YWCA of Colombia
I would like to give you a panoramic view of violence against girls and young women in Colombia within the framework of the armed conflict in my country. Many arbitrary actions are still occurring in the midst of the war, despite institutional and civil society efforts, International Humanitarian Law and reports from victims. Addressing the narrow gap between the impact of the conflict on combatants and non-combatants remains a goal with so far relatively few results, since in the competition to win the war, chaos reigns and civil rights fall to the mercy of armed actors.
In Colombia, within the context of an unresolved armed conflict which has lasted for more than 60 years, women are among those most affected by crimes such as forced displacement, sexual violence, and certain types of threats, disappearance, forced recruitment and abuse by armed actors.
Forced displacement has become one of the most visible consequences of the conflict. It is estimated that more than four million Colombians have been forcibly displaced and that 400,000 are refugees in other countries (UNHCR: 2012). Fifty-three percent of displaced people are women. As a result, the country holds the worst record with the highest number of internally displaced persons, following the division of Sudan.
Many displaced families are headed by women, who under Colombian law only have access to assistance and reparation programmes if they have been displaced by the guerrillas. In other words, those who have been displaced by new configurations of paramilitarism do not have the right to receive any government assistance and are not included in official internal displacement figures. Thus, the traumas of uprooting and social exclusion are exacerbated by legal and institutional obstacles which violate their rights and those of their families.
Crimes of sexual violence and forced recruitment are two examples of gender-based violence against girls and young women. In contrast to forced displacement, these crimes are human rights abuses that remain invisible. Sexual violence is a common and generalised practice perpetuated by all actors in the armed conflict, who treat women as spoils of war and who use their authority out of revenge and to demonstrate power over the enemy. Colombian women between the ages of 13-44 have been the victims of various forms of sexual violence, including rape, prostitution and commercial sexual exploitation. In ninety-eight percent of the cases, there is total impunity.
Although we are at an important crossroad on the road to peace and in the dialogue between the Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), peace will not be achieved and violence against girls and women will not cease until women are included equally in the process of negotiating peace, and in their communities and homes as citizens whose rights must be respected.
Magda López-Cárdenas is a political scientist at the National University of Colombia, specialising in analysis of political, economic and international issues. She is a project worker at the YWCA of Colombia where she works with internally displaced people, focusing on the importance of including women in the process of peace negotiations and peace building. Magda is one of the young women from the movement who has been engaged in global platforms such as CSW to advocate for gender equality in the development of communities in post conflict situations.
YWCA’s Week Without Violence is an annual campaign that takes place nationally and communities across the country to end violence in all of its forms and wherever it occurs. As the largest network of domestic service providers in the United States, YWCA is focusing our efforts on ending domestic violence – NOW. Everyday YWCA addresses the root causes and immediate needs associated with domestic violence. As we mark our 20th annual Week Without Violence, we invite you to join us. To learn more visit www.ywca.org/wwv and join the conversation with #EndDVNow.