Videotaped gang rape in Haiti sparks debate on sexual violence 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AFP) — The videotaped gang rape of a 16-year-old girl has outraged Haitians and triggered angry debate about unpunished violence against women.

With the video widely viewed on the internet, police made 12 arrests Thursday but said the five men who actually raped the girl remain at large.

The girl was attacked on January 4 in Petionville near the capital Port-au-Prince but did not report the crime until the three-minute video — shot by her aggressors — started circulating online this week.

Two senators and the Port-au-Prince prosecutor’s office have offered a reward equivalent to US$7,500 for information leading to the arrest of the culprits.

The dozen males arrested Thursday range in age from 16 to 44. Police said they are still looking for the men who carried out the assault.

The case has focused a spotlight on gender violence in this destitute Caribbean country and how people get away with it.

A report in 2012 by the human rights section of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti said violence against women in Haiti, such as rape, is a systemic problem.

In a report the next year, the UN said that of 62 rape cases reported to police in the capital over a period of three months, not a single one went to trial.

This impunity goes hand-in-hand with the male-dominated nature of Haitian society, said Florence Elie, the citizen ombudswoman for the Haitian government.

“Within families, especially the poorest ones, there are two kinds of treatment: girls go to fetch water and boys stay home. Women work the fields and go to the market, while many male farmers play dominos,” Elie said.

“I hope that this video will serve as a wake-up call, that people’s mind and hearts will be shaken up a bit and that certain measures will be taken, for instance in terms of national education,” Elie told AFP.

Haitian society is hypocritical when it comes to violence against women, she added.

Haitians have so much trouble simply getting enough to eat and clean water to drink that they choose to ignore other problems like sexual violence until faced with them close up, she added.

“Subconsciously, everyone knows that it is out there. But unless it is on social media, it gets swept under the rug,” said Elie.

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