Colombia’s Senate has approved a bill that makes sexual violence a crime against humanity and guarantees victims of conflict-related sexual crimes full access to the law, a Senate statement announced on Wednesday.
The bill will significantly expand the definition of sexual violence, which until now has mostly been defined as rape, and will include crimes such as sanctioned prostitution, forced acts of sterilization, pregnancy, abortion, and nudity, the official statement read.
Additionally, the bill will give female victims of sexual violence in Colombia’s ongoing armed conflict more tools with which to jail their aggressors.
|“This [bill] seeks to address the shortcomings of the Colombian legal system that disadvantage female victims of sexual violence.”|
The representative to the House for the Green Alliance party, Angela Maria Robledo, said that the Historical Memory Center prepared a report which reveals that, “the worst rapists were the paramilitaries and now called ‘bacrim,’ as well as guerrillas and members of the Armed Forces.”
Approved by the Senate late on Monday, the bill and will now pass through a conciliation stage before seeking presidential approval.
Senator John Sudarsky of the Green Party, a sponsor of the measure in the plenary defended the proposal saying his goal is the adoption of measures to guarantee the right of access to justice for victims of sexual violence.
He said, “this [bill] seeks to address the shortcomings of the Colombian legal system that disadvantage female victims of sexual violence.”
Conduct constituting sexual violence in conflict, according to the approved project, shall be punished with imprisonment of between 13 and 27 years, El Tiempo newspaper reported.
The bill will have five main branches, first of which states that these crimes may be considered crimes against humanity and can be investigated at any time.
Furthermore, there will no longer be need to prove “physical force” of the alleged offense, but the judge will have to analyze factors such as the circumstances under which the act occurred and whether it was carried out with political or military objectives.
The third key point is that these crimes will be investigated and tried by military tribunals. The fourth point states that the legal committees of the Prosecutor General have the function of investigating cases.
Finally health care will be a priority and free for victims of sexual violence in the midst of war, regardless of whether or not a criminal charge is in progress.
Colombia was recently highlighted in a UN report as a country experiencing some of the highest levels of conflict-related sexual violence in the world.
- A conciliación proyecto que castiga violencia sexual en el conflicto armado (Senate Press Release)
- Delitos de violencia sexual no prescribirán (El Tiempo)