World May 20, 2023 | 10:27 am

The role of women in gangs in Haiti: from an active role to simply supporting the partner

Port-au-Prince. In the armed gangs that sow terror in Haiti, women also have their role, ranging from merely supporting their partners who are members of these groups to participating directly in criminal activities.

“Yes, the police arrest women who are part of gangs. They always say they don’t know anything,” a police source who requested anonymity, because he was not officially authorized to speak on behalf of the institution, told EFE.

In the gangs (some 300, according to official figures) the vast majority of their members are men, but there are also children and dozens of women, and not only appearing in music videos recorded by these groups or on social networks during violent gang parties.

As Rosy Auguste Ducéna, head of programs at the NGO Red Nacional para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos (RNDDH), told EFE, the least active participation of women consists of being the partner (or sister) of a member of a violent group: she does not act directly in the gang, but “shares life with a man she knows is part of an association of criminals and who receives part of the spoils of the acts committed,” profits from which she also benefits.

Sometimes, when a woman refuses to become a gang member’s wife or to have sex with him, she is forced to leave her neighborhood. At least ten of them have even been killed.

Other women have a greater role in the gangs, are much more involved in their partners’ activities, accept them directly and carry weapons, as can be seen in images circulating on social networks.

Even, information shared by RNDDH suggests that there are gangs that, when they go to commit their attacks, are accompanied by women in order to raise less suspicion.

“In the first place, it is to allow the armed group to enter the area to be besieged in a gentle way,” the source explained, but these women also have the task of stealing anything of value in the sites that the bandits will then set on fire.

In addition, the women sometimes have a role in the kidnappings, not only limiting themselves to cooking or doing other household chores, but also keeping an eye on the hostages, Ducéna added.

And women are also sometimes used to commit kidnappings: they approach a man unsuspectingly to ask him a question and the criminals take advantage of that moment to capture the victim.

Although for now it appears that there is no all-female armed group and there is no information about women systematically killing people, “we believe that they do accept violence in an attack,” the source said.

Police and armed gangs are intertwined structures in Haiti 1
In recent years, the Cabaret women’s prison has been the target of multiple attacks by gangs, particularly those operating in the Canaan area, north of Port-au-Prince, sometimes in an attempt to free some of the prisoners.

Last September 22, an armed attack in that prison left at least two dead -one of them an inmate- and at least 145 inmates out of a total of 250 women imprisoned for various crimes, including participation in armed groups, managed to escape.

The latest attack, repelled by security forces, took place on May 9, demonstrating, as the National Police states in a video released this week, that in recent days, prisons have become the target of armed gangs, especially in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, in an attempt by assailants to free their detained associates or their partners.

Armed attacks have increased in Haiti since 2018, resulting in hundreds of deaths, dozens of women raped and murdered, and hundreds of homes burned.

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