has been exacerbated by lack of access to emergency post-rape care, and overcrowded living conditions. In addition, many women and girls have been forced into a position of engaging in transactional or survival sex, in exchange for food and other basic goods. On 22 December, 2010, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted a legal request submitted by a group of advocates and attorneys requesting that the Haitian government and the international community take immediate measures to prevent violence against women and girls in Haiti. This decision is legally binding, and calls for improved security in the camps, and better provision of health care services for victims of sexual violence.
Women are the main victims of a particular type of political violence in the country. The practice of zenglendos, which involves men breaking into a house to rape the female occupants, is frequently used to exert political pressure. Both the 2008 CEDAW report and the US Department of State also report that in some urban areas, armed gangs use rape as a systematic instrument of intimidation. There is no evidence to suggest that female genital mutilation is practised in Haiti Abortion is only legal in cases where the woman’s life is in danger. Women in Haiti have the right to use contraception and to access information about family planning and reproductive health. 99.7% of women aged 15-49 questioned for the 2005-2006 DHS knew of at least one modern method of contraception, although only 17.9% reported using a modern method at the time of the survey. 59.6% reported their intention to use a modern method of contraception at some point in the future.
According to data from the 2005-2006 DHS, 39.6% of boys and 43.1% of girls under two had received all their basic vaccinations. Malnutrition rates were higher for boys than for girls, as were rates for under-five mortality. This would not indicate bias towards sons in regard to early childhood care. According to the Understanding Children’s Work project (UCW), in 2005, 32.5% of boys and 26.3% of girls aged 5-14 were engaged in regular economic activity of some kind. Boys worked longer hours than girls. In regard to domestic work, 88.4% of girls and 80.9% of boys engaged in household chores, girls spending on average 9 hours a week on household chores, while boys spent an average of 7.7 hours. According to UNICEF, school attendance rates at primary and secondary level are higher for girls than for boys. This would not indicate son preference in regard to access to education. The male/female sex ratio for the total population in 2012 is 0.98.
There is no evidence to suggest that Haiti is a country of concern in relation to missing women.
Restricted Resources and Entitlements
There are no legal restrictions on women’s right to own and manage land. However, in practice, it is very difficult for women to own land, given that few have the money to buy it, and that so many women live in unregistered consensual unions, meaning they have no legal right to claim to claim ownership of property accumulated jointly while the couple were together, in the event of separation, or here partner’s death. As of 2008, the CEDAW report notes that Just over 10% of women in rural areas work on their own farms. Many female agricultural workers are not paid for their labour as it is seen as ‘auxiliary’ labour supplementing that performed by the male head of the family. Women have the legal right to access to property other than land, which usually includes assets such as the family home and cattle. These assets may be solely or jointly owned by a married couple. Women often purchase cattle alone, but generally acquire other property by combining resources with another person. It is rare for women to own secondary properties or vehicles. There do not appear to be any legal restrictions on access to credit, however in practice, Haitian women have limited access to bank loans. Very few women have received loans, in part because they lack information about lending programmes, or because they do not have the collateral needed to secure credit. Women make up the majority of microfinance lenders, but as the CEDAW report notes, ‘the terms for the loans, which carry high interest rates, do not facilitate the social advancement of women nor do they substantially improve their living conditions’.
Restricted Civil Liberties
There are no reported restrictions on women’s access to public space. However, as noted earlier, following the earthquake, there have been reports of both increased sexual and physical violence against women as well as vigilante-style justice. Freedom of speech, assembly and association are not respected in practice in Haiti. Haiti appears to have an active women’s movement, working on a variety of issues, including lobbying to revise discriminatory legislation, promote women’s participation in decision-making bodies, access to basic services, reproductive health, and gender-based violence. Although there are no legal obstacles for women to vote and stand in elections, women wishing to stand for political office face considerable obstacles, including patriarchal attitudes that politics is men’s business, the practical difficulties of combining a political career with raising children, lack of financial support, and threat of physical and sexual violence. As a result, political representation is low for women in Haiti. As of 2010, there were six women serving in Haiti’s 127-seat bicameral Parliament. Haiti offers 12 weeks of maternity leave, with six weeks of full pay. Employers are banned from dismissing women from work while they are on maternity leave. Given the high numbers of women working in the informal sector, it is likely that few women actually benefit from these provisions.
- BBC (n.d.) 'Haiti country profile’, BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/country_profiles/1202772.stm (accessed 29 November 2011)
- Reference 1; Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) (2011) The World Factbook : Haiti, online edition, Washington, D.C.: CIA, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ha.html (accessed 29 November 2011)
- National Sexual Violence Resource Centre (NSVRC) (n.d.) ‘Haiti: earthquake recovery failing women and girls’, Enola, PA: NSVRC, http://www.nsvrc.org/news/6969 (accessed 29 November 2011)
- See reference 3
- Reference 1
- Reference 1; World Bank (n.d.) ‘Data: Haiti’, Washington, D.C.: World Bank, http://data.worldbank.org/country/haiti (accessed 22 November 2011)
- Articles 17-19 of the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of Haiti; Covenant implemented domestically by Decree on 4 February 1981 in Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), (2008), p. 27.
- Reference 8, p. 32.
- See reference 8, p. 45
- CEDAW (2009) Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women Haiti, CEDAW/C/HTI/CO/7, CEDAW, New York, pp.5-7
- United Nations Treaty Collection (UNTC) (2010): Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women, countries ratified. - CEDAW: http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-8&chapter=4&lang=en (accessed 22 November 2011) - Optional Protocol: http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-8-b&chapter=4&lang=en (accessed 22 November)
- Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) (n.d.) Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women (‘Convention of Belém do Pará’) – status of ratification, http://www.cidh.oas.org/Basicos/English/Basic14.Conv%20of%20Belem%20Do%20Para%20Ratif.htm (accessed 23 November 2011)
- United Nations Development Programme (2011) Human Development Report 2011, available at http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/HDR_2011_EN_Complete.pdf, accessed 29 February 2012. p.129
- See reference 13, p.141
- Article 133 of the Civil Code in Reference 8, p. 104.
- United Nations (UN) (2004), World Fertility Report 2003, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, New York, NY, p. 154, citing data from 1996; UN (2008), World Marriage Data 2008, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, New York, NY, citing data from 2006.
- United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) (2008), New York, NY: UNICEF, Table 9.
- Reference 8, p. 104.
- Reference 8, p. 104.
- Reference 8, pp. 104-105.
- Cayemittes, Michel, Marie Florence Placide, Soumaïla Mariko, Bernard Barrère, Blaise Sévère, Canez Alexandre (2007) Enquête Mortalité, Morbidité et Utilisation des Services, Haïti, 2005-2006, Port-au-Prince / Calverton, Maryland, USA: Ministère de la Santé Publique et de la Population, Institut Haïtien de l’Enfance et Macro International Inc, Table 6.2.
- See reference 21, Table 6.3.
- Reference 8, p.105
- Reference 8, pp.106-105
- Reference 8, p. 106; Guardella, A. (2006), Gender Assessment USAID/Haiti, USAID (US Agency for International Development), Washington, DC., pp. 19, 36-37.
- Reference 8, p.68
- Reference 8, p. 97.
- Guardella, A. (2006), Gender Assessment USAID/Haiti, USAID (US Agency for International Development), Washington, DC., p. 16.
- Article 278 of the Penal Code, enacted 6 July 2005 in Guardella, A. (2006), Gender Assessment USAID/Haiti, USAID (US Agency for International Development), Washington, DC., p. 14; US Department of State (2010), 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Haiti, US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Washington, DC..
- US Department of State (2011), 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Haiti, US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Washington, DC, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/wha/154509.htm (accessed 29 November 2011)
- Guardella, A. (2006), Gender Assessment USAID/Haiti, USAID (US Agency for International Development), Washington, DC., p. 14.
- See reference 30
- See reference 30
- See reference 30
- UN (2006), In-depth Study on all Forms of Violence Against Women, Report of the Secretary-General, UN General Assembly, 61st Session A/61/122/Add.1, UN, New York, NY, p. 53.
- US Department of State (2010), 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Haiti, US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Washington, DC.
- See reference 30
- Demographic Health Survey (2005)
- See reference 30
- See reference 3
- See reference 3
- MADRE (2011) ‘IACHR Sets Recommendations for Haitian Government to Address Sexual Violence in IDP Camps’, New York: MADRE, http://www.madre.org/index/press-room-4/news/iachr-sets-recommendations-for-haitian-government-to-address-sexual-violence-in-idp-camps-544.html (accessed 29 November 2011)
- UNIFEM (2007), p. 2; Guardella, A. (2006), Gender Assessment USAID/Haiti, USAID (US Agency for International Development), Washington, DC., p. 24, 31.
- Reference 8, p.50; See reference 30
- UN (2011) ‘World Abortion Policies 2011’, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, New York. http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/2011abortion/2011wallchart.pdf
- See reference 30
- See reference 21, Table 5.1, 5.3
- See reference 21, Table 5.9
- See reference 21, Table 9.3
- See reference 21, Tables 11.12, 12.3
- Understanding Children’s Work Project (UCW) (n.d.) Child labour indicators / tables / Haiti, Rome: Understanding Children’s Work Project, An Inter-Agency Research Cooperation Project, ILO / UNICEF / World Bank, http://www.ucw-project.org/Pages/Tables.aspx?id=1262 (accessed 29 November 2011), drawing on data from the 2005-2006 DHS.
- Reference 51.
- United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) (n.d.) ‘Haiti – statistics’, http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/haiti_statistics.html (accessed 29 November 2011)
- Central Intelligence Agency (2012) The World Fact Book: Sex Ratio, available at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2018.html, accessed 29 February 2012.
- Reference 8, p.98
- Reference 8, pp.97-98
- Reference 8, p. 80.
- Reference 8, p. 80.
- Guardella, A. (2006), Gender Assessment USAID/Haiti, USAID (US Agency for International Development), Washington, DC, p. 15-16.
- Reference 8, p.95
- Reference 8, pp. 94-95, 99.
- Reference 8, p.99
- See reference 3
- Freedom House (2010) ‘Freedom in the World country reports: Haiti’, http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=363&year=2010&country=7836 (accessed 29 November 2011)
- Reference 8, p.25
- Reference 8, pp.61-62
- Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) (2009), Women in Parliament: All Countries on National Parliaments, IPU: Geneva, http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif.htm.
- International Labour Organization (ILO) (2009), Database of Conditions of Work and Employment Laws, ILO: Geneva, Switzerland, accessed 5 January 2010.
- Reference 8, p.75
- See Reference 10, p.7
UNIFEM Fact Sheet : At a Glance – Women in Haiti
The FAO Gender and Land Rights Database
The FAO Gender and Land Rights Database contains country level information on social, economic, political and cultural issues related to the gender inequalities embedded in those rights. Disparity on land access is one of the major causes for social and gender inequalities in rural areas, and it jeopardizes, as a consequence, rural food security as well as the wellbeing of individuals and families.
The Database offers information on the 6 following Categories:
- National legal frame
- International treaties and conventions
- Customary law
- Land tenure and related Institutions
- Civil society organizations
- Selected Land Related Statistics
For detailed information on Haiti, please visit the report on Haiti in the FAO Gender and Land Rights Database.