Theses Master's

Despite Haiti Abolishing Slavery, Why is The Restavek System Still in Place?

Vidal de la Pena, Lucia

In the mass media, Haiti is frequently intertwined with political instability, natural disasters, the United Nations, and non-governmental organizations. The aftermath in 2010 following the Earthquake prompted Haiti towards further international media attention, and people began to think about how many of those children had possibly become orphans. Nowadays, the public feels about the lack of education and the scarcity of funds there are to support these children. However, the restavek children remain in the shadows.
It is hard to determine the exact number of children employed as domestic workers given the hidden nature of the practice. We know that child labor and slavery are considered among the most common forms of child exploitation present today. Nevertheless, not enough attention is devoted to it. Domestic work is directly related to poverty, and demographic factors push individuals and families from rural areas to send their children to other regions hoping to give them a better lifestyle and education. Other factors such as cultural practices, discrimination against girls, the lack of legal protection, social permeability, and the lack of educational alternatives, are some of the features that contribute to the persistence of this ongoing issue in the world and more specifically, to Haiti. All these elements have a negative impact on the development of childhood and adolescence; an adverse effect on the development of Haitian children influences the future of the country itself.
The primary objective of this research is to gain a better understanding of the current restavek situation in Haiti and understand why the restavek system has been able to prevail. This thesis examines the origin of the restavek practice itself, and it explores the social and political past of the country to put the reader in context and assess the situations that have led the country to its current state. Education plays a crucial role in the shaping of a community, and thus why it is essential to consider the history of education in Haiti. Kevin Bales theory of Modern Day Slavery is used to assess the restavek system as a slavery system. Child domestic work is defined according to the International Labor Organization and in the context of Child Labor to compare it to the restavek system. Following this, we evaluate whether the Haitian government is doing anything for the restaveks and if so, what is it that they are doing. Then, the restavek system is analyzed from a human rights perspective, as a violation of Articles 19, 28, and 32 of the Children’s Rights Convention. Lastly, this thesis offers a few recommendations to end the restavek system in Haiti; abolish slavery in the country.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Thesis Advisors
Holland, Tracey M.
M.A., Columbia University
Published Here
May 22, 2019