Haiti women protesters denounce violence, political instability

Port-au-Prince (AFP) –


Hundreds of women protested in Haiti's capital on Saturday, denouncing gang violence and political instability that they say could lead to a new dictatorship.

At the demonstration marking the national day for the Haitian women's movement, the protesters deplored the rising power of gangs in recent months which has led to a spike in kidnappings for ransom in Port-au-Prince and other provinces.

"The women who have been kidnapped are raped and sexually assaulted, so today we must put at the center of the debate, beyond the kidnappings, the impact of the (security) situation specifically on women," activist Pascale Solages said.

April 3 is the national day of the Haitian women's movement, marking the date in 1986 when 30,000 women marched to demand better inclusion in politics, two months after the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship.

The crowd on Saturday was comprised of activists of all ages, when political protests in Haiti usually attract young men.

"What we were saying in 1986 is that democracy cannot be built without women or to their detriment. It is important to remember these slogans," said Daniele Magloire, a feminist activist.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, has been in a months-long political crisis.

President Jovenel Moise maintains that his term of office runs until February 7, 2022, but others claim it ended on February 7, 2021.

The disagreement stems from the fact that Moise was elected in a vote that was cancelled for fraud, and then re-elected a year later.

Without a parliament, the country fell further into crisis in 2020 and Moise is governing by decree, fuelling growing mistrust of him.

Amid the instability, Moise has said he plans to hold a constitutional referendum in June.

"They are talking about a referendum but we do not need a new constitution where they sprinkle in two, three cosmetic measures, while all the power will be concentrated in the hands of the executive, with a president who will have total immunity during and after his mandate," protested Gaelle Bien Aime.

"We are in the street to fight impunity -- so many men, including in the spheres of power, who beat their wives, who rape," the 30-year-old said.

"I was not yet born in 1986 and I am very annoyed to have to be here 35 years later in the street fighting the same fights," she said.