The U.N. calls for Colombia to criminalize discrimination against Afro-Colombians on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Spanish news agency EFE reported.
“Unfortunately racial discrimination is a reality in Colombia.” said Christian Salazar, the country representative for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
He added that a law that criminalizes racial discrimination “will send a strong message to Colombian society that the rights and dignity of Afro-Colombians, Raizales and Palenqueros must be respected.”
Raizales are people of African origin living in the San Andres archipelago whose ancestors were transported from English speaking Caribbean islands while Palenqueros are the inhabitants of communities founded by self liberated former slaves.
There are currently 4.5 million Afro-Colombians in Colombia, representing 10% of the population. According to the UN, 108 municipalities have an Afro-Colombian population of 30% or more with evidence showing that human development indices in these areas lag behind the rest of the country in relation to life expectancy and infant mortality.
“In some rural areas and urban ghettos, Afro-Colombians have rates of extreme poverty of over 60% and suffer from a lack social services and assistance programs” said Salazar.
Also, the five departments of the country with the highest poverty rates — Bolivar, Cauca, Cordoba, Choco and Nariño — and the worst quality of life are those with the highest concentrations of Afro-Colombians.
The OHCHR added that Afro-Colombians suffer “greatly” as a result of the internal armed conflict with threats, killings, forced displacement and violence towards women.
While recognizing the Colombian government’s move to criminalize racism late last year, the OHCHR recommended that the government develop “plans of protection” to protect the lives of Afro-Colombians and “construct and implement public policies that improve the exercise of their human rights.”
The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination took place on Monday March 21.