Nº 49/06





The actors in the Colombian armed conflict, in particular the paramilitary groups and the guerrilla, employ physical, sexual and psychological violence against women as a strategy of war.  This is one of the most alarming conclusions of a report prepared by the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Women of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) that becomes public today.  Violence and Discrimination Against Women in the Armed Conflict in Colombia also reveals that discrimination against women aggravates the impact of the violence on them, their families and communities.  The report also reviews the particularly critical situation of indigenous and Afro-descendent women, who confront not only the consequences of gender-based discrimination, but also those derived from their ethnic or racial background.


The report addresses the recruitment of girls and young women by armed groups such as the AUC (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia) and the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia).  Girls are raped and forced to place intrauterine devices and even to practice abortions.  The report states that "paramilitary leaders [….] order the search of girls between the ages of 12 and 14 to live with them, provide sexual services and perform domestic duties".  In the course of the investigations, the IACHR received information about a young pregnant woman that was murdered as a reprisal for having escaped.  Her baby was removed from her womb and displayed as a symbol to discourage other girls in the same situation from escaping. 


The IACHR also considers alarming that all armed actors in the conflict commit aggressions against organizations working to defend the rights of women.  The report indicates that armed actors find that "the leadership exercised by women’s rights organizations challenges the extent of their social and territorial control".  This has led “to the systematic intimidation, persecution, kidnapping, torture and sexual abuse” of representatives from these organizations.


Forms of violence resulting from the armed conflict have fueled the forced displacement of more than two million persons, with a high percentage of families headed by women (four out of ten).  The report discusses how displaced women suffer discrimination from the armed groups that generate the displacement and the receiving communities.  The investigation confirmed that when women seek justice, they receive an inadequate treatment and response from the judicial branch.  This increases their fear to report the crimes and their mistrust in the capacity of the judicial instances to remedy the violations of their rights.  This also promotes an environment of impunity which perpetuates the treatment of women as spoils of war by the armed actors. 


Colombia stands out for the adoption of key norms and public policies that recognize and protect the rights of women, as well as the jurisprudential advances of its Constitutional Court.   Despite these measures, the absence of an integral State policy is evident that addresses the specific impact of the armed conflict on women with a coordinated and multidisciplinary approach that includes the specific needs of women throughout the national territory.  The report discusses how "the State seems to lack an integral vision and an effective preparation to address the consequences of violence and discrimination that the conflict imposes on women.  The existing policy framework does not provide an adequate base for the implementation of integral programs and services for victims that include the justice, education and health sectors."  The report formulates recommendations to the State to redress this situation.


The Executive Summary of this report is attached to this press release.  Its complete text is available at the IACHR website,


Washington, D.C., December 5, 2006