Internally Displaced Women and Girls in Colombia Face Sexual Violence
Wednesday, July 22, 2009 1:45 PM

According to a new report, published 16 July 2009 by Amnesty International, there are currently between 3 and 4 million internally displaced people in Colombia, among the highest in the world.  In 2008 alone, 380,000 people fled their homes.  Internal displacement disproportionately affects women who are indigenous, Afro-descendant, or peasant farmers.  Women who must leave their homes face loss of subsistence means and an increased risk of violence, especially sexual assault.

The Colombian Constitutional Court issued a ruling in April 2008 that explicitly linked displacement and sexual violence.  The court found that violence against displaced women and girls included “rape, rape followed by assassination, torture and sexual mutilation, forced prostitution, sexual slavery, forced public nudity, individual and collective sexual humiliation, sexual violence as a mechanism to obtain information, threat of sexual violence to women and girls in front of their families…and heinous acts such as dismembering, in many cases of pregnant or women still alive.”

Internal armed conflict in Colombia has lasted for 40 years.  Most internally displaced women have been forced to leave their homes due to violence from guerilla, paramilitary, or security forces.  Entire communities may be targeted if their land is seen as strategically desirable.  Armed groups continue violence and threats toward the community, often forcing people to flee with little notice.

When women are displaced, they often become family providers because their partners have been killed by armed groups.  At the same time, they must leave their land, livestock, and other means of subsistence.  For displaced women and girls, sexual assault, exploitation, and abuse are constant threats from armed groups or people who believe the women and girls are involved with armed groups.  Displaced women and girls face discrimination from the communities they move to, presenting a significant barrier to assistance for victims of violence.

Compiled from: “Thousands more people forced to flee from Colombia’s armed conflict,” Amnesty International, 16 July 2009; “Everything Left Behind: Internal Displacement in Colombia,” Amnesty International (2009); “Colombia: Gender,” International Displacement Monitoring Center (Accessed 22 July 2009).