From Thu Jul 24 16:00:30 2003
Date: Thu, 24 Jul 2003 14:20:16 -0500 (CDT)
From: Bob Corbett <>
To: Haiti mailing list <>
Subject: 16185: Karshan: Remarks by Haiti’s First Lady on fight against Trafficking in Children (fwd)

From: MKarshan@aoò

Remarks by Mrs. Mildred T. Aristide, First Lady of the Republic of Haiti, at the Seminar on the Trafficking in Children

Mrs. Mildred Aristide, Montana Hotel, 11 July 2003

Mr. Minister of Justice,
Mr. Ambassador of the Dominican Republic in Haiti,
Mr. General Consul of Haiti in the Dominican Republic,

Dear guests,

I congratulate the leaders of UNICEF in Haiti and in the Dominican Republic for the organization of this seminar on the trafficking in children, a phenomenon that affects the lives of many children on both sides of the border.

The long and often painful history of the relations between our two countries teaches us that the unity of minds between our two peoples is the only path that can lead us to the improvement of our life conditions. President Mejìa and President Aristide often repeat it, Haiti and the Dominican Republic are like two wings of the same bird. Globalization and nations’ interdependence are even more burning and real for us who share the same land and who have a partly common past.

Next October, Mrs. Mejìa, the First Lady of the Dominican Republic, will welcome the Conference of Spouses of Heads of State and Government of Americas, under the theme of Youth and Poverty—an occasion to analyze the situation of our young people throughout the continent. But this morning, we are here together to discuss, more specifically, our Haitian children who go to the Dominican Republic.

More and more, we hear about this phenomenon of trafficking in children. The leaders of UNICEF have explained what these words mean to them. International conventions define the term trafficking in children as the recruitment offer, the transport, the transfer, the accommodation, the reception or the use of children for hard labor, sexual exploitation, prostitution and pornography. A very recent report from the United States State Department called Trafficking in Persons included all types of placing of children outside their family, which could exist in Haiti, as an aspect of trafficking in children. And this, without any thorough explanation, without well-documented analysis. In this report, Haiti is rated last among countries where there is trafficking in children.

We reject both this rating and this definition, because it is too large and too confusing. We also reject the assertion according to which Haiti is a country where children slavery is accepted. The use of such words and expressions against a Southern country serves to hide the true nature of the reality, and its complexities, with regard to the placement of children. Haiti, despite its many difficulties, works for the respect of children’s rights. It seems that some people would like it to get there right away. However, reality has nothing to do with fairy tales.

We prefer, as a starting point, to look at the facts as they really are and see that today Haiti lives in an intense poverty, which causes, for the great majority of our citizens, limited access to education, health care and heavy losses in human lives due to HIV/AIDS. These are the deep causes leading to the placing of children outside their families, of which the first objective is the search for a better life. And this reality is becoming more and more burning for all poor countries.

We also note this other starting point, that today, despite this poverty, Haiti is going through its third year of an immoral and unfair international embargo that blocks the financing of projects directly related to the improvement of the quality of life of its people and that keeps it from expending all necessary material efforts to identify, condemn and block abuses observed in some types of placing of children.

We also point out this starting point, that today, on the eve of the bicentennial of our independence, we are working to reverse the illiteracy rate, to build schools in the communal sections, to offer school meals to children and to give access to health care to all.

That is what we are doing at this moment to fight, directly at the root, the reasons that, too often, lead parents to separate from their children, to place them somewhere else in the hope that they will find what they can’t give them. Because we, Haitians, subscribe to the universal law that wants all parents to search for a better life for their children. Even when, forced by the hard conditions of life, mothers of Haiti entrust their children to host families’ care in the context of a relation of support and solidarity, while they would have always rather kept their children with them.

I care about this information, because the discriminatory use of the words slave and traffic create confusion because then all Haitians become a potential accomplice, which brings us further away from the real solutions we are looking for.

That is why I appreciate the interesting information given by UNICEF in this seminar. Indeed, knowing that, this morning, we are talking about this phenomenon where parents and adults on both sides of the border are involved in transactions to make children travel to the Dominican Republic, where they can be victims of hard labor or other types of exploitation. This information reinforces us because it is possible for us to answer in concrete terms. The government can set up measures to block these crimes. In fact, instructions have already been given to members of the new Minors Defense and Protection Squad for them to go in the areas where those crimes are recorded in order to investigate.

If those areas don’t have schools, health care, economic activities, we must target them for present and future intervention. I encourage UNICEF to offer concrete solutions to the problems presented which deserve a social response, not only a legal response.

It is certain that the May 15, 2003 law that forbids any trafficking in children and abolishes Chapter 9 of the Labor Regulations which, during 57 years, had sanctioned children’s domestic labor, cannot by itself block this practice. But it shows clearly the government’s will to abolish it.

And for all the children who are already affected by this trafficking, we must act. And dialogue is the first step of the action. That’s why we, Haitians, are very happy to welcome Dominican authorities to see how together we can put an end to this crime witnessed by our common border.

Thank you.

Mrs. Mildred Aristide

Montana Hotel