Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Colombia's Gender Violence

 Verbal abuse, threats of sexual violence and discrimination have not been isolated incidents during the wave of anti-government protests that have been spreading through Colombia since 28 April. There have been at least 113 cases of gender-based violence, according to a report by the Office of the Ombudsman, an official government agency tasked with overseeing the protection of citizens' human and civil rights.

"They started calling us bitches, whores, sluts," Karla Cardoso says of the abuse police officers hurled at her and other women during an anti-government protest in Medellín on 20 May. "They asked us what we were doing out at night, threatening to kill us," the 25-year-old student says.

During an anti-government demonstration in the capital, Bogotá, another female protester detailed how, "A group of roughly eight police officers surrounded me. One of them said: 'This one is a good one to rape'."

According to Temblores, an NGO which monitors police violence, it does not always stop at threats. It has received reports from 28 protesters who allege they were sexually abused by members of the security forces. They include allegations of having been forced to strip naked, being groped and being raped. The NGO says the evidence it has gathered suggests they were pre-meditated and routinely orchestrated by groups of officers inside enclosed spaces.

Seven allegations of sexual violence by security forces are currently being investigated by the attorney-general's office. Among them is the case of a 17-year-old girl who was allegedly sexually abused by police in the city of Popayán. The girl killed herself the day after the alleged abuse.

Linda Cabrera, the director of feminist organisation Sisma Mujer, says that the aim of gender-based violence is to spread fear among women to deter them from protesting. But many women have not been deterred. They say that, if anything, the violence has made them more determined to play a vital role in the demonstrations.

Some are organising vigils and sit-ins while others make a point of marching right out front at demonstrations. Many say they feel vulnerable at protests, though, especially when they are alone.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) earlier this month sent a team to Colombia to investigate the allegations of excessive use of force by police during the protests. The police fall under the jurisdiction of the defence ministry, meaning cases of abuse will continue to be judged by military tribunals, which they consider problematic.

'The risk you run': Colombia's women protesters on sexual violence - BBC News

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