Human Traffic Watch

Haiti’s Restavèk Children

In Child Labor, Child Trafficking, Forced Labor, Human Trafficking on February 3, 2012 at 8:52 am

In Creole, “restavèk” means “stay with”—a seemingly benign name for a child from a poor family who stays with wealthier families or relatives.

The long-rooted tradition in Haiti of the restavèk is meant to help children who could not otherwise afford school and other services obtain them in exchange for small services for their host families, who bear the expense.

“The practice originally involved the transfer of the child from one family to another. However, the restavèk system is more accurately characterized as trafficking and now often involves middlemen recruiters, or koutchye, who are paid to find a restavèk for host families,” says a report by Restavèk Freedom.

Children are supposed to be cared for as members of the family. Some do live like brother and sister with their host families’ children—like daughter or son with the parents. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Children can instead be forced into domestic servitude, suffering abuse from their host families. The schooling, health care and other services promised never materialize for some of Haiti’s estimated 225,000 restavèk children.

Some of these youth may even feel the sting of a cowhide whip, called the rigwaz, a relic from Haiti’s years as a slave colony still used to beat some restavèks, Reuters reported in 2010.

(SOS Children’s Village)

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