My body tells the truth! This was the central message chosen by the Truth, Coexistence and Non-Repetition Commission (Truth Commission) in the first event for survivors of sexual violence in Colombia’ armed conflict.
On 26 June 2019, the Truth Commission invited 30 victims of sexual violence to give their testimonies. Some were read by the victims themselves others were read on behalf of the victims. This event highlighted that sexual violence has been committed by all armed groups legal and illegal in the conflict against the civilian population. In particularly against girls, adolescents and women. Multi-faceted oppression combined with the Colombian conflict to further perpetuated violence against Afro-Colombian and Indigenous girls, adolescents and women.
The testimonies given at this event made it clear that sexual violence has been used throughout the country for different purposes: to dominate and control the body of women, punish, control, send a messages to the enemy registered on the body of women victims, silence community leaders and human rights defenders and to intimidate.
[Conflict-related sexual violence is a] generalised, habitual, extensive, systematic and invisible practice carried out by all groups in the armed conflict’ Colombian Constitutional Court Order T-25 Auto 092 of 2008
Decree law 588 of 2017 established the Truth Commission for a period of three years. Its objectives include:
- To seek the truth of what happened, to shed light on the violations committed, and to offer society a broad explanation of its complexity;
- Maintain the centrality of the victim by guaranteeing victims participation and ensuring their dignity ;
- Promotes recognition of victims’ right to the truth;
- to document patterns of violence and produce a final report
If the work of the Truth Commission is to have an impacting the long-term it should:
- lead to concrete measures being taken by the state and society to actively prevent and eliminate violence against women.
- Address impunity in order to help guarantee non-repetition and a life free of violence for women.
- Recognise and document the connections between violence by armed actors in the conflict and violence in the private sphere.
It will also be important to explore questions such as:
- why has sexual violence impacted disproportionately on women and girls?
- How does racism, patriarchal attitudes and geographic location interact to generate violence against Afro-Colombian and Indigenous Women?
The Truth Commission explains what it understands as the gender Approach:
The gender approach in the work of the Truth Commission is an analysis tool that recognizes the disproportionate impact of the armed conflict on the lives of women and girls as a result of the violence that armed actors exercise against them because of its gender; as well as in the lives of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and intersex because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. In this sense, the Commission incorporates the gender approach as a cross-cutting element throughout the scope of its work.
The Truth Commission has created a gender working group to contribute to tasks of a technical nature, research, preparation of the truth meetings with a gender focus, as well as the coordination with women, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and intersex networks and organisations.
Evidence of the differential ways in which the conflict affected people because of their gender, sexual orientation and gender identity is a starting point for the implementation of measures to restore rights, clarify the patterns of violence to which they were exposed, promote recognition, the responsibility of the perpetrators, to reveal the day to day mechanisms built and that promote the construction of sustainable peace in the rural areas. In this analysis, the Commission will take into account the work already addressed by organizations and women’s movement that have studied the armed conflict and its concrete impacts on women, girls and LGBTI people, from a multi ethnic and multicultural diversity.
On 20 November 2019, the Truth Commission signed a set of agreements with Oxfam, Catholics for the Right to Decide, and the Center for Reproductive Rights in order to strengthen the different actions and relationship with social organisations and community authorities representing women, LGBTI, Peasant farmer, Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities.
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