Colombia celebrated its first National Day for the Dignity of Women Victims of Sexual Violence on Monday in an attempt to bring attention to the sexual violence suffered by women as a result of Colombia’s armed conflict.
The day coincided with the inclusion of women in the peace talks currently underway in Havana, Cuba, demonstrating the strides Colombia is making in the awareness of this issue.
The battle is far from over, however, with some studies estimating that, between 2000 and 2009, nearly 500,000 women were victims of sexual violence in areas affected by the armed conflict.
These numbers likely do not represent the true scale of sexual violence in Colombia, as instances of sexual violence are known for being underreported.
Experts also estimate that perhaps 82% of women over the same period who have survived sexual violence, conflict-related and domestic, have not reported the attacks.
Moreover, there is evidence to suggest that sexual violence in Colombia is on the rise, not decreasing in the face of greater public awareness.
Since the peace talks began in 2012, the National Institute of Forensic Services has recorded a 93% increase in sexual violence related to the armed conflict.
Explanations for the increase vary. Some suggest that more women are coming forward and reporting episodes of sexual violence. Other suggest that, as more women speak out, the backlash generates even more violence.
While extremely important in combating the ubiquity of sexual violence, the landmark 2014 law that guarantees the rights of victims of sexual violence has apparently not done enough.
Women’s rights advocates argue that the root causes of entrenched discrimination and impunity, especially for military perpetrators, must be addressed before meaningful progress can be made.
The current fear is that the priority of peace will supersede the need for justice with regard to sexual violence and that many perpetrators will receive some sort of amnesty within the framework of a peace deal.