A report released over the weekend by Oxfam International concluded that some 48,915 children under the age of 18 have been victims of sexual violence during the course of Colombia’s armed conflict.
Conducted between 2008 and 2012, the study collected information from 1,070 of the country’s 1,130 municipalities, with the goal of understanding sexual violence in the context of civil war and evaluating Colombia’s records on the subject.
Of the almost 49,000 cases turned up by the international NGO, which maintains regular operations in Colombia, 7,602 reportedly involved male victims. The states of Antioquia, Valle del Cauca, Nariño and Santander, along with the city of Bogota, were found to have the most reported cases.
“Sexual violence against boys and girls has many facets,” read the report, according to the El Tiempo newspaper. “There is no single sexual violence and therefore these facts are difficult to categorize and to prevent.”
With that in mind, Oxfam recommended that “the policies of prevention respond to specific regional needs.”
The report claimed, moreover, that many acts of sexual violence have become normalized to the point where they are no longer considered crimes or even wrong, by neither the perpetrator and the victim. This makes gathering accurate information particularly difficult, as victims of sexual assault are unlikely to come forward, even when the fact of the violation is less ambiguous.
The nature of the crimes, perpetrated by actors in Colombia’s longstanding armed conflict, also complicates the reporting of crimes, as victims are intimidated by the threat of reprisal and lack of security guarantees. In many cases, local authorities are reportedly in league with some of the same groups that commit the acts themselves.
In 2013, the Office of Legal Medicine reported over 11,000 incidents of sexual violence in Colombia. The office did not include any figures on acts perpetrated by groups in the armed conflict, however, making the Oxfam report an important contribution to the statistical record.
Colombia Reports has requested a copy of the report, which has yet to be published on the Oxfam website, and will provide further information as soon as the raw data can be accessed.