Sunday, October 2, 2022

Colombia records 239 conflict-related sexual violence cases in 2020

Covid-19 pandemic increased vulnerability in areas affected by conflict, making it difficult for survivors and women’s organisations to gain access to protection mechanisms and referral pathways.

Colombia National Victims’ Unit recorded 239 cases of conflict-related sexual violence in 2020, said the United Nations in its report adding that it includes 197 cases against women, 15 against girls, 13 against men and six against boys.

The Report of the Secretary-General on conflict-related sexual violence states despite the important progress achieved since the signing of the final agreement for ending the conflict and building a stable and lasting peace between the government of Colombia and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP), the implementation of key provisions, including those related to gender equality, remains uneven, constituting a challenge to the consolidation of inclusive and sustainable peace.

The Covid-19 pandemic increased vulnerability in areas affected by conflict, making it difficult for survivors and women’s organisations to gain access to protection mechanisms and referral pathways.

As part of efforts by the government to ensure continued access to services, some institutions offered virtual support, temporarily suspending in-person services. For instance, the Office of the Attorney General continued to receive cases virtually.

In 2020, the National Victims’ Unit recorded 239 cases of conflict-related sexual violence. Eight victims identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex.

Moreover, 67 victims were Afro-Colombians and 15 were individuals from indigenous communities. Sixteen cases concerned persons living with disabilities.

The report also stated the Office of the Ombudsperson reported 189 cases of sexual violence, primarily affecting women. Of these, 19 concerned former members of FARC-EP undergoing the process of reintegration, and 19 affected Afro-Colombians.

Three attacks were targeted at transgender women and seven at homosexual men.

The United Nations documented 32 cases of sexual violence. Dissident groups of FARC-EP were implicated in six of these cases, and one case was attributed to Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN). Members of the military were implicated in cases of sexual violence against three indigenous girls.

The closure of the border with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela led to an increased risk of sexual violence and trafficking, as Venezuelan refugees and migrants, as well as Colombian returnees, resorted to the use of informal border crossings controlled by illegal and criminal armed groups.

Five cases of trafficking-related sexual violence were documented against Venezuelan women in this context.

Conflict dynamics, which were exacerbated by challenges arising from the pandemic, correlated with new trends with respect to sexual violence. Illegal armed groups took advantage of mobility restrictions to expand their social and territorial control.

The fragmentation of armed actors, transiting between regions, made it more difficult for survivors to identify perpetrators. In the regions of Antioquia, Cauca, Chocó, Nariño and Norte de Santander, there were clashes between armed actors and criminal groups over control of territory and illegal economies, which the Ombudsperson’s early warning system linked with increased risks of conflict-related sexual violence.

The Office of the Ombudsperson issued the highest number of early warnings with respect to Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia, ELN and dissident groups of FARC-EP.

However, it is reported that all armed actors committed sexual violence as part of the social control strategies employed against women and individuals with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.

In 2020, the United Nations also reported killings of women human rights defenders, including the murder of five women, among them a former FARC-EP combatant undergoing reintegration.

The National Victims’ Unit implemented strategies focused on reparations and psycho-social rehabilitation for survivors of sexual violence.

The Ministry of Health trained 22,516 health-care professionals in accordance with the protocol for comprehensive health care for victims of sexual violence.

The Agency for Reintegration and Normalization and the FARC-EP gender commission continued to work with former female combatants to prevent sexual and gender-based violence in the context of reintegration.

The President of Colombia Iván Duque Márquez issued guidelines on strengthening gender equality in the security forces, with the aim of improving their overall effectiveness and responsiveness with respect to sexual and gender-based violence.

In October, UN Special Representative participated in a virtual visit to Colombia led by the Deputy Secretary-General, which was aimed at supporting national efforts to accelerate the implementation of the gender-related provisions of the peace agreement and to foster inclusive conflict recovery.

Of the 132 cases of conflict-related sexual violence referred to the Office of the Attorney General, six have proceeded to trial, four are under investigation and one remains at the preliminary investigation phase, and the remaining 121 are undergoing initial inquiry.

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace has integrated strategies for investigating conflict related sexual violence into four of its seven ongoing emblematic cases.

In its first indictment concerning hostage-taking and other severe acts of deprivation of liberty committed by FARC-EP, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace included charges against eight of the former group leaders for war crimes and crimes against humanity, recognizing that sexual violence in the context of captivity generally went unpunished.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission continued to receive reports of conflict-related sexual violence and interviewed 5,440 women on the impact of the conflict on civilians, including the use of sexual violence.

UN Secretary-General reiterate call for the full implementation of the gender-related provisions of the peace agreement. Secretary-General calls the authorities to effectively implement the zero-tolerance policy on sexual violence within the military, to ensure service delivery for survivors in rural and border areas, to protect women human rights defenders and community leaders, and to accelerate the pace of justice.


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