(Photo: El Universal)

The Colombian Government passed a law on Wednesday that would protect and guarantee the rights of victims of sexual assault in the Colombian armed conflict, reported local media. 

The law signed by recently reelected President Juan Manuel Santos and initiated by members of the centrist and leftist Green Alliance and Alternative Democratic Pole is intended to change the way sexual violence in the Colombian armed conflict is dealt with, according to national radio RCN.

Acts of sexual violence as crimes against humanity

Santos stated with respect to the law, “it establishes that acts of sexual violence, when they are committed systematically or in general against the civilian population, will be declared by the judicial authorities as crimes against humanity.”

Santos declared that the justice system should, “condemn the victimizers regardless of which armed group they belong to, including functionaries of the state [the military] if they commit a crime.” Santos added that, “even if they [sexual crimes] occurred 10, 20, 30 or 50 years ago, justice may investigate and condemn the authors of these crimes.”

“Even if they [sexual crimes] occurred 10, 20, 30 or 50 years ago, justice may investigate and condemn the authors of these crimes.”

This entails that members of the military currently under investigation for sexual crimes will have their cases transferred from a military tribunal to the civilian justice system, according to national radio Caracol.

According to government statistics, 4,672 women have fallen victim to sexual violence in Colombia’s armed conflict, of which 2,095 have been compensated, according to Santos.

Widespread sexual violence in armed conflict

“We have evidence that some members of the army abuse girls and adolescents in conflict zones… it is distressing that the army’s presence is converted into a risk factor for minors,” Congresswoman Angela Robledo stated in December 2012.

The incidence of reported cases of sexual violence is much higher for the security forces than for the paramilitaries or guerrillas.

“When there is a military base in a particular area, there is an increase in unwanted pregnancy; there is an increase in relations with minors, and this also constitutes sexual violence,” analyst Diana Lopez told Colombia Reports in 2013.

Colombia’s largest left-wing rebel group, the FARC, have also been accused of widespread sexual abuse, much more so than other guerrilla groups like the ELN.

Some 80% to 90% of the demobilized ex-FARC women claim to have endured at least one forced abortion. Some claim to have suffered many more. Additionally, because of nonexistent contraceptive practices, sexually transmitted diseases are reportedly rampant.

MORE: Sexual violence employed methodically in Colombia’s armed conflict


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