Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Colombia Recognizes Sexual Violence Victims

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On Monday, Colombia commemorated the first annual National Day for the Dignity of Female Victims of Sexual Violence caused by the Internal Armed Conflict in an effort to highlight the toll the country’s ongoing conflict has taken on women.

Colombia’s National Victims Registry estimates that during Colombia’s five-decade-long civil war, members of armed rebel groups and national security forces have sexually violated nearly 9,000 women and girls and just over 1,000 men and boys.

On a national level, Colombia’s National Health Institute reports that 5,243 cases of sexual violence have been reported thus far in 2015, an average of 38 per day.

Last year President Juan Manuel Santos signed into law Decree 1480, which seeks to provide justice for victims of sexual violence in the context of the armed conflict. Earlier in 2014, a report from Zainab Hawa Bangura, the UN’s special representative on sexual violence in armed conflict, found that in 2012 and 2013, 154 people were victims of sexual violence related to the ongoing civil conflict.

Bangura traveled to Colombia last March to urge ongoing peace negotiators to put greater emphasis on addressing sexual violence perpetuated by all sides during the conflict and to ensure an end to the pervasive “culture of impunity.”

The date chosen for the National Day for the Dignity of Female Victims of Sexual Violence caused by the Internal Armed Conflict honors the activism of Jineth Bedoya Lima, a journalist who was abducted, tortured and raped on May 25, 2000, while reporting on arms trafficking by state officials and the far-right paramilitary group Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia—AUC).

Colombians observed the national day of commemoration as the latest round of peace talks between the government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) continued Monday in Havana. Delegations of women’s and gender activists began taking part in peace talks last December as part of a greater push to recognize the conflict’s victims of sexual violence.

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