Half of threatened social activists are women

Colombia’s Ombudsman has said that almost half of threats and other forms of intimidation committed against social activists were targeted at women.

At the Committee of Protection for the Life of Women in Cali, Carlos Negret said that from March 2018 until May 2019, 983 social activists and human rights defenders expreienced intimidation in Colombia, half of whom were women. The event was being held to address specific forms of protection for threatened women activists. In most cases, gender-focused protective measures have not been applied to threatened women.

According to Adriana Benjumea of the Humanas Corporation, this is the first time women have been assessed separately in registers of threatened activists and human rights defenders. ‘Working for peace is costing leaders their lives’, she said. Of the 983 threatened people, 480 were women. That figure includes 447 threats, 20 murders and 13 attempted murders.

‘There are pamphlets that have always named them, they have been discredited even with particularities, threats of a sexual nature and intimidations that include their sons and daughters’, said Benjumea. ‘The early warning system is only a warning, but the alert does not solve if there is no protective action’.

Although the 2016 peace agreement between the Colombian State and the FARC contains more than 100 gender-focused measures which address the disproportionate impact of conflict on women, in many areas these have not been implemented. Grassroots organisations and communities have often been left unprotected despite the high risk from paramilitaries and other armed groups.

The meeting comes two weeks after the murder of human rights defender María del Pilar Hurtado, an African-Colombian woman who was shot dead in front of her young son in Tierralta, Córdoba. The killing sparked outrage across the country after video of her son’s reaction went viral.

Many other women activists have been murdered with much less media coverage. These include the murders of human rights lawyer Paula Rocero in Nariño in May, doctor Zonia Rosero in Putumayo in March and Maritza Quiroz in Magdalena in January. The award-winning environmental defender Francia Márquez survived an assassination attempt in Cauca in May.