Sexual violence in Colombia

Instrument of war

Publication date: 9 September 2009

Over almost 50 years of Colombia’s armed conflict, sexual violence has been employed as a weapon of war by all of the armed groups – state military forces, paramilitaries, and guerrillas – both against civilian women and their own female combatants.
Different factors have allowed this type of violence to be accepted as ‘normal’ within Colombian society, and many women do not consider themselves victims because they do not know that sexual violence is a crime. Sexual violence is one of the main causes of the forced displacement of women in Colombia, with 2 out of 10 displaced women forced to flee because of these types of crimes.
Oxfam International’s Colombia program has a focus on women’s rights and promotes every woman’s right to a life free of violence. It also aims to strengthen women’s organizations and their political participation. The program works to confront and counter social acceptance of violence against women in all of its forms, and to guarantee that these crimes do not go unpunished.

Key recommendations

The generalized and systematic existence of sexual violence against women – as a military tactic of all armed groups involved in the conflict and as part of a broader strategy of terror against the civilian population – could meet one of the conditions for characterizing this practice as a crime against humanity. The reality contrasts with the impunity and lack of public knowledge that have kept sexual violence hidden and helped perpetuate it.

  • The EU and its member states should act to stop sexual violence, and pressure the Colombian Government to institute an integrated policy that deals with the causes that have allowed this systematic violation of women’s rights, within the framework of the armed conflict, in order to protect women.
  • The EU and its member states should strengthen their collaboration with CSOs, especially with those that work on issues related to the defence of human rights and those that work on issues related to sexual violence.
  • The Colombian Government should ensure implementation of new legal initiatives for the protection of women affected by the armed conflict. The Government should display a clear political will and comply with Ruling 092 of the Constitutional Court. The Government should also revive the original draft of the Law for Victims and ensure there is no discrimination, and that victims receive equal treatment.