A few months ago, I remember that I wrote a response to an article written about restavek. The author was writing about restavek as “slavery”, and some of those who commented said they did not agree with the words “slavery.” So one of them posed to me the following question: What do you think? Is restavek slavery? Or is it not slavery?
I have heard this argument before, even though there is a generally accepted definition for the term restavek. For you, I want to take the liberty to define the term restavek from my experiences and from what I see. A restavek is a child, most often a girl, who is forced to leave her home by her parents to live with relatives in a city or another community to stay with another family that is in a better financial situation than that of her parents. The child works hard without pay, she is often provided little food, and sometimes she is allowed to attend the afternoon school. [Afternoon school sometimes means very informal school. Most children in restavek go to these types of school.]
If we go back in time to examine slavery from a historic sense, we know that the slave had no value as a human life. The slave was a material possession that was paid for, which meant that the master could take it and do what he wanted with it. The master might do many things including kill the slave, violate her, or make her a slave-prostitute.
Let us look now at someone with a child who lives with their family as a domestic servant. The child was not paid for and may appear to be part of the family in front of others, and the family sometimes calls this little child “my little protected” as if this child is protected. In reality this child is mistreated and often secretly violated, and the adults who have this child can do what they want with the child without the eyes of others seeing. We agree at this time that the child is not a slave in the historic sense because the child has not been paid for. A person who has a child slave would go to jail because slavery is illegal in Haiti.
So in looking at this situation, it is not always easy to tell that this is called slavery., especially because the parents did not sell the child but instead put the child somewhere with all good wishes for prosperity.
In general, child servants have been significantly mistreated, which is not a secret to most people. Abuses are so severe that when these children are grown adults and no longer held as servants, they are zombies.
Taking a person into slavery is rendering that human being a zombie, meaning that person stands employed but not alive. Reality shows us that even though these children grow into living and walking adults, because of what they experienced, they are living but not alive. They still have faces, but they can’t look someone in the eye like you and I do, because they do not believe they are the same as everyone else. They are victims of incredible and intense physical and psychological abuse. The child taken into servitude will hear bad words from the family where he or she lives. These are the harsh words that destroyed the child’s soul and made the child grow into all that prevents it from seeing herself as human. Our history is the same. we were settlers turned into slaves and were prevented from seeing ourselves as individuals, as humans.
I seek to share some living history from a group of women (names and areas to remain unchanged) who were in restavek. Do you think that if they are dead standing, we can’t call them slaves?
I am not here to define the morals of humanity. However, I think that ultimately, all mothers are mothers, all children are children, and every person is human, even if they do not have the same means, including education and finances. They all deserve respect and the right to live in dignity. These children need help in order to be productive parts of society, and these families need help so that they do not feel that they need to send their children away. There is action that must be taken to prevent this cycle of suffering from continuing because these children learn to be parents from their parents.
Read the stories of women who have had to leave home to live as restaveks.
For more information on restaveks in Haiti, please click on the following recent news links:
Restavèk: Esklavaj oubyen pa esklavaj
Kèk mwa pase, m sonje mwen te ekri yon repons a yon atik ki te ekri sou Pratik restavèk la. Moun ki te ekri l la te pale de “esklavaj,” moun ki te reponn te di li pa dakò ak mo esklavaj modèn nan. Konsa youn ladan yo te pataje tèks la ak mwen epi te pozem kesyon an. Kisa nou menm panse bò isit? Se esklavaj oubyen se pa esklavaj?
Mwen tande diskisyon sa a plizyè kote deja. Pa gen yon definisyon nasyonalman aksepte sou tèm restavèk la. Mwen pran libète define li konsa swivan sa mwen wè.
Restavèk la se yon timoun ki an jeneral yon tifi ki kite lakay li sou obligasyon paran li ouyen fanmi li pou ale nan yon lòt andeyò oubyen lavil kay yon lòt moun oubyen fanmi li tou, ki pi bon pase paran li ekonomikman pou travay san peye, men jwenn ti manje e kekfwa ki kapab ale lekòl bòlèt. Si nou ale dèyè nan tan lesklavaj, esklav la pat gen valè, mèt li ki se kolon an te kapab pran li epi fè sa li vle avèk li, li gen dwa touye li, gen dwa vyole, abizel, se te sa yo rele nan lang franse “sa chose.”
An nou gade kounye a, yon moun ki gen yon timoun ki rete ak li ki se “restavèk li” kapab matirizel fizikman, toupizil devan lòt moun, li kapab vyole men an kachèt, epi fè sa li vle ak li tou men pa sou je lòt moun. Nou dakò nan tan nou ye la, si sa rive moun nan kapab peye pou sa. Yon moun ki gen yon timoun rete ak li pa kapab chwazi touyel jan li vle paske li prale nan prizon.
Donk lè ou fenk gade ou pa wè ou ka di sa rele esklavaj. Sitou paran li konnen li pa vann li, men li mete l yon kote ak tout bon volonte pou byen li.
An jeneral timoun ki restavek sibi maltretans anpil, sa pa yon sekrè pou pesonn moun. Maltretans sa yo tèlman grav, li konn fè timoun sa a lè lap grandi pèdi bon bon lanj li ki an fèt se pwen santral la ki fè li pa esklav, tounen yon zombi.
Esklavaj la te rann moun zombi, sa vle di ou debou wap travay men ou pa vivan. Reyalite montre nou, menm si timoun yo manje, grandi, akoz de sa yo eksperimante, yo pa vivan. Yo pa gade moun nan je, paske yo pa wè ni kwè yo se moun menm jan ak tout lòt moun. Yo tèlman viktim ni fizikman ni sikolojikman kay fanmi kote yap viv la, yo grandi ak tout komplèks ki anpeche yo wè tèt yo kòm moun, se menm bagay kolon yo te fè pou anpeche esklaj yo wè tèt yo kòm moun. Map pataje kek istwa vivan yon ekip fanm ki te “restavek” (non yo ak zòn yo chanje). Eske nou panse yo se moun mouri debou? Eske nou ka rele yo “esklav.” M pa la pou fè moun moral, menm m panse finalman kòm tout manman se manman, tout pitit se pitit, tout moun se moun, menm si nou gen diferan mwayen ekonomik, diferan nivo edikasyon. Tout moun merite respè ak dwa pou yo viv nan diyite. Timoun yo bezwen nou pou yo patisipe nan sosyete a, fanmi yo bezwen èd pou yo pa santi nesesite voye pitit yo lwen yo. Li evidan gen aksyon pou ki pran pou anpeche soufrans sa yo kontinye pou pitit nou yo, paske timoun sa yo pral yo menm vinn paran demen. Li istwa moun ki te viv kòm restavèk lè yo te timoun, na reflechi nou menm si se esklav yo ye oubyen non.