When the Authorities Fail: Reports of Rape by the United Nations Forces in Haiti

This week I spent a lot of time surfing the BBC news channel and website for news. I generally stay away from major news outlets in the States due to the overwhelming polarization, regardless of the station. This week was heavily dominated by the cholera outbreak in Haiti, collective resistance against aid and security operations. Violence in Haiti since the January 12th earthquake is a result of a number of realities, frustrations and conditions. Like many acts of violence the element of power is present. Gaining power, building power, relinquishing power; the struggle for power is not new in this context. Using the female body as a medium to exercise and gain power is also not new.

As noted in a previous post, the United Nations Mission in Haiti has been present for 20 years. During this tenure, its relationship with the Haitian people has been rocky (that’s putting it lightly). Recently, Haitians have collectively cried out for removal of UN forces given the cholera outbreak and sheer lack of action to confront basic infrastructure issues. The video below shows a Haitian aid volunteer, Charlotte Charles, giving a passionate and igniting¬† account of rapes in the tent camps by United Nations soldiers.

The world needs to hear the truth.

Who is telling this truth? After being arrested several times, being attacked in a tent camp while distributing aid and reporting other atrocities to the police; Ms. Charles refuses to quiet her voice. She is willing to die telling the truth.

The world needs to hear the truth.

What happens when the institutions and individuals meant to protect fail and actually harm those they are charged with protecting? The rape of women, girls, children and men robs individuals of their power. When a woman or girl has to choose between eating and rape, the decision is can not possibly be easy. When a woman or girl has to choose between shelter and rape, the decision can not possibly be easy. Power is the ability to act. When your actions are controlled by someone else your power is diminished. Stripping individuals of their dignity and power also strips the community of its dignity and power.

What would you do if you had to make this choice?