Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Colombia: U.N. Group Denounces Sexual Violence Against Women

The U.N.’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) warned that women and girls have become targets of sexual violence in areas of Colombia ravaged by armed conflict.

“There is a high level of impunity.  Victimized women often denounce the attacks against them though not always through the court system,” said CEDAW member Olinda Bareiro at a conference this month of the committee.

At a recent CEDAW conference, a Colombian government representative praised laws “on victims and the land reform (that) included both material and symbolic measures, as well as measures to combat impunity and increase prosecutions, and gave the burden of proof to the State”. Yet Bareiro claimed that neither of these laws covers victims of bandas criminales, which are criminal groups that are mostly made up of demobilized right-wing paramilitary factions.  Furthermore, she said that the system for reclaiming land seized by armed groups such as the leftist FARC and ELN rebels is “a very difficult process for women”.

Ultimately, the CEDAW recommended that violence against women should be a topic incorporated in peace talks between the FARC and Colombian government that have been held in Cuba.

Meanwhile, the National Summit of Women and Peace began today in Bogotá with a call for greater participation of women in the dialogue between Colombian officials and the rebels.

“We are thinking of the future and betting that the talks will continue until a peace treaty is reached,” said Migdonia Rueda Bolaños, representative of one of the nine social organizations behind the conference.

“We want to be visible participants in the post-conflict period and show how women construct peace every day,” Bolaños added.

Since discussions between the FARC and Colombian government started last November, both sides have reached a partial agreement on agrarian reform including land for poor farmers and policies to deal with rural poverty and inequality.  The negotiations have not been without problems, however, regarding issues like possible political participation of the guerillas.

Recently the FARC launched a new website promoting its female members and with the purported aim of removing “the myth that female members were victims” of their male counterparts.

Video Source– YouTube via user storytellingunhcr (Doris Berrio fled her home village in Colombia in 1997 to Cartagena where she helped create an organization known as the League of Displaced Women.  She claimed that two female members of the group received threats and were raped.)

Online Sources – GlobalPost; RCN Radio; BBC News; Univision Noticias; Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

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