Colombia: Demand justice and protection for women amidst widespread conflict-related sexual violence
Note: The following action updates the action posted in September 2011 and includes important new "asks"
Maria (not her real name because of safety concerns), an Indigenous woman from Putumayo, left her home to look for food for her livestock on 18 May 2012. As she was returning home, an army soldier grabbed her, dragged her into some bushes and raped her.
Sadly, this is no isolated case. Sexual violence against women has been an extensive, systematic practice amidst a long running armed conflict. The perpetrators include all of the warring parties: state security forces and the paramilitaries with whom they collude, as well as guerrilla combatants. Indigenous, Afro-descendent and campesino women in rural areas remain particularly vulnerable.
Army-backed paramilitaries raped and killed Irina del Carmen Villero Diaz, a 15-year-old Wayúu Indigenous girl, in May 2001. Her mother Blanca Nubia Diaz, reported what happened to local authorities. She has yet to see justice. Instead, she and her family have been threatened repeatedly by paramilitaries and had to flee their home in La Guajira. Ms Diaz remains at risk.
One year after releasing a hardhitting report about widespread obstacles to justice for the victims of sexual violence, Amnesty International has issued a follow-up report that documents what has and has not been done to address a serious problem. While many state and government authorities have shown greater commitment to combat conflict-related sexual violence over the last year, the multiple barriers that survivors of sexual violence face in their fight for justice remain as strong as ever. Indeed, the vast majority of conflict-related cases of sexual violence have not been investigated and the perpetrators continue to escape justice. This is a green light for more such violence against women.
Amidst this backdrop, new legislation currently before Congress is cause for hope. Presented by a number of Congresspeople and by the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman, this legislation could develop into a blueprint that makes a real difference to women’s lives. It is crucial that the government support this bill.
Write a short letter to Colombia's President and the President of the Colombian Congress (addresses below). Be sure to send a copy to Canada’s Foreign Minister and Colombia’s Ambassador in Canada. Begin your letter with a sentence describing who you are and where you live. Then make the following points in your own words:
- Express how you feel about ongoing, widespread sexual violence against women by all warring parties in the armed conflict, and the failure of Colombian authorities to protect women by bringing the guilty to justice.
- Call on the President of Colombia and the President of the Colombian Congress to support the bill before Congress to guarantee access to justice for victims of sexual violence, especially sexual violence in the context of the armed conflict.
- Call as well for effective action to protect women campaigning for justice.
Dr Juan Manuel Santos Calderón
Casa de Nariño
Carrera 8 No.7-26
Fax: 011 57 1 596 0631
Salutation: Dear President
President of the Colombian Congress
Roy Barreras Montealegre
Carrera 7 No. 8-68
Salutation: Dear Mr Barreras
Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas)
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
Her Excellency Clemencia Forero Ucros
Ambassador for Colombia
360 Albert Street, Suite 1002
Ottawa, Ontario K1R 7X7
Fax: (613) 230-4416
Amnesty International’s September 2011 report, ‘This Is What We Demand. Justice!’ Impunity for Sexual Violence Against Women in Colombia’s Armed Conflict, documents how the rights of survivors of sexual violence to truth, justice and reparation continue to be denied by the authorities.
One year later, a follow-up report entitled "Hidden From Justice: Imupunity for Conflict-related Sexual Violence" documents what has and has not been done to address a grave problem. Concludes the report: "A clear picture emerges: there has been very little progress in the investigations into conflict-related sexual crimes. The multiple barriers that survivors of sexual violence face in their fight for justice remain as strong as ever."
Photo: Indigenous women take part in a protest march wearing t-shirts that read "Women's bodies are not trophies of war." Photo credit: Ruta Pacifica de Mujeres