Colombia

The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (S/2018/250) issued on 16 April 2018.

In November 2016, negotiations between the Government of Colombia and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP) culminated in a historic peace accord, marking the close of half a century of conflict between the parties, a conflict in which sexual violence was widespread and systematic. Gender justice was placed at the heart of the agreement, which includes 100 provisions on gender and women’s rights, a number of which specifically address conflict-related sexual violence. The agreement names the Office of my Special Representative, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowe rment of Women (UN-Women), the Government of Sweden and the Women’s International Democratic Federation as parties supporting implementation. In its resolution 2366 (2017) of 10 July 2017, the Security Council authorized the creation of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia to oversee the next phase of implementation, including monitoring the political, economic and social reintegration of FARC-EP. Efforts have been made to ensure that all monitors and observers are trained on matters relating to gender and conflict-related sexual violence. In October 2017, a ceasefire was agreed upon between the Government and the Ejército de Liberación Nacional, as well as a mechanism for monitoring, oversight and verification, the terms of which include an annex on gender mainstreaming and a road map for responding to sexual violence, although talks have since been suspended.

Colombia has a robust normative framework, although gaining access to justice remains a challenge. In 2017, the national victims’ unit registered 24,576 victims of conflict-related sexual violence, of which one third had received compensation. Although that level of reparative justice for sexual violence perpetrated in wartime is unprecedented globally, administering collective reparations remains difficult owing to the large number of victims concerned and the challenge of identifying victims in ways that are non-prejudicial. Regarding efforts to promote accountability, by the end of 2017, the Office of the Attorney-General had issued indictments in 17 per cent of cases of sexual violence, 5 per cent of which resulted in convictions, including three criminal sentences for conflict-related sexual violence perpetrated by members of the Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia.

Despite positive steps towards consolidating peace, sporadic violence continued to displace thousands of civilians in 2017, most of them women and children (70 per cent), with Colombians of African descent and indigenous communities disproportionately affected (73 per cent). Sexual violence continued to be a driver of forced displacement. In one illustrative incident, a displaced woman from Arauca province was forcibly taken across the border to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela where she was raped by members of an armed group who had been threatening her and demanding money. Upon her release, she fled to a new location in search of safety. Women’s rights defenders who are Colombians of African descent and indigenous persons have been forced to flee their homes following threats of sexual violence. Women community leaders, especially those who denounce gender-based violence, face threats, attacks and sexual assaults by members of armed groups. Illegal economic activity continues to fuel the conflict and the heightened risk of sexual violence. In response to the demand for sexual services by certain armed groups, drug trafficking cartels have facilitated the sexual exploitation of women and girls. Criminal networks, primarily involved in illicit mining activities, have also trafficked indigenous women and girls internally and across borders for the purpose of forced prostitution. In 2017, the early warning system of the Office of the Ombudsman issued 22 reports on the elevated risk of conflict-related sexual violence, including two cases of the cross-border trafficking of Venezuelan women.

Official statistics indicate that 73 per cent of victims of rape are girls, often leading to teenage pregnancy and school dropout. Girls between 12 and 16 years of age were subjected to targeted rape threats by members of the post-demobilization groups Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia and Clan del Golfo, in four departments in the west of the country. The United Nations verified the sexual abuse of two civilian men by members of a post-demobilization group in Putumayo province in 2017, although male survivors are generally reluctant to seek support for fear of reprisals. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons have also been harassed by armed actors, but rarely report sexual or other abuse. In the report of September 2017, the Ombudsman noted the risk of sexual violence in and around FARC-EP demobilization sites, also noting that women ex-combatants had suffered domestic and intimate partner violence, which underscores the importance of having a gender-responsive policy on disarmament and reintegration.

Recommendation

I commend the parties on elevating gender to the heart of the peace process and urge them to ensure that it remains central during implementation, including by strengthening institutional capacity and fostering broad social ownership of the gender-related provisions of the agreement. I urge the Government to ensure services, justice and reparations for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence, paying particular attention to the plight and rights of women and girls from rural areas, indigenous communities, Colombians of African descent, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals and female-headed households. I urge relevant parties to ensure that gender and conflict-related sexual violence are central considerations in the Ejército de Liberación Nacional peace process.