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Creating a Space for Justice in Colombia

Posted on: Thursday, November 10, 2011

Keywords: Colombia, Latin America, Women's Human Rights, Sexual Rights, Combating Violence Against Women

Symbolic Tribunal in Colombia

Women living at the frontlines of Colombia’s decades-long conflict are rarely heard. But if the world listened, these women could tell the hidden story of armed conflict. They could show how women are targeted for sexual violence as a tactic of war.

MADRE was recently part of an essential effort to give women the chance to tell their stories. Lisa Davis, MADRE’s Human Rights Advocacy Director, served as a judge in a Symbolic Tribunal.

Because of widespread impunity, many Colombian women who have survived rape and sexual violence never see justice. They never get the chance to let the world know what happened to them. This Symbolic Tribunal, spearheaded by the human rights organization Corporacion Humanas Colombia, provided that opportunity.

The event showed how sexual violence is a deliberate tactic of war used to terrorize communities. It offered symbolic reparation for women who were denied justice. It also drew attention to Colombia’s staggering rates of impunity for sexual crimes against women. Finally, it emphasized the importance of swift and effective legal action against perpetrators.

The Tribunal presented nine cases of sexual violence committed by policemen, guerillas and paramilitaries. Women told their harrowing stories of the violent sexual crimes and trauma they had endured. Many audience members were moved to tears during the testimonies.

Three experts also gave presentations to the court. These provided forensic documentation of sexual crimes committed against women. They also talked about the human rights obligations of the state to survivors of sexual violence.

After deliberation, the judges announced a five-page decision that lauded the bravery of the women who presented their cases.

MADRE applauds the strength and courage of the many women who shared their stories. They challenge impunity and envision a future where Colombian women are guaranteed their human rights.  

Photo Credit: Contagio Radio


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