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Project MonMa in Colombia

Project Monma travelled to Colombia to learn more about the situation of sexual violence in the country. We travelled throughout various parts of Colombia and spoke with numerous community members as well as organizations that are working to prevent sexual violence to learn more about the extent of the problem in the country.

We found that sexual violence and harassment are widespread throughout Colombia. All of the participants in our study reported that they had experienced some form of sexual harassment or violence and said that it was largely normalized in Colombia. According to the National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences of Colombia, two women are raped every hour.

In Colombia and throughout Latin America, the cultural idea of ‘maschismo’ dominates in which men claim superiority and women are largely seen as sexual objects. This results in high amounts of sexual harassment where men feel entitled to women’s bodies. One young man for example said, ‘Some years ago Colombia was very machista, now women are saying that they are the same, there are women in high positions. It’s good because we are learning, slowly the mind is changing. The older people think that a woman is less than a man, you think this because your father thought that, your grandfather thought that. 

A young woman from Villavicencio, now living in Bogota explained how machismo in Colombia causes many problems for women. She reported that there are many cases where men try to control women and where women are killed by a jealous husband. ‘Men think of women as being possessions,’ she said. ‘Some women still think it’s normal for men to beat them or to cause psychological harm. Women who are assaulted don’t talk because they will feel embarrassed or ashamed. It is so sad that you have to feel scared walking down the street because someone might harm you. It’s exhausting.’

The long running conflict in the country has also contributed to the high levels of sexual harassment and violence throughout Colombia. It is estimated that between 2000 and 2009, almost half a million women suffered some form of sexual violence in conflict affected areas. The perpetrators for the most part have been members of the armed groups, however all parties in the conflict have used women’s bodies as commodities.

 

One woman living in a conflict area said, ‘they rape our daughters without shame. They don’t think about being humans, they don’t have compassion for anybody.’ One young girl who joined one of the biggest armed groups in Colombia, the FARC, explained how she had joined the armed group after her stepfather tried to rape her. Her mother refused to believe her and so with few other opportunities to escape from the violence, she decided to join the FARC.

The problem is made worse by the high levels of impunity with perpetrators rarely face repercussions. One man said how a group of government military soldiers had raped some of the little girls and women near where he lived. They had reported the incident to the military, but the military refused to acknowledge that their soldiers had carried out the rapes. He said with frustration, ‘what can we do when it is the government soldiers doing this?’

These high levels of impunity have led to many cases of sexual harassment and assault not being reported and according to one study, between 2010 and 2015, during the armed conflict, only 20 percent of women who suffered from sexual assault reported it to the police. When such crimes are under acknowledged and underreported they will continue.

In 2008, the Law 1257 of the Colombian Penal Code was passed and states that the punishment for ‘violent physical access’ is 12 to 20 years in prison. However, very rarely does a rapist go to jail. As in many countries with poor prosecution records, most women tend not to report acts of violence against them. It is estimated that in Colombia, some 82% of women who have survived sexual violence in Colombia, domestic and conflict related, have not reported the attacks.

Sexual violence remains widespread and a serious problem in Colombia. Much needed to be done to stop the problem and bring perpetrators to justice because as Amnesty International has reported, Colombia has continuously failed to protect women and girls from sexual violence.

Project MonMa in Colombia

Project Monma travelled to Colombia to learn more about the situation of sexual violence in the country. We travelled throughout various parts of Colombia and spoke with numerous community members as well as organizations that are working to prevent sexual violence to learn more about the extent of the problem in the country.

We found that sexual violence and harassment are widespread throughout Colombia. All of the participants in our study reported that they had experienced some form of sexual harassment or violence and said that it was largely normalized in Colombia. According to the National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences of Colombia, two women are raped every hour.

In Colombia and throughout Latin America, the cultural idea of ‘maschismo’ dominates in which men claim superiority and women are largely seen as sexual objects. This results in high amounts of sexual harassment where men feel entitled to women’s bodies. One young man for example said, ‘Some years ago Colombia was very machista, now women are saying that they are the same, there are women in high positions. It’s good because we are learning, slowly the mind is changing. The older people think that a woman is less than a man, you think this because your father thought that, your grandfather thought that. 

A young woman from Villavicencio, now living in Bogota explained how machismo in Colombia causes many problems for women. She reported that there are many cases where men try to control women and where women are killed by a jealous husband. ‘Men think of women as being possessions,’ she said. ‘Some women still think it’s normal for men to beat them or to cause psychological harm. Women who are assaulted don’t talk because they will feel embarrassed or ashamed. It is so sad that you have to feel scared walking down the street because someone might harm you. It’s exhausting.’

The long running conflict in the country has also contributed to the high levels of sexual harassment and violence throughout Colombia. It is estimated that between 2000 and 2009, almost half a million women suffered some form of sexual violence in conflict affected areas. The perpetrators for the most part have been members of the armed groups, however all parties in the conflict have used women’s bodies as commodities.

One woman living in a conflict area said, ‘they rape our daughters without shame. They don’t think about being humans, they don’t have compassion for anybody.’ One young girl who joined one of the biggest armed groups in Colombia, the FARC, explained how she had joined the armed group after her stepfather tried to rape her. Her mother refused to believe her and so with few other opportunities to escape from the violence, she decided to join the FARC.

The problem is made worse by the high levels of impunity with perpetrators rarely face repercussions. One man said how a group of government military soldiers had raped some of the little girls and women near where he lived. They had reported the incident to the military, but the military refused to acknowledge that their soldiers had carried out the rapes. He said with frustration, ‘what can we do when it is the government soldiers doing this?’

These high levels of impunity have led to many cases of sexual harassment and assault not being reported and according to one study, between 2010 and 2015, during the armed conflict, only 20 percent of women who suffered from sexual assault reported it to the police. When such crimes are under acknowledged and underreported they will continue.

In 2008, the Law 1257 of the Colombian Penal Code was passed and states that the punishment for ‘violent physical access’ is 12 to 20 years in prison. However, very rarely does a rapist go to jail. As in many countries with poor prosecution records, most women tend not to report acts of violence against them. It is estimated that in Colombia, some 82% of women who have survived sexual violence in Colombia, domestic and conflict related, have not reported the attacks.

Sexual violence remains widespread and a serious problem in Colombia. Much needed to be done to stop the problem and bring perpetrators to justice because as Amnesty International has reported, Colombia has continuously failed to protect women and girls from sexual violence.

Title Address Description
Colombia
Colombia
Algeria
Algeria
Argentina
Argentina
Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo
India
India
Lebanon
Lebanon
Turkey
Turkey
Madagascar
Madagascar
Maldives
Maldives
Mozambique
Mozambique
Northern Iraq
Iraq
Tunisia
Tunisia