Colombia: Abducted, Raped and Mutilated, Punished for Wearing 'Low-Slung' Jeans - Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights And Girls are Terrorised by Both Sides, Says New Report

Following an international meeting held in London last July, Colombia was the recipient of a £250 million EU aid agreement based on the need to improve human rights – the 'London Declaration'.

Yet Amnesty International’s 48-page report, 'Scarred Bodies, Hidden Crimes: sexual violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in the armed conflict', based on first-hand testimonies, shows how worsening violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights is extending even to the imposition by armed groups of rules of conduct and dress codes.

Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls have had their heads shaved for wearing cropped tops, have been stripped naked and publicly humiliated for wearing shorts and threatened with punishment for wearing 'low-slung' jeans. Other punishments have included floggings and mutilation with knives.

One inhabitant of Cartagena told Amnesty International: '[The paramilitaries] told girls they mustn’t wear cropped tops (ombligueras) and low-slung jeans. The boys were banned from having long hair or wearing earrings … a young woman had acid put in her belly button. A young man had his earrings ripped off injuring his ears.'

The report points out that despite mounting evidence of gross human rights violations perpetrated against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls, in the four years to the end of 2003 no investigations into crimes of sexual violence were carried out by the Colombian Attorney General’s Office.

Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Stephen Bowen said:

'Not content to terrorise whole communities under their control, paramilitaries on one side and guerilla groups on the other are increasingly imposing punitive codes of conduct on entire towns and villages.

'Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls are being abducted, raped, sexually abused and even killed because they behave in ways seen as unacceptable to the combatants. Violent punishments for wearing low-cut tops or 'low-slung' jeans are a macabre twist in this dreadful conflict.

'It is time for armed groups in Colombia to stop making Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’s bodies into a battleground and for the Colombian government to hold those who do strictly to account.'

Cases featured in the report include:

  • Omaira Fernández, 16, from the Arauca Department, who in May last year was raped and killed by armed men. Omaira, who was pregnant, had her belly ripped open. According to one source: 'They opened her up in front of everyone. The bodies of the girl and the baby were thrown in the river'. The killing occurred after soldiers from the army’s Brigade XVIII, wearing armbands of the AUC paramilitaries, reportedly entered several indigenous reserves in Arauca.
  • A 14-year-old girl, from Medellín, who was found dead with her breasts cut off. Residents from the area said she was first undressed in the street and a sign was attached to her saying 'I’m a lesbian'. She was reportedly raped by three armed men, believed to be paramilitaries.
  • 'Liliana', aged 18, who has been living in hiding for eight months in Comuna 13. Aged 16, ELN guerillas tried to forcibly recruit her. When she refused, they drugged her. She escaped by feigning pregnancy, fleeing the area. Fearing she had been discovered, she returned only to be arrested by security forces that threatened to hand her over to the paramilitaries. In January 2003 paramilitaries abducted her. She fled again.

    Since January 2004 her anxiety has increased, with rumours that guerrillas are returning. Recently several young Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights have been raped, mutilated and killed, allegedly by paramilitaries.

    Liliana says: 'There are lots of girls hiding in this neighbourhood. I know one who made a hole in the ground to hide in. Any noise I hear I think they’re coming for me. We are all afraid. At the moment I’m afraid because of the disappearances and the fact that girls' bodies turn up later naked and 'chopped up'. There are many cases of girls who have been sexually abused and murdered here but people are afraid to say anything. Everyone is afraid. The girls are isolated. ...'

Amnesty International’s report shows that the Colombian authorities have been unwilling to bring those responsible to justice. When a human rights case involving Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls is investigated, the treatment of victims by the authorities is often degrading and the perpetrators are very rarely identified, and even less so punished. Medical treatment for survivors is almost non-existent even for those who can afford it.

Stephen Bowen added:

'Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights survivors of sexual violence are punished again and again. Not only have they been sexually abused but they are often rejected by their family, humiliated by the legal system, refused medical care, and rarely see their attacker brought to justice.

'For them the prospects of a conviction are virtually zero.'

Many Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’s organisations in Colombia have sought to fill the gap by providing medical assistance and advice to Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights survivors. Many of these organisations have in turn found themselves the target of the armed groups because their work is seen as helping the 'enemy'.

Amnesty International is calling on the international community, including Britain, to exert pressure on both the Colombian government and armed groups to end violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and to ensure that no military aid or arms transfers contribute to human rights violations.

The organisation is also calling on the Colombian government to conduct thorough, impartial investigations into sexual violence and to prosecute those responsible; ensure the provision of adequate services for victims and education programmes for community leaders; remove the crime of rape from the jurisdiction of the military justice system; and maintain reliable, up-to-date statistics on complaints relating to sexual violence.

Amnesty International’s report also calls on armed groups to issue instructions to all combatants under their control not to commit rape and other forms of sexual violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls, whether civilians, their own combatants, or members of the armed forces and their paramilitary allies; and to publicly denounce violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights.

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