• Loading

Top Colombian journalist tells her story of sexual violence in Colombia’s armed conflict

27 November 2013 - Jineth Bedoya Lima, a Colombian journalist carrying out exceptional investigative work reporting on armed conflict, drug trafficking, organised crime and issues around women and violence, is in the UK to launch a new report about the systematic use of sexual violence in Colombia’s armed conflict.

Herself a survivor of violence perpetrated by both sides in the conflict, Jineth explained, 'I spent nine years in silence. I felt ashamed. The damage done to your soul never goes away...Now I can speak about what happened to me. I realised I could be a voice for all the thousands of women who have been victims of sexual violence, which gives me strength.'

In October 2013 Jineth was named one of the 100 most influential journalists covering armed violence around the world. Colombia is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist.

The report on women, conflict-related sexual violence and the Colombian peace process is by advocacy group ABColombia, whose member agencies include CAFOD, Christian Aid UKI, Oxfam, SCIAF and Trócaire. The launch will take place during the ‘16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence’ in the Houses of Parliament at 5pm on 27 November.

In the report ABColombia reveal that sexual violence by the security forces, guerrilla groups and paramilitaries is almost never prosecuted despite its widespread and systematic nature in Colombia’s ongoing armed conflict.

Approximately just 18 per cent of women report sexual violence in Colombia, and the impunity rate for sexual-related crimes runs at more than 98 per cent. As a result, women victims of sexual violence harbour a sense of fear, powerlessness, frustration and insecurity. The report states that ending the almost total impunity for this crime will contribute to the potential success of a peace process in the country.

Louise Winstanley, ABColombia’s Programme and Advocacy Manager said. ‘Sexual violence in the Colombian conflict is an extensive, systematic and invisible practice. We are hopeful that the Foreign Secretary’s new flagship programme on sexual violence in conflict will ensure that UK expertise and funds are given to help women’s organisations in Colombia struggling to bring horrific cases to justice.’

In August 2012, after five decades of conflict, peace talks between the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were officially announced. Many women’s organisations consider that previous demobilisation processes of armed groups failed to address women’s access to justice for crimes of sexual violence in the conflict. A repeat of this must be avoided.

The report calls for UN Resolutions 1325 and 1820 – signed by Colombia – to be adhered to. These state that Governments should ensure that sexual violence is on the agenda during peace talks, that there should be no amnesties for sexual violence crimes, and that women must play a major part in the peace process and in the construction of peace.

ABColombia and its member agencies also call for the post 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) framework to include a specific Gender Equality indicator which also covers violence against women.

The report explains how sexual violence in Colombia is widespread and has been used as a strategy of war designed to terrorise and control communities. Margot Wallström, UN Special Representative on sexual violence in armed conflict, insisted after her visit to Colombia in May 2012 that 'Colombia should increase its efforts to combat impunity for crimes of sexual violence.'

Jineth is the currently sub-editor for the Colombian national newspaper El Tiempo and an active participant at the Latin American Centre for Journalism (Centro Latinoamericano de periodismo CELAP).

If you would like further information, please contact Johanna Rogers on jrogers@christian-aid.org 020 7523 2460



Background to peace talks
In August 2012, after five decades of conflict, peace talks between the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-FARC) were officially announced. The Government and the FARC agreed a five point agenda which includes: a comprehensive agrarian development policy; guarantees for the exercise of political participation; drugs trafficking; justice and the rights of victims, and implementation and verification. It was announced at the end of August 2013 that parallel talks would be started with the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional–ELN), the smaller guerrilla group. Colombian civil society groups are more hopeful than during past peace processes that a peace agreement will be signed. However, Colombia has not managed to achieve a bilateral cease fire which would reduce the level of violence towards the civilian population.

Jineth Bedoya Lima is a Colombian journalist carrying out investigative work on the armed conflict, drug trafficking, organised crime and issues around women and violence. Due to her work, Jineth has experienced violence from different actors of Colombia’s armed conflict, including being kidnapped twice. On 25 May 2000, Jineth Bedoya Lima, then 26 and working as a reporter for El Espectador, was kidnapped, tortured and raped by the AUC, a right-wing paramilitary group. In October this year, Jineth was chosen as one of the 100 most influential journalists covering conflict around the world. She currently works for the national newspaper El Tiempo as sub-editor.

Sisma Mujer has worked extensively on improving Colombian public policies on women. A major part of their work has been in relation to women victims of sexual violence, their access to justice and reparation and psycho-social support. Some of their achievements include contributing to the creation of national legislation on violence against women; the development of public policies for women in situations of forced displacement; and participation in legislative and constitutional reforms of the electoral system to create greater access for women.

ABColombia is the advocacy project of a group of five leading UK and Irish organisations with programmes in Colombia: CAFOD, Christian Aid UKI, Oxfam GB, SCIAF and Trócaire. Amnesty International and Peace Brigades International are observers

The full report ‘Colombia: Women, Conflict-related Sexual Violence and the Peace Process’ can be downloaded in English from 27 November from ABColombia’s website: www.abcolombia.org.uk.

Jineth Bedoya Lima will be in the UK from 27 November – 6 December.
Claudia Mejia and Linda Cabrera, Director and Lawyer for the Colombian NGO Sisma Mujer, will be in the UK from 25 – 27 November.
Louise Winstanley, ABColombia Programme and Advocacy Manager and author of the ABColombia report.

Press Contacts
For comment please contact Louise Winstanley, ABColombia Programme and Advocacy Manager, on +44 (0)7920 886 874.

To arrange interviews with ABColombia, Jineth Bedoya Lima or Sisma Mujer please contact: Laura Ouseley, ABColombia Information and Communications Officer,

+44 (0)207 870 2217 or +44(0)7909 875 956 or louseley@abcolombia.org.uk


Notes to editors:

1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in around 50 countries at any one time. We act where there is great need, regardless of religion, helping people to live a full life, free from poverty. We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance in tackling the root causes of poverty as well as its effects.

2. Christian Aid’s core belief is that the world can and must be changed so that poverty is ended: this is what we stand for. Everything we do is about ending poverty and injustice: swiftly, effectively, sustainably. Our strategy document Partnership for Change (http://www.christianaid.org.uk/images/partnership-for-change-summary.pdf) explains how we set about this task.

3. Christian Aid is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance, advocacy and development. Further details at http://actalliance.org

4. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter: http://twitter.com/caid_newswire

5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid visit http://www.christianaid.org.uk