There is significant evidence of systematic violence against the women of Colombia. Gender violence is perpetrated by all participants in the conflict, including guerilla groups, paramilitary forces, and the state security forces.
Women human rights defenders often become targets—threatened with rape for their activities. In cases of forced displacement, guerillas and paramilitaries use rape or gender violence against women land rights activists struggling to reclaim their communities. Colombian security forces have been repeatedly accused of gender violence against civilians, with testimony from women and girls in areas where battalions have been stationed. A high rate of disappearances has also been noted, with bodies often showing signs of sexual assault when found.
Colombia has taken few steps to prosecute those responsible for rape, with widespread evidence that the military has used its power to cover-up potential abuses and human rights violations. While certain figures within institutions have made attempts to break impunity on rape cases perpetrated by the military, they have been hindered by procedural obstacles or even been assassinated.
In June 2014, Colombia’s government passed a precedent setting law to protect and aid survivors of sexual violence. The law recognizes that these crimes are not limited to cases of force but can occur under any conditions that prevent the victim from giving consent. The law guarantees survivors’ confidentiality and privacy, ensuring that those who come forward do not become targets for threats and further violence, and calls for survivors to receive psycho-social support and free comprehensive medical attention.
The law also states that sexual violence perpetrated systematically or in general against the civilian population during conflict constitutes a crime against humanity. In another precedent-setting change, the new law requires that all armed groups be prosecuted according to the same standards—soldiers will be tried in civilian courts rather than military tribunals.
Women's rights advocates in Colombia and around the world celebrate Colombia’s sexual violence law as a major victory for survivors—and as one step closer to ending impunity for gender-based violence.
Follow along with the #SurvivorsUnited delegation blog as we hear from women survivors of sexual violence and witness women-led initiatives supporting survivors!