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I interviewed Gentile in an empty tent in one of the enormous camps that had sprung up in Port-au-Prince immediately after the Haiti earthquake in February 2010. The quake devastated much of the city, the economic hub of the country and the seat of government, killing some 200,000men, women, and children and leaving 1.2million people without food, water, shelter, and sanitation. Gentile was just sixteen, alone in the city, clearly still traumatized and frightened as she recounted how she had been gang raped a few nights before. Like thousands of other women and girls, she was homeless and vulnerable, an easy prey for the gang of men who dragged her into the darkness and assaulted her amid the rubble. Later, I wrote about that interview and my trip to Haiti to investigate sexual violence. Many people contacted me, having read the piece, to express surprise that violence against women could still take place during a massive humanitarian crisis.
Human Rights Watch has documented violence against women in different contexts in many countries over the past two decades. We have reported on domestic violence in Brazil and Turkey, sexual violence in conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bosnia, and Côte d’Ivoire, trafficking of women and girls in Nepal and India, honor killings in Jordan, and female genital mutilation in Iraq. We have documented violence against migrant domestic workers in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, women in immigration detention in the United States, schoolgirls in South Africa and women living with HIV in Zambia and Kenya. Most recently, we investigated the use of sexual violence against both women and men during the Libyan revolution. We have released numerous reports and made hundreds of recommendations to governments, international donors, the United Nations, and civil society about their obligations and responsibilities to protect women from violence and to respond to their needs in its aftermath. In this endeavor, we are not alone, and every day, all over the world, individuals and organizations work to protect and support victims and survivors of all forms of violence against women.
Violence has a direct and detrimental impact on women’s human rights. Women may be evicted from their homes by abusive partners, leaving them—and often their children—homeless.
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