At least one woman is raped every day on average in Colombia as a result of ongoing acts of sexual violence committed in the context of the country’s armed conflict.
Recent figures released by Colombia’s Human Rights Office show that during the sixteen months that elapsed between January 2015 and April 2016, at least 785 women became victims of sexual violence due to the conflict.
Of the 13,600 individuals estimated to have suffered from war-related sexual violence, the Victims’ Unit National Register shows that 93% of those individuals are women, and 560 are minors, reported newspaper El Tiempo.
The figures also show the majority of sex crimes, 53%, were committed by members of paramilitary groups and 39% of the perpetrators were leftist FARC or ELN guerrillas.
A 2012 study by Amnesty International described sexual violence as a “defining part” of Colombia’s conflict; women are often targeted to terrify communities and force them to relocate, to take revenge on enemies, to control the sexual and reproductive rights of female fighters, or to exploit women and young girls as sexual slaves.
Women leaders and human rights defenders are particularly vulnerable, especially those who work with displaced communities and survivors of sexual violence related to the conflict.
Though the FARC and Colombia’s government have almost reached a peace agreement which would end over 50 years of bloodshed, these new figures indicate that sexual violence against women is actually increasing.
The adviser to the gender subcommittee for the peace talks, Pilar Rueda, sees impunity as a major contributor to the continued use of rape as a weapon of war.
“I ask myself why there is 98% rate of impunity. It’s a crime that remains private. Is this not important? We must guarantee a more democratic society,” said Rueda, reported El Tiempo.
Rueda is referencing an international forum on sexual violence from 2014 that showed impunity had reached 98%, and that less than 10% of the perpetrators of the more than 90,000 total cases of sexual violence throughout the conflict have ever been sentenced.
“It’s a silenced, excused, and invisible crime. The blame is placed back on the victims,” said Magda Rocío Martínez, investigator for the National Center of Historical Memory.
This increase in violence is particularly disheartening as the government just passed legislation in 2014 aimed to combat sexual violence and impunity. Law 1719 established security measures for those who reported sexual violence, and created an information system to collect and analyze cases of sexual violence to better identify risk factors and development prevention strategies.