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COLOMBIA: Peace with a focus on gender
Sandra López
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Agreements between the government and the FARC establish access under the same conditions to women and the LGTBI community to the benefits brought on by peace.

The peace agreement signed in Havana on Aug. 24 between the government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), besides becoming the hope to end a war that was waged for over half-a-century, became the only agreement in history to include a focus on gender in its pages, allowing for women and persons with diverse sexual orientation to have access under equal conditions to the benefits enjoyed by living in a country free of armed conflict.

Dozens of victims, women organizations, and those of the LGTBI community (lesbians, gays, trans, bisexuals and intersex persons), international and Colombian women experts in the issue of sexual violence, and women guerrilla fighters of the FARC and former women guerrilla fighters from other parts of the world, were the vital support provided to the Gender Sub Commission of the Negotiating Table in Havana to establish that the vision in the matter of gender is more than just a change in a language that must be gender inclusive and non-sexist.

“Three key elements are clearly present in the Agreements that have been reached: the issue of diversity, the issue of discrimination in what relates to sexual orientation, and the issue of power relationships between men and women”, Rosa Emilia Salamanca, technical secretary of the Women, Peace and Security Collective for Reflection and Action, told Latinamerica Press. “These elements mesh in the five points of the Agreement (Comprehensive Rural Reform, Political Participation, Solution to the Illegal Drugs Problem, Reparation to the Victims and the End of the Armed Conflict)”.

As far as the countryside is concerned, taken into account was that women are not on equal footing with regards to men, reason why they will have special access to the land fund, subsidies, and special credit for purchasing land. They will also have access to economic solidarity projects by promoting economic autonomy and organizational capacity. This will prevent a repeat of what happened to Fátima Muriel, the president of the Departmental Alliance of Women Weavers of Life in Putumayo; who, when the Gender Sub Commission of the Negotiating Table in Havana published its results on July 24, told the Colombian news website “Most of the lands here are under the name of the husbands. When they were killed, the women were left without a property title and without access to credit; they cannot even have access to a productive project”.

Exercise of rights
In the Comprehensive National Program for Replacement of Illicit Crops, included in the Agreement, women will be included as active participants in the process of coordination for the voluntary substitution of their illicit crops and their participation will be strengthened with technical, financial and human support. In what relates to the use of illicit drugs, will be taken into account, for their support, the relationship that exists between drug use and family violence and sexual violence.

In as far as education issues are concerned, access to scholarships and progressively to technical, technological, and university posts is anticipated.

Also, measures were agreed on to facilitate the right to political participation of women in the subject of guarantees for the opposition, to facilitate the access and dialogue with the authorities, and also the provision of legal and technical assistance for the creation, promotion and strengthening of social organizations and movements of women, young people and the LGTBI community. The protection for women elected by popular vote, human rights advocates and social leaders has also been established.

Woman guerrilla fighter Judith Simanca, also known as Victoria Sandino, has assured in a videoconference broadcasted from Havana, that the political participation of former combatants is one of the bigger challenges. “We do not want to return to the traditional roles; we are not going to exchange guns for pots. We want to study, work on diverse issues that will make a contribution to our future political movement”.

As part of the Investigation and Prosecution Unit of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace — a Judicial component of the integral system of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Recurrence that must investigate, clarify, pursue, prosecute and penalize the serious human rights violations committed during the armed conflict — will be a special investigation team for cases related to sexual violence. It was clearly stated in the Agreement that violent crimes such as forced sexual intercourse and other forms of sexual violence and the abduction of minors, forced displacement and recruitment of children, will not be amnestied.

According to estimates from non-governmental organizations, the war has left more than 8 million victims, of which 60 percent are women.

“There are some 63,000 victims of sexual assault. An exact figure cannot be reached because many still remain silent, feel shame and fear reporting,” Salamanca explains.

Sexual violence
The report titled “¡Basta Ya! Colombia: Memorias de guerra y dignidad” (“That’s enough! Colombia: Memories of War and Dignity”), published in 2013 by the National Center of Historical Memory (CNMH), accounts for 1,754 cases of women victims of sexual violence between 1985 and 2012 that are included in the official registry of victims (RUV) which although it does not represent the total of the victims, as the document so recognizes, it helps to understand the magnitude of the barbarism that has taken place. Of that total, the RUV places alleged responsibility in 748 of the cases, including 370 committed by guerrillas, 344 committed by paramilitaries, eight committed by members of the security forces and 19 committed by others.

Another CNMH report published in 2015, “Aniquilar la Diferencia” (“Annihilate the Difference”), takes official figures of the RUV to July 2015, pointing out that 1,795 persons belonging to the LGTBI community had been victims of threats, targeted killings and forced displacements in the context of the armed conflict, part of the circle of structural violence waged on this sector of the population in an attempt to erase their sexual identity.

The Final Agreement for the End of the Conflict and the Construction of a Stable and Long-lasting Peace, as it is officially called, must still be endorsed in a referendum on Oct. 2. Nearly 35 million Colombians are entitled to answer the question: “Do you support the final agreement to end the conflict and build a stable and lasting peace?” in perhaps the most decisive vote in decades in Colombia. The YES must obtain a minimum of 4.5 million votes for the measures agreed in Havana to be approved.

At the start of their campaign for the YES, the LGTBI organization Colombia Diversa expressed hope that “under no mechanism can the construction of a Colombia in peace involve the reversal in the guarantee of the rights that have been granted to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and trans. Colombia Diversa is convinced that peace includes the possibility of living a life in dignity, in which respect for individuality, equal opportunity and social justice prevail”.

Looking ahead, Salamanca believes that “the agreements are going to face many difficulties to be implemented. This is a challenge. We are campaigning for the YES in the referendum. After we Colombians vote for a YES in the referendum for these agreements, we are going to hold the Second Summit of Women and Peace; we are going to establish the manner in which we will exert pressure and action for the agreements to actually be complied with.” —Latinamerica Press.


Members of the Gender Sub Commission of the Negotiating Table in Havana./
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