Sexual violence in Colombia continues to be an invisible crime. The high prevalence of sexual violence against women in the context of the armed conflict is exacerbated due to the lack of government attention and the high levels of impunity it allows for its perpetrators. The Colombian Constitutional Court reported that paramilitary actors, government forces and guerrilla groups inflict 90% of the sexual assaults on women. In the face of these findings, the Colombian government has shown little will to prevent sexual violence or combat impunity.
Too often, cases against perpetrators of sexual violence brought before the criminal courts linger in formal investigations or trial phases. This creates increasing distrust in the judicial system and stops many women from reporting attacks. Hence, women do not feel supported by the national and local government and women become silent. The women who participated in the workshops echoed these findings with their personal stories. Members of gender-based organizations stated that sexual violence against women has become commonplace in their communities. Paramilitary actors continually rape women and local authorities remain reluctant and generally uninterested in cases of sexual violence and may even be involved in hiding facts to obscure justice. Consequently, internal displacement is an ongoing challenge for local women living near conflict activity who often leave their communities to escape its negative effects.
Although, Colombia is a member state of the United Nations, it has not adopted a NAP for R1325, as many of our workshops participants put it, at the moment the resolution in Colombia only exists on paper. This may be a contributing factor as to why many local authorities and the majority of the women in our workshops had no knowledge of 1325. However, in spite of government inaction, gender-based organizations and civil society groups are still pushing for the implementation of the resolution. One way to do this would be for local governments to integrate elements of the international law into the development plans for the local communities. The implementation of R1325, along with true enforcement of local laws already in placethat address sexual violence, displacement and the restitution of land, could have enormous potential to remedy the issues women are facing because of armed conflict and serve as a proper redress for women victims. However, pushing local governments to act on behalf of women's issues may prove to be difficult according to many of our participants. Nonetheless it is not impossible. Actually, Rosa Emilia of CIASE, completed a workshop in Montes de Maria last month and the local authorities have agreed to include R1325 in the local plans and programs of the local government and in educational and cultural bureaus as well. So while it may be difficult it can still become a reality. This is a major accomplishment.
Realistically, advocating for these laws faces many challenges ahead, and there is still a lot of work to do to bridge the gap between policy discussions and implementation and furthermore, connecting policy makers to the realities of women during armed conflict. Implementing policies takes time but little by little change does come about. Workshops make impact-slowly but surely. Every drop makes a river. Optimistically, Colombia is in an opportune moment for integrating policies on women, peace and security with the recent election of new local governments that can inject these policies into local planning. This change could spark a transformation of societal and cultural values within local governments that allow new structural conditions to take place, namely those that make women a priority.
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