One of the main casualities of the internal armed conflict and its aftermath- Colombian women are often victims of displacement, social exclusion, rape, impunity and violence in all its possible forms.
Recent statistics reveal the magnitude of an often hidden problem which has a deep impact on the socio-political, economic and cultural framework of the country.
Specialised sources claim that women constitute approximately 85% of the survivors of the internal armed conflict.
Of them, 80% are faced with having to move, whilst 16% have been victims of sexual violence- a direct result of forced internal migration.
A study carried out in 2010, in more than 400 municipalities where the conflict is, claims that between 2001 and 2009, roughly 500 thousand women reported that they had been subjected to sexual violence.
The research, one of the few that exists on the subject, states that 74,698 of those women blamed the attack on various illegal armed groups, whilst 21,036 blamed the police.
However, in spite of these chilling statistics, several experts and human rights organisations believe that they do not reflect the real magnitude of the problem.
Generally speaking, assaulted women do not report the abuse because they are scared of their abusers or because they do not trust a justice system that is often riddled with corruption- as recognised by the authorities themselves.
For these women, to go to court runs the risk of them being victimized once again by suffering social exclusion and stigmatization. Therefore, sexual violence may be the only crime that remains “invisible”.
But not everything comes down to this phenomenon. They are also victims of other attacks that cause changes to family relationships and cause one to re-evaluate their gender identity.
One of the triggering factors is the challenge to escape in order to save one’s life and the lives of one’s family, equally challenging is the search for a new home in adverse conditions and having to comprehend such a traumatic experience, one which has a such a strong emotional impact on one’s life- it creates a feeling of total helplessness.
Different studies specify that economic factors and violence continue to be the main elements linked to large population displacements, which has already exceeded 4 million people in the country.
This is a phenomenon, they argue, of in-concealable profoundness due to the violations to human rights and the high costs to the State of repossessions and violent evictions, from which women suffer the most, due to their vulnerability and the underestimation of their needs.
It also raises the awareness of the rising number of homeowners living in poor conditions, to whom the responsibility of reproduction and family sustainment fall. Amongst them, there are a higher number of widows, who have little chance of being able to fulfil their responsibilities.
On the other hand, experts claim that when a woman is the head of a household, she enters into a vicious cycle of poverty; given the vulnerability of the state, women are generally linked to the informal work market and earn less than men.
Consequently, they find themselves in a hard situation where it is difficult to provide their dependents with basic necessities, such as housing, food, clothing, health and education amongst others.
According to the statistics, it is from these households that groups of children work to support their families- at the same time as school dropouts increase.
Stripped of their land, their surroundings, their culture and torn apart by the loss of their spouses, children, siblings or grandchildren, they are forced to redefine their goals in life and meet the challenges of survival in new conditions- many cases of which, they are deprived of institutional of governmental support.
Meanwhile, those who try to return home or make new life plans must work alone- thanks to the apparent continuation of the conditions and violence caused by forced migration. (PL)
(Translated by Emma O’Toole)