Colombia: “This is what we call – justice”, the Women’s Rights Network of Amnesty International in Austria says, “No impunity for sexual violence against women in Colombia’s armed conflict.”
Women and girls are victims of widespread and systematic sexual violence perpetrated by all parties in the long-term Colombian armed conflict – whether paramilitaries, the security forces or the fighting guerrillas. The girls and women have been sexually abused or exploited as sex slaves. Another motive is revenge. Women are also in retaliation for their work as human rights defenders or attacked in their role as local and social leaders. Over the last few years, women who worked as human rights defenders or local leaders for displaced communities fighting for the return of stolen land ownership, were the target of threats and killings, usually by paramilitaries. Some of these women were also victims of sexual violence.
IMPUNITY IS AN OPEN WOUND
In the 45-year-old conflict so far very few perpetrators got punished for sexual violence. Many of the girls, women and families who have spoken to Amnesty International describe how through this denial of justice remains an open wound. This reinforces their already great suffering and exposes them to further attacks – including threats, intimidation and other acts of violence.
CRIMES KEPT IN SECRECY
Rape and sexual violence is not the only form of gender-based violence in conflict situations but belongs to a special category for one key reason : it is usually a crime in secret. Rape anywhere in the world, but especially in situations of conflict, remains unreported. Reasons why a rape or other forms of violence are not reported include shame and the stigmatization of women associated with these crimes. Due to the fear of further violence, security problems and a general lack of confidence in the justice system these crimes are not brought to court.
Particularly indigenous women and girls are subject to multiple discrimination. Fearing for their own safety, they rarely report crimes of sexual violence to the authorities because
the response to such an accusation often affects the whole community.
END IMPUNITY FOR SEXUAL VIOLENCE
Women and girls have been targeted for sexual violence by members of all the warring parties in Colombia’s long-running armed conflict. For decades, these crimes have been shrouded in silence. Now, largely thanks to the efforts of Colombian women’s and human rights NGOs, this wall of silence is beginning to crack. The Colombian authorities can and must take decisive action to end sexual violence and impunity for such crimes. Therefore the Women’s Rights Network of Amnesty International in Austria started an action to write to the Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos and to demand the protection, security and justice for the victims of sexual violence. Take Action HERE (Letter in German language). Another action document includes postcards to be sent to the Colombian authorities. Download Post Card in English and Spanish HERE