Sexual violence against Colombian women, children knows no political affiliation
Colombia’s left-wing guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries share a tragic common denominator, both systematically sexually assault women in pursuit of their political and military objectives.
Some 1,169 cases of alleged sexual assault by the FARC and by paramilitaries are currently being investigated, according to a report this week by the Colombian national prosecutor’s office.
The crimes include forced sexual activity, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced abortion, forced contraception and sexual cruelty, according to the report released this week.
Despite their deadly differences, armed right-wing and left-wing groups employ similar tactics. Both guerrillas and paramilitaries practise forced recruitment of girls who are then forced to cook, clean and provide sexual services.
Many attacks are to intimidate the women so that they obey the wishes of the right- and left-wing organizations.
The cases under investigation seem only a small fraction of the number of assaults which Colombian women and girls suffer.
The number of assaults against women and children are more probably in the tens of thousands, according to Colombia’s National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences.
In 2011, the institute “carried out a total of 22,597 examinations into suspected cases of sexual violence, compared to 12,732 in 2000,” according to a report last year by Amnesty International.
Often, there were political and economic reasons for the attacks, said the report entitled Colombia: Hidden From Justice Impunity For Conflict-Related Sexual Violence.
“Women supporting land restitution processes, accompanying displaced communities, and representing survivors of conflict-related sexual violence continue to be targeted, principally by paramilitary groups. Some have been raped in order to punish and silence them.”
By most accounts the majority of the crimes are never reported for fear of revictimization with further sexual assaults or assassination.
Reported crimes are rarely investigated or prosecuted.
“Most do not report the attacks, but many of those who do have seen scant progress in criminal investigations into their cases,” the report stated.
Fewer than five per cent of sexual assault cases are said to result in convictions, according to an earlier study.
The national prosecutors office, however, noted in its most recent report that charges have been laid against some high-ranking leaders of both paramilitary and guerrilla groups.
Amnesty International included in its recommendations that Colombia “develop and effectively implement a comprehensive and inter-disciplinary plan of action to address violence against women, including in the context of the armed conflict.”
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