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Sexual violence against women: A weapon of war in Colombia

27 November 2013

Today our partner, ABColombia, launches a report on sexual violence against women. It marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and the beginning of 16 days of activism against gender violence.

Jineth Bedoya
Journalist Jineth Bedoya, who was abducted and raped while working on a story about arms trafficking

The report, titled 'Colombia: women, conflict-related sexual violence and the peace process', reveals that sexual violence by all armed groups (including the security forces, guerrilla groups and paramilitaries) is massively under-reported.

And, despite being a common feature of the country’s armed conflict, such crimes are almost never prosecuted.

According to the findings, up to 18 per cent of women in Colombia report the attacks but more than 98 per cent of sexual crimes go unpunished.

Few prosecutions 

Jineth Bedoya was abducted, tortured and raped 13 years ago as she was covering a story on arms trafficking. An award-winning journalist, Jineth will be speaking about her experience at the launch of the report today at the House of Commons.

She speaks on behalf of many women who have been silenced in Colombia. Named as one of the top 100 journalists in the world reporting on conflicts, her case has been widely publicised. However, to date no one has been brought to justice for attacking her.

The high levels of impunity mean that female victims of sexual violence harbour a sense of fear and powerlessness.

Listen to Jineth's testimony

Weapon of war

Harrowing cases like Jineth’s are documented in the report, which makes for very difficult reading.

In one case, an indigenous woman was raped in front of her community to terrorise the population. She happened to be pregnant at the time. Her attackers cut open her stomach and took the baby out. Both were then cut to pieces and thrown in the river. 

With peace talks between the Government of Colombia and FARC guerrillas currently under way, the report - detailing the horrors of the 60-year conflict and the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war - is particularly pertinent. 

With no women present at the negotiating table, there is concern that the issue of sexual violence will not receive the attention it deserves.

The report states that ending the almost total impunity for this crime will be an important factor in ensuring the success of the peace process.

Aims of the report

The report aims to raise awareness in the UK about the situation in Colombia. The UK Government has demonstrated its commitment in the G8 Declaration to prevent sexual violence in conflict and is encouraging the rest of the world to sign up to this principle.

More importantly, we hope that the report will help the UK Government to advocate with the Colombian Government on behalf of women victims of sexual violence and to identify how it can fulfil the commitments made in the G8 Declaration.

These include supporting women’s organisations that provide psychosocial support and access to justice for survivors.

Download the report (PDF, 1.1mb)  

Read more about the launch of the report

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