Overstatement of Gender Inequality in Haiti

Haiti has been long portrayed as a strongly patriarchic culture–with the males at the center and females off to the side and repressed. However, recent literature has revealed that Haitian culture and gender inequality has been horribly misrepresented throughout the years. Although Haiti is extremely poor, and much of the country experiences severe hardship, Haitian women are head of the homesteads–they dominate the markets and the redistribution channels, and they control their husband’s agricultural activity to the point that it is women, not men, who harvest gardens and market the produce. Therefore, scholars and many aid workers have had a mistaken image on the gender inequality in Haiti. In fact, gender inequality and suppression of women is the last thing aid workers and the UN needs to focus on in Haiti.

Although poverty has a tendency to cause unequal access to power, Haiti seems to avoid unequal access to power to affect the inequality between genders. There is structural violence in the country overall, but not between men and women. Haiti suffers from extreme, chronic historically entrenched, political, and economic oppression and social inequality. However, women do not experience symbolic violence from men. Men do not dominate women without consent in Haiti as much as scholars think. Men and women each have understood, domestic obligations within the family, none of which there is unwitting consent to.

In the article, The Power of Women in Haiti, Timothy Schwartz explains how gender inequality is often overstated in Haiti. Women live longer than men in Haiti, teen pregnancy rate is among the lowest in the developing world, and Haitian girls have higher secondary school attendance rates than their male counterparts! With the growing power of women in the agriculture and trading markets, could future scholars and anthropologists have to study the unequal access to power experienced by men in the Haitian culture?

In regards to the last question posed, hopefully Haiti will continue to thrive regarding their gender roles and continue to repel gender inequality, despite all of their structural violence.