Bridget Wooding and Allison J. Petrozziello examine the struggles experienced by Haitian women who were displaced by the 2010 earthquake. Forced to cross the Haitian-Dominican border, Haitian women and young girls come into contact with traffickers, placing the migrants into exploitative domestic work and/or sex work. Wooding and Petrozziello use a gendered lens to examine these forced work forms and the human rights violations that are inevitably linked; especially in terms of violence against women. The authors of this piece argue that not enough attention has been paid to these female migrants, due to the ambiguous nature of trafficking (i.e. to some it may seem that these women are being smuggled into the DR as opposed to trafficked). Wooding and Petrozziello argue that the 2010 earthquake and following cholera outbreak produced heavy strains on women trying to cross the border, furthered by the DR’s suspension of Haitian immigration into the country as well as limiting Haitian selling at bi-national markets, usually through the creation of unfair fees (i.e. a Haitian woman selling products at a market pays more to have a table than a Dominican seller). As a result of this market segregation and border closing, Haitian women are at a higher risk of being trafficked or abused at the Haitian-Dominican border. Additionally, these risks and human rights violations are ignored by Dominican authorities—a grave disconnect costing the lives of many women. This disconnect also persists, according to the authors, because of the underground nature of both sex work and domestic work. Because forced domestic labor happens within the private homes of Dominicans, it goes undetected and is thus a prime space for human rights abuse. Wooding and Petrozziello argue that Haitian women are subjected to this disproportionately because they have been left displaced and impoverished by the earthquake—even five years later.
The article uses interviews with Haitian women and girls ranging from 10 to 47 years of age who have survived in the face of violence, as well as interviews with service providers and local authorities who bear witness to this violence. Ethnographic research was used at the border crossing point, nightclubs, and markets. A drawback of the study was the fact that sex workers could not be retrieved for interviews, so accounts of sex trafficking comes second-hand. A strength however is the combination of both ethnography and personal interviews, allowing for multiple quantitative data collections. Adding personal narratives into the piece allows the reader to stay more engaged and invested. They also put a face to mere migrant statistics, which are all too common and impersonal. With regards to the authors’ backgrounds, Wooding is the Coordinator of the Observatory of Caribbean Migrants located in Santo Domingo while Petrozziello has produced a training manual called Gender on the Move: Working On the Migration-Development Nexus from a Gender Perspective for the UN Women training center.
This piece is important because Wooding and Petrozziello call into question the rights of migrants. Even though migrants are human beings, in this specific case the 2010 Haitian earthquake survivors who are crossing international borders do not have the same rights granted to migrants under the 1998 OCHA Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. Because of this, protection gaps exist which make women and young girls highly susceptible to human rights violations. This case study is also interesting in that it intersects with environmental topics, specifically the natural disaster of an earthquake. Following a disaster like this, with many individuals left displaced, human rights violations are more likely to occur. Therefore I believe there is a call for stronger investigations into violations following natural disasters as well as more comprehensive aid disbursement to lessen already terrible blows.
Tags: human rights; Dominican Republic; Haiti; earthquake; human trafficking; women; border crossing