A section of Colombian society is deeply affected by cultural violence which is expressed, for example, against minors in the form of sexual abuse, torture, kidnap, sexual slavery, murder…the list of horrors is long.
When the Colombian writer, Laura Restrepo heard about the horrific crime involving Yuliana Samboní, she asked how something like this could happen.
After much thought, she wrote the book “The Divine” (Los Divinos). Her book is based on the terrible story of a seven-year-old indigenous girl who was kidnapped on 4 December 2016 in an area of Bogotá. She was then raped and killed by a wealthy architect aged 38. Discussing her work at the recent International Book Fair in Bogotá, Restrepo reflected upon the enormous gap between the rich and the poor in Colombia. She describes it as a breeding ground for violence in its most brutal terms.
Just two weeks ago, Colombia was shocked by an incident involving another girl, this time a three-year-old. The girl suffered an acid attack and was raped in a clandestine nursery in the capital.
The girl, daughter of a prostitute, had emergency surgery and after spending days in intensive care, survived.
The director of the Colombian Institute for Family Welfare (ICBF), Karen Abundinen, explained that in the last 10 days the Institute has responded to 5,600 reports of child abuse. She gave the following examples: a case involving a three-day-old baby abandoned in some bushes in Risaralda, and a mother in Tolima who threw her seven-year-old daughter into a river, who later died.
A similar warning was issued by the Institute of Legal Medicine in December last year when it made public that of the 22,000 cases of sexual abuse reported in Colombia in 2017, 80% were against minors. According to reports, to date 19 child molesters have been arrested in the city of Barranquilla, capital of Atlántico.
They were charged with violent sexual intercourse and abusive sexual acts with minors aged 14. According to local authorities, most child molesters in Colombia are close relatives of their victims (stepfathers, stepmothers, parents, grandparents, aunties, uncles and siblings). A very small percentage (near 5%) are strangers.
This horrendous form of violence against children is also associated with cases of child kidnap where children are sexually exploited. In October 2017, a child and adolescent sexual exploitation network operating in the centre of the country was broken up.
According to Julio César González, director of Protective and Special Services for the National Police, 13 people were arrested. They had contacted their victims through social media and seduced them with all kinds of ploys to later force them into prostitution.
This involved, primarily, children aged 14 and under living in Bogota, Cundiamarca and Tolima being subjected to various forms of abuse, including drug addiction.
The children were forced into prostitution in bars and nightclubs, explained Mario Gómez, advisor to the Attorney General’s Office. According to Claudia Quintero, director of a group dedicated to combating human trafficking, in Colombia the sexual exploitation of minors has become normalised. This, she argues, is due to the fact that many families living in poverty force their children into prostitution.
Alejandro Moya, lawyer and philosopher at the University of Los Andes, believes that Colombia is deeply affected by cultural violence.
He gave the example of how a seventh grade student at a school in Medellín was stabbed just recently with scissors by one of his classmates who was just one year older.
“Cultural violence is the combined product of wide exposure to serious levels of violence on the one hand and, the barrage of messages that justify, promote and glorify aggression. In other words, witnessing and becoming accustomed to violence”, he explained.
In the past few days, the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) released the results of a consultation with approximately 18,000 Colombian children aged between four and 17 from all over the country.
The study revealed that six in 10 children in Colombia think that they don’t matter to the government and nine in 10 confirm that parks are not safe places. (PL)
(Translated by Corrine Harries – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) – Photos: Pixabay