No Es Hora de Callar – Now is Not a Time to be Silent about Sexual Violence in Colombia

99.8% of all sexual crimes committed against women in Colombia go unpunished, according to a report launched in Dublin today by Christian Aid and Trócaire. The report outlines the persistent vulnerability of Colombian women to sexual violence as a result of guerrilla, paramilitary and military violence that has plagued the country for the last 60 years.

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Colombian journalist, Jineth Bedoya Lima, recipient of multiple international awards for her investigative journalism into the illegal drug trade in Colombia, painted a shocking picture of the levels of violence experienced by women in her country. Six women per hour experience some form of sexual violence in Colombia. This amounts to 149 women per day and 54,410 women per year. These figures reflect levels of sexual violence that are similar to those experienced by women in the Democratic Republic of Congo or Rwanda. These crimes are carried out in the context of total impunity. Few people in either the national or international community have spoken out against these acts which could be considered crimes against humanity, according to the International Criminal Court.

Jineth came to Dublin to break the silence that surrounds the issue of sexual violence in Colombia. She spoke candidly about her own traumatic experience of kidnapping, torture and rape at the hands of paramilitaries and her fight for justice. Her international reputation as an investigative journalist placed her in a privileged position to speak out against the violence. However, hundreds of thousands of Colombian do not enjoy this privilege. They have been silenced through fear, poverty, discrimination, marginalization, social stigma, inequality and the threat of further violence.

The report entitled, Colombia: Women, Conflict-Related Sexual Violence and the Peace Process, highlights a pattern of violence that is systematic in nature where women’s bodies have become an object of war and sexual violence is used as a weapon of war. Social control is exerted over women, their families and their communities through sexual violence, women have been enslaved for sexual purposes, sexual violence is prevalent within the armed forces and is used by all three sides in the conflict. The report recommends the Irish, UK, US and other European governments takes steps to ensure that the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals include a dedicated goal on violence against women with specific targets to reduce sexual and gender-based violence. It further recommends that these governments emphasise in their diplomatic relations with Colombia the importance of ending impunity for all human rights violations, particularly in relation to crimes of sexual violence. It also highlights the central role women should play in peace negotiations and reconstruction in accordance with UN security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

Jineth closed the launch with an appeal to use their power and influence to lobby local and national politicians to advocate for justice for the hundreds and thousands of survivors of sexual violence in Colombia.

The full report can be accessed here: http://www.abcolombia.org.uk/subpage.asp?subid=532&mainid=23

You can follow Jineth’s campaign ‘No Es Hora de Callar’ here: http://www.eltiempo.com/Multimedia/especiales/noeshoradecallar/

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