A meeting to discuss sexual violence in conflict

Women’s bodies used as a weapon of war in Colombia

On International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in Conflict, we express our concern for all women around the world whose bodies have been used as a weapon of war.  We highlight the women of Colombia who after 50 years of conflict, are coming forward and sharing their experiences in the hope that the truth about these terrible crimes will be recognised and that justice will be done.

On Tuesday, 18 June 2019, ahead of this international day, the National Network of Women Defenders Network and the Christian Aid partner Sisma Mujer, will deliver key reports to crucial institutions including Colombia’s Truth Commission, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), the Special Unit for Disappeared Persons and Colombia’s Constitutional Court.

The reports are very significant as they aim not only to restore women's rights, but also to serve as a tool for building peace. They are a mechanism for healing and demonstrating women’s leadership.

The reports will not be made public as they contain information of interest to the courts and detail the experiences of women and the acts committed against them during the armed conflict. So far, the official register of victims has recorded almost 20,000 cases of sexual violence against women. However, the majority of cases generally go unreported, so official figures probably just scratch the surface of the real statistics.

The individual stories gathered in these reports, indicate that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP), paramilitary groups and state agents are all responsible for the violence suffered by women.

The reports include women’s testimonies and their experiences of displacement and sexual violence, while also reaffirming their resistance in the midst of war and their role as defenders of life.

They also talk about indigenous and black women losing their ancestral practices and traditions by being forced out of their places of origin, but also celebrate the processes of resistance as a result of their leadership.

Indigenous women and those of African descent have paid the consequences of war with their bodies, being forced to leave their territories and abandon their traditions.  According to research from Christian Aid partner ABColombia, indigenous women are 2.5 times more likely to have been victims of violence.

Similarly, refugee, exiled and migrant women have added their voices to the report, as they too, have been victims of Colombia’s armed conflict. They see themselves as contributors to the peace efforts and the search for truth, while also demanding guarantees of reparation.

Through these reports, women seek assurances of an end to the serious violence they have suffered and call for reparation and restoration mechanisms that put back everything the conflict took away from them.

Women victims of sexual violence refuse to be silenced and hope that the JEP will listen to them, opening the way to truth, justice, reparation and an end to their ordeal.

Black women have lived through the cruelty of the armed conflict, yet today we hold the certainty of a dignified and hopeful future

Deyanira Valdes

Afro-Colombian Women's Network -Kambiri

Finally, the National Network of Women Defenders and our partner Sisma Mujer warn about the challenges faced by defenders and call for their protection. These brave women are systematically being threatened and intimidated because they speak out and while we do our best to help protect them through specific protection measures, including moving them and their families, what is really needed is that the state investigates, prosecutes and sanctions those behind the threats.  

We welcome these reports and their contribution to peace in Colombia. Revealing the truth is the first step for building a hopeful future where women can become free of the horrors of sexual violence.

Find out more: Christian Aid in Colombia