For decades the armed conflict in Colombia was accompanied to a great degree by sexual and gender-based violence. The peace agreement which was signed by the government and the armed FARC group in 2016 couldn’t put a stop to this. Sexual violence remains a widespread problem within society. The number of sexual attacks has increased during the pandemic.
Often sexual violence isn’t reported or goes unpunished even if it is reported. There are many reasons for this. It is often the case that victims of sexual violence are stigmatised and receive insufficient help. They are put under pressure not to go to the police. Or they don’t have access to the justice system because they live in remote areas. In some cases, the experiences of survivors aren’t recognised as sexual violence. This is because while rape, forced pregnancy and forced sterilisation are clearly defined in international law, other forms of sexual violence are not. This means that some acts, which survivors have experienced as sexual violence, aren’t taken into account in court proceedings. For example, these could be non-penetrative sexual acts, injuries to the sex organs as well as measures which deny people their right to choose to procreate.
In order to raise more awareness of all forms of sexual violence, the organisation Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice and its partner organisation Women’s Link Worldwide are working on a publicity campaign with state institutions. Workshops are to be carried out in particular with judges and lawyers. In addition, they are developing an app which will make information about relevant authorities and possible procedures for filing a police report available to affected individuals, particularly young women.
Through this work the organisation is making an important contribution to better understanding sexual violence. Only with this can we ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice, survivors receive adequate support and sexual violence is successfully tackled.