Monday, July 16, 2012

Haiti's New Constutition Eliminates Prior Protection For Voodoo Practitioners

As reported by Reuters last month, on June 19 Haiti's President Michel Joseph Martelly finally published the amended version of the country's Constitution that that had been approved by Haiti's Parliament in May 2011.  The delay was caused by disputes over whether the version originally sent to the President for publication was accurate. Haiti reverted to its 1987 Constitution while a correct version was being created.  The publication last month puts the new amendments into effect. The most widely publicized amendments relate to dual citizenship, a new electoral council and greater independence for the judiciary.  However Haiti Libre reported last week that a less-publicized amendment may have the effect of reducing protections for practitioners of voodoo.  A 1935 Haitian law-- Decree-Law of 5 September 1935 on superstitious beliefs-- outlawed ceremonies and rituals involving offerings to "alleged deities," making believe by occult means that it is possible to cure individuals or change their wealth, and possessing cabalistic objects used to exploit the public's gullibility or naivety. Section 297 of Haiti's 1987 Constitution repealed this Decree-Law, along with certain others that were seen as "arbitrarily limiting the basic rights and freedoms of citizens." The new constitutional amendments that took effect last month in turn abrogate Section 297 of the 1987 Constitution. Priestess Euvonie Auguste, Head of the National Confederation of voodoo in Haiti, says that now vodoo practitioners will need to use their own means to protect themselves from any attacks.

UPDATE: A government spokesman says that voodoo practitioners' concerns are misplaced. He says that a 2003 Presidential decree recognized voodoo as a religion, and that the 1935 decree was never promulgated and thus never became law. (Haiti Libre 7/23/12).