Colombia: Violence against women activists, leaders and defenders

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According to the Somos Defensores Program, "the homicides presented against women always show higher levels of violence, including sexual violence"

Colombia: Violence against women activists, leaders and defenders

This March 8, under the slogan "Now is the time: Rural and urban activists transform the lives of women", UN Women draws attention to the work of the movement of women activists. These women have felt strongly through campaigns, world marches and actions that cover topics "from sexual harassment and femicide to equal remuneration and women's political representation". According to the United Nations, these movements have generated changes and have borne fruit. However, the Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that "there are still important obstacles to end the historical imbalances of power in which discrimination and exploitation are based".

In the case of Colombia, violence against women is a constant. According to the campaign Let's Act Now!, promoted by the Social Pastoral, between January and November 2017, 758 women were murdered and 16,814 cases of sexual violence were recorded until October, of which 1,705 were against girls from 0 to 4 years.

What is the situation of women social leaders and human rights defenders in Colombia?

The alarming increase in attacks against defenders and social leaders in Colombia is one of the greatest human rights concerns in the country. Women have been victims of crimes because of their work in the communities or as defenders of human rights. Of the total of 560 attacks against defenders and social leaders registered in 2017, 143 were committed against women, according to the Annual Report of the Somos Defensores Program .

In fact, last year the number and frequency of homicides against women leaders and defenders increased. The organization Sisma Mujer in its Comparative Analysis of the murders of leaders, leaders and defenders of human rights in Colombia 2016 - 2017 affirms that "for 2017 the frequency increases considerably, since one defender or leader was killed every 16 days according to the Patriotic March, every 23 days starting from Somos Defensores, and every 26 days in accordance with the OHCHR . "

Sexual violence and other aggressions against women leaders

A pattern that draws attention in cases of murders against women leaders and defenders in the country is the sum of other aggressions. According to the We Are Defenders Program, "the homicides presented against women always denote higher levels of violence, including sexual violence". For example, of the 16 cases of women murdered because of their work, in those committed against: Emilsen Manyoma (Valle del Cauca) , Edenis Barrera (Casanare), Idaly Castillo (Cauca), and Juana Bautista Almazo (La Guajira) there was torture, sexual violence and/or brutality. According to human rights organizations "of these (cases) there is no information about the progress of the investigations and whether they were declared as femicides or not by the authorities".

The Ombudsman's Office has also spoken about the seriousness of the attacks against women leaders, stating that "out of 143 defenders accompanied by the Ombudsman's Office between January 2016 and October 31, 2017, 16.78% were victims of sexual violence. In 2016, the proportion was 15.62%; to October 2017 the proportion was 19.15%, representing an increase of 22.5% over the previous year".

Impunity in cases of violence against women

It is worrisome that, in spite of the denunciations and the gravity of the facts, the investigations by these aggressions do not advance. The Somos Defensores Program stated that "for the 2009-2016 period impunity of 91% is registered in the cases of homicides against defenders and leaders. The cases that are found in imputation, trial, execution of sentences and conviction barely reach 9%". These figures, according to the organizations, become a negative message that favors the repetition of these crimes.

When opening the spectrum to all Colombian women, the outlook is not hopeful: of the total cases of sexual violence reported in the country, 90% remain in impunity. According to figures from the Attorney General's Office, known in November 2017, "in the last 12 years, in Colombia, 34,571 cases related to femicide have been opened". However, the status of these cases is not clearly known.

Requirement of respect for the life and work of women

Within the framework of March 8, International Women's Day, feminists, activists and civil society organizations call for the prevention of new aggressions against the social leaders and human rights defenders in the country.

The activists demand that the government protect them, taking IGNORE INTO account a differential approach for women who are at risk. Also, it is claimed that the reported cases are investigated promptly and those responsible are judged to overcome the alarming impunity that reigns in these cases.

Finally, activists state that it is essential that the government and the authorities guarantee and promote the work of women social leaders and human rights defenders in their respective areas and regions. The foregoing in order to promote actions to support their empowerment and participation.


Latin American Post | Carolina Garzón
Translated from "Colombia: Violencia contra mujeres activistas, líderes y defensoras"