By Jean-Hosler Delcy
A miseducated populace is facing an elite complicit in defending the indefensible.
A burning topic in the Haitian press for some time is an article published in the British paper The Guardian. The name implies its function, a publication with an immaculate reputationworldwide releasing an investigative piece by the journalist Ed Aarons, deputy news editor of the Sports section with two contributors: Romain Molina and Alex Cizmic.
In the article, Ed zeroes in on the president of the HaitianFootball Federation, Mr. Yves Jean-Bart, for alleged sexual abuse of minors participating in the Camp Nous program at the National Technical Center in Croix-des-Bouquets. This took place over a long period according to the paper. The young athletes were victims of repeated sexual exploitation at the hands of the very people who were supposed to protect them.
Hence, the framing of the debate over the article shows clearly the lack of objectivity by the media in its attempt to minimizethe accusation. This must be considered as a bad precedent because this sweeps the issue under the rug in a country like ours where everything is subject to influence peddling, stigmatization and exclusion depending on one’s social andeconomic status and political connections.
This investigation about the female football players brings to the fore a taboo subject in our society. Were it not for the glaring deceptive mindset of the country’s ruling elite, this investigative piece would afford us a chance to examine a matter affecting the lives of numerous adolescents of both genders in Haiti. It needs to be reminded that sexual harassment and abuse/rape are for real, ubiquitous in all Haitian institutions. According to a UN study, this phenomenon is a tragedy that afflicts one third of the world’s population of young girls and women. Between 50%and 72% of those living in the Haitian capital are victims of forced sexual acts, sometime in a brutal manner. This presents a major handicap to their professional development (Faedi, 2008).
It is illogical, sad and regrettable to conceive that Haitian journalists who claim to be defending and protecting human rights play the role of judges to manipulate public opinion against the accusers. They show no regard to inform the audience of the testimonies of these youngsters. Due to friendship and reciprocal favors, this sector of sycophants among the media trivializes the crux of the matter that Aaron wanted to expose — that being the plight of these young grenadières as sexual victims.
How many minors are at the mercy of sexual predators and pedophiles in Haiti? In reality, at school, at church, social and sports clubs, cultural associations, there are many victims of sexual exploitation in the country. Considering the fact thatevery society has its fair share of sexual deviants, it is simply unjust and inappropriate to heed to the concept that ‘might makes right’ insofar as these emerging star athletes are concerned.
The narrative that such practices don’t take place flies in the face of common sense. We hear you, victims, and we join you in shedding tears. We understand your silence; we are closing ranks with you. Don’t be afraid, the day will come when the world will listen to your predicament, children of Haiti. Know that your slanderers are hypocrites and hangers-on vying for their petty self-interests and as such willing to support the status quo of a corrupt system throughout the private (secular and religious) and public institutions.
Having suffered from such assault, we are addressing you, the victims, with a heart full of empathy as familiar as we are with your experience. Having lived your trauma, we share your concerns and uncertainties and we hope to lay the groundwork for the establishment of a new culture of openness and transparency to aid the most vulnerable members. Who can ever say of never having been aware directly or indirectly of such repugnant acts, especially if you have attended religious schools manned by brothers and priests in Haiti? Can one ignore the fact that it exists a wide camp of multifaceted corruption including sexual abuse or exploitation of minors even in the midst of prestigious schools?
I, as a past football player in Haiti, would not be surprised by such an allegation taking into account stories of former stars of the game about corrupt trainers and managers who had attempted to abuse them when they were minors under their supervision. If we took the time to analyze the victims’ accounts, with all their coherence, we would find enough clues and trails worthy of exploration to ultimately protect potential victims of such abuses.
In as much as women are the primary victims, we need to bear in mind that boys are also victims of such malfeasance. As a survivor, this gives me a unique perspective to plead in favor of a treatment more favorable of the plaintiffs.
To conclude, without any partisan agenda, and with dispassionate disposition, this issue warrants an investigation without any preconceived idea. Without any demagoguery, let’s fight together as good citizens and with calm to protect the rights of each child of the country, rich or poor.
Jean-Hosler Delcy, M.Ed. is a former official at Haiti’s ministry of education and an education coordinator with Save the Children International in Haiti.