Post by Katie Rosenthal

A men’s group in Haiti has been confronting the issue of gender based violence through group discussion and education. Their work forms part of a new effort to include men in discussions around violence against women and promote a united effort to end it. Traditionally women’s rights have not been a priority in Haiti, with for example rape not becoming a crime against the victim until 2005, and women are often blamed for assaults against them.

The men’s group consists of local fathers in a rural community an hour and a half from the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince. Recognising the need for men to participate in ending gender based violence, non-profit CARE have provided training for the group on women’s rights and family planning. The training forms part of a broader project aiming to reduce sexual and domestic violence in the country.

Up to 30 men meet weekly, discussing issues including the importance of meaningful consent and the importance of not using violence. Founder of the group, Rorny Amile explained “I used to force my wife to have sex with me. I used to believe that when I had the need, the desire to have sex, it was something my wife was just supposed to do. But I’ve learnt that having sex against my wife’s will is violence and I need her consent first”. He also emphasised the improvement in his relationship with his wife, brought about by the group’s discussion.

The men also work amongst their community about fighting violence against women, and the value of openly and honestly discussing the issue. The group sometimes join with a local mother’s group to attend workshops on family planning and deciding on the right time to have children.

The work of these groups is reinforced by indications that Haiti’s government is willing to introduce measures to help protect women’s rights and political participation. A new law, ratified in July, obliges men to take financial responsibility for any children proven to be theirs biologically. Additionally, legislation currently in the draft stage could help to provide tougher sanctions against physical violence against women and greater legal protection for victims. Measures such as these will not immediately alleviate Haiti’s problems, but will contribute to the long term aim of ending violence against women.