Increase in Violence Against Women

News from Colombia | on: Tuesday, 15 January 2008

A new report into the human rights situation faced by Colombian women highlights the ongoing violence against women and children as a result of the Colombian conflict. Published by the internationally-respected 'Jose Alvera Restrepo' lawyers collective, the report includes chapters by a wide range of groups including the Colombian Commission of Jurists and others specialising in the defence of women, children or other especially vulnerable sectors.

The report draws specific attention to violence aimed at women by the state security forces. A study of 127 assassinations of women during the June 2006 to June 2007 period (an average of one every three days) blames 78% of the deaths on the army or police.

Also highlighted are the ongoing violations perpetrated by the illegal paramilitary groups linked to the Colombian Army. Despite claims by the Colombian regime that the paramilitaries have demobilised, the report claims that women are still facing violence and sexual abuse at the hands of such groups. It also criticises the fact that the alleged demobilisation process has not provided truth, justice or reparations to women victims and that impunity is still the norm in the vast majority of crimes against women.

Concerns that paramilitaries continue to target women for violence were echoed by Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who visited Colombia in September 2007. Arbour expressed concern that the paramilitaries, although supposedly 'demobilised', continue to commit abuses.

The report also criticises the lack of effective Government policies to protect women. A trend of particular concern is that women who dare to testify in court about human rights abuses are increasingly being assassinated. The Government, argues the report, is discouraging others from testifying by failing to offer protection to such women.

The report also draws attention to an alarming increase in extra-judicial executions by the Colombian Army, in particular aimed at children. In many cases, according to the Colombian Commission of Jurists (CCJ), the military murder children before dressing them as guerrillas fighters and claiming that they were guerrillas killed in combat. The CCJ reports that cases of this sort have doubled in the past five years. Other abuses suffered by children include arbitrary detentions, beatings and other abuse at the hands of the security forces.

Sexual violence is also covered and testimonies collected document cases of rape, genital mutilation, forced abortion or pregnancy, and sexual slavery. Case studies include that of the municipality of San Onofre in Sucre department where 'demobilised' paramilitaries are systematically raping young girls by forcing their parents to hand them over late at night. Teachers in the area have also stated that paramilitaries have forcibly arranged school 'beauty pageants', where they then proceed to rape the winning girls. Another case documented is the kidnapping of 80 young women by paramilitaries in the municipality of Puerto Asis in Putumayo department. The women were kept as sex slaves by the paramilitaries who also murdered five of them.

Forced displacement is also covered by the report which points out that the majority of Colombia's displaced people are women and children. The State is harshly criticised for failing to address the needs of such people despite the fact that many women are fleeing death threats, sexual violence or because their partners have been murdered. The lack of adequate access to healthcare and education, particularly for women in rural areas, is also blamed on the State.

The report also stresses that many crimes against women go unreported and that women who do speak out in favour of human rights are regularly attacked. For information on one such attack, against women's leader Yolanda Becerra, please see

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