Haiti: Women's Rights Leaders Die in Earthquake
Wednesday, January 20, 2010 2:10 PM

20 January 2010


Three leaders of the women’s rights movement in Haiti died in the earthquake on 12 January 2010. Myriam Merlet and Anne Marie Coriolan both served as top advisors for Haiti’s Ministry for Gender and the Rights of Women. Magalie Marcelin was a lawyer and activist. Merlet also founded Enfofam, an organization dedicated to raising awareness of women’s issues through news media. Coriolan established Solidarite Fanm Ayisyen (Solidarity with Haitian Women), an advocacy organization. Marcelin founded Kay Fanm, an organization working to combat domestic violence and to provide small business loans to women working in markets. All three women were working to increase prosecutions of and punishments for rape and domestic violence in Haiti.
Women’s rights advocates are expressing concern that the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Haiti will disproportionately impact women and girls. Gerardo Ducos, representing Amnesty International, emphasized the importance of implementing protective measures for women and girls in addition to providing relief in the aftermath of the earthquake. (TheStar.com). Taina Bien-Aime, executive director of Equality Now, indicated that the disaster would likely increase violence and exploitation in a country where rape is common and the vast majority of the female population already experiences domestic violence on a regular basis. (CNN.com
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women has recently issued a statement, sending their condolences to the people of Haiti. Noting the death of the human rights activitists, the Committee calls for the provision of safety and security to the most vulnerable, including women. The statement also expresses the need for a more gender-based approach to humanitarian relief, which would ensure that the needs of women are adequately adressed.