Colombia: Sexual Violence Used as a Tool of War by All Armed Parties
Wednesday, November 4, 2009 4:25 PM

4 November 2009

A recently released report by Intermón Oxfam, the Spanish branch of Oxfam International, states that sexual violence is used as a tool of war by all armed parties in Colombia. The report, “Sexual Violence in Colombia: A Weapon of War,” highlights that sexual violence has been used as a tactic by the Colombian government, right-wing paramilitaries, and left-wing guerrillas and argues that sexual violence has been integrated into the decades-long violence "to the extent that it has become an integral part of the conflict." (IPS News) Human rights, peasant farmers, women’s, and Afro-Colombian groups within the country have long made the same case and mobilized against the use of rape and other forms of sexual violence.


Since 1964, Colombia has been embroiled in a civil war between leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries which were historically supported by the Colombian government and state. Political, social, and economic tensions resulted in widespread violence, particularly in rural areas. This has resulted in the displacement of about 10 percent of the country’s 42 million inhabitants; 60 percent of those displaced are women. 

María Eugenia Ramírez of the Bogota-based Latin American Institute for Alternative Rights stated that insecurity within Colombia can be seen through the “sexual violence, genital mutilation, harassment and forced recruitment” which, she argues, “has exacerbated the violence that women have historically faced.” (IPS News)

An upcoming report to be released by the National Network of Women, a women’s rights group in Colombia, states that “the number of human rights violations in general, and those committed by members of government security forces in particular, has tripled since 2006.” (IPS News) Earlier in 2009, the Constitutional Court of Colombia reported that 183 of 518 constitutional violations registered since 1993 were regarding sexual assault. Of these reported cases, “58 percent were attributed to paramilitary forces, 23 percent to government security forces, eight percent to insurgent groups, and the remainder to unknown perpetrators.” (IPS News)

Impunity for the perpetrators of these crimes remains widespread. Sisma-Mujer, a Colombian women’s rights group, stated that 97 percent of sexual violence goes unpunished. Paula San Pedro, of Intermón Oxfam, said that “there is not a single region in the country where women can feel safe," and stressed that "Afro-Colombian and indigenous women are the most vulnerable to sexual violence, given the triple discrimination they suffer because of their gender, ethnicity and poverty.” (IPS News)

Compiled from: Helda Martinez, “Colombia: Sexual Violence as a Weapon of War,” IPS News (26 October 2009).