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Women who want Colombia to investigate cases of sexual violence that took place during its 50-year…

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Women who want Colombia to investigate cases of sexual violence that took place during its 50-year conflict in the regions of Tumaco, Putumayo, and Norte de Santander have begun sharing their testimonies with the Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Coexistence, and Non-Repetition (“Commission”).

On May 25 — the day Colombia commemorated the National Day for the Dignity of Women Victims of Sexual Violence — the Commission wrote on its website:

25,000 victims of sexual violence in the Colombian armed conflict, have been identified between 1985 and 2016. Of these 91 percent are women, according to the Single Registry of Victims. The horror they have lived has been prolonged by the silence of society and by the absent or delayed response of institutions.

On June 4, these victims placed the transcripts of their testimonies in baskets addressed to Commissioner Alejandra Miller. They did so as a symbolic act: Indigenous and Afro-Colombian women in rural areas often place important things in baskets for protection. These women also shared a report analyzing women’s experiences of armed violence, the responsible actors, and the context in each territory. Women who testified saw it as an opportunity to share their perspectives on why their sexual integrity was violated.

A mural in Colombia commemorates the lives lost in the country’s civil conflict (ICTJ)

The women shared a total of 98 stories. A victim from Valle del Guamuez in the state of Putumayo, where black women and peasants resisted the violence, said, “For us, this is like a ray of hope for violence to be investigated and our territories to be healed in some way.”

A civil society organization known as Humanas Colombia assisted in the documentation of the cases, with support from members of the international community, including the Norwegian and Canadian Embassies and GIZ Propaz, and other organizations such as Sisma Mujer, Fokus, Colombia Diversa, and Women’s Worldwide.

Research shows that cases of sexual violence in Colombia are widely underreported. The Commission has sought to increase the participation of women in the investigation of such cases through gender-sensitive approaches emphasizing psychosocial support and outreach to develop trust among women in affected communities.

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