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What Can Women Do for Justice in the Case of Conflict-Associated Sexual Abuse and Rape in Columbia?

2022-12-14

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/03/19

The United Nations Refugee Agency reported on Columbian women and their work to combat against sexual abuse. Michelle Begue stated that the women in Columbia are working through the court system to find justice in sexual abuse and rape cases.

One narrative is reported of Leonor Galeano and her daughter, an adolescent, who had to flee their homes when left-wing rebels and the Columbian government were fighting. It was to get away from the gunfire.

Galeano’s daughter is 12-years-old, when they settled into a new house in Southern Columbia she became the friend of a kid of a local official. With Galeano’s guard down and not knowing, the local official raped the 12-year-old several times.

The daughter of Galeano became pregnant from the rape. Leonor stated, “Because we are displaced, people believe that we are worthless, that we don’t have the same rights.”

The armed conflict in Columbia has stories like these. It has been ongoing for over 5 decades. 7.4 million people have been extirpated from the borders of their country. Mothers and daughters, like Leonor and her 12-year-old daughter, comprise the more than half of the displaced population.

Women and children are particularly vulnerable in these war circumstances. People are concerned about the daily needs of survival. They lack social and familial support networks. This makes those on-the-move due to conflict, especially women and children, vulnerable to the exploitation sexually.

A community-based protection assistant at the United Nations Refugee Agency Adri Villa, said, “There is a deep relation between sexual violence and displacement… But sexual violence isn’t just a cause for displacement. It sometimes occurs during and after displacement, once they have settled in their new home.”

No specific collated information exist on the total number of children and women victims of sexual violence in the 50+ year conflict in Columbia, but this is linked to a deeper problem of no official registry.

Many lack basic skills, knowledge of their rights so as to enforce them, and lack the resources and connections to do anything about it. So, collectives have been forming independently.

One is in Putumayo province in the Southern areas of Columbia. It is an umbrella of 66 groups, currently, which are advocating and enforcing the rights of women in these difficult circumstances with “tens of thousands of displaced women among nearly 146,000 victims of the armed conflict in the region bordering Ecuador.”

Muriel Fatima, the President of the Life Weavers Women’s Alliance, said, “The problem of sexual violence… is most prevalent among families who have been forcibly displaced, because they are in a state of greater vulnerability.”

Life Weavers Women’s Alliance has been considered a pilot project for peace in Columbia. The organization gives empowerment workshops and counseling to women affected by sexual violence and abuse in the region.

More importantly, as the Life Weavers Women’s Alliance has been allying with the United Nations Refugee Agency, there has been an increased chance for the women survivors of rape and sexual violence to be able to fight for justice in a court system.

The Life Weavers Women’s Alliance has been crucially getting financial resources from the United Nations Refugee Agency in order to combat the rampant sexual violence and abuse ongoing throughout the country.

The UNHCR has been keeping its commitments and promises by doing so. In 2016, there was a peace agreement reached between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia or FARC and the government of Columbia. This has, temporarily, ended the hostilities between the two warring groups.

“I am thankful because with the help of the alliance and UNHCR I have survived,” Leonor Galeano said, “I consider myself a survivor, because I have moved forward.”

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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