Report Submitted to Colombia’s Truth Commission Centers the Experiences of Gender-Based Violence Victims During the Internal Armed Conflict


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Colombian Women Speaking Truth to End Violence: Testimonies and Recommendations to Colombia’s Truth Commission under the Peace Accord.


Many women and their organizations across Colombia have come together to document their own experiences with violence during the country’s internal armed conflict, share their testimonies, offer an analysis of the structural roots of violence against women in a patriarchal society, and provide recommendations to ensure such violence does not recur. These efforts resulted in a published report—by Colombian feminist organization Casa de la Mujer, in colloboration with local organizations in Cauca, Córdoba, and Meta departments—entitled “TruthIs: Politicizing Women’s Pain and Emotions.” 

These women’s organizations submitted their report to Colombia’s Truth Commission, which was created in the historic 2016 Peace Accord to uncover the truth about human rights violations during the conflict, promote recognition of the victims and the responsibilities of those in the conflict, and foster coexistence in order to ensure such violence is not repeated. The report discusses the importance of politicizing women’s pain and emotions as a means to raise public awareness about the conflict’s violence against women and provide guarantees these harmful acts will not be repeated. It contains chapters dedicated to the Meta, Córdoba, and Cauca departments that outline women’s rights before armed actors arrived, women’s experiences after they arrived, the acts of violence committed against women, women’s emotions and resistance, and the patriarchal logic and practices of violence perpetrated against women.

The report’s recommendations are vital to addressing all forms of violence against women and ensuring a strong gender approach for understanding the conflict and building lasting peace. Therefore, delivering the report to the Truth Commission is important because it highlights the trailblazing gender provisions in the Peace Accord and urges they be used as mechanisms for justice.

The women’s organizations call on the international community to:

  • Urge the Colombian state to advance the integral implementation of the Peace Accord, in particular with regard to women’s and a gender perspective, demilitarize the response to social protest, and guarantee women’s right to social and political participation;
  • Support the design and implementation of programs and actions aimed at guaranteeing the non-repetition of acts of violence experienced by women;
  • Accompany the process of widely distributing the Truth Commission’s final report when it is published in mid-2022; 
  • Consistently follow-up, through international monitoring, on the implementation of the Truth Commission’s recommendations for coexistence and non-repetition; 
  • Support peacebuilding initiatives led by civil society organizations, especially those led by women.

Below you will find an unofficial translation of a summary of the report.


TruthIs: Politicizing Women’s Pain and Emotions

To guarantee acts of violence perpetrated against women are not repeated, it is necessary to carry out initiatives for coexistence, reconciliation, and peacebuilding.  These initiatives require the inevitable ethical and political responsibilities of explaining how the violence of Colombia’s internal armed conflict, as well as overarching patriarchal and capitalist ideologies, have caused suffering for women. With these responsibilities in mind, the truth narrated by women must contribute to a recognition by Colombian society that their lives are valuable and that this violence against women is a societal concern.  Addressing violence against women at the societal level serves as a step towards healing for women victims of the armed conflict. To politicize the pain and emotions of women is to recognize, understand, and explain the suffering of women; it is accepting that the loss of their lives has not been considered a reason for social or collective mourning, given the unequal distribution of suffering in which women’s pain has not been and is not socially recognized or amplified (Butler, 2006, p. 16). 

Therefore, we hope that our report “TruthIs: Politicizing Women’s Pain and Emotions” will contribute to politicizing both the roots of the patriarchy and the socio-political structures in which we live. We also strive to explain why some lives are more protected than others and why some are more exposed to violence and more susceptible to suffering. Additionally, we also explore why some women manage to process and give a collective and political meaning to their pain through forms of resistance. For example, they accompany other women, promote organizing among women, and demand the building of a society where women are equal and have the same opportunities as men, free from violence.

The report contains a prologue that discusses the importance of politicizing women’s pain and emotions as a means to raise public awareness,  ensure these harmful acts are not repeated, and build lasting peace. The report’s introduction presents the principles, methodology, purpose, and the conceptual elements that guide the information collection and its subsequent analysis. The report then focuses on three of Colombia’s departments: Meta, Córdoba, and Cauca. Each of these chapters addresses women’s rights before armed actors arrived, women’s experiences after armed actors arrived, the acts of violence committed against women, women’s emotions and resistance, and the patriarchal logic and practices of violence perpetrated against women. Additionally, each chapter includes the most relevant dynamics of the armed conflict that help explain the intersection and intertwining of the violence women experienced.

The last chapter analyzes the patriarchal ideology of violence used against women and its expansion, its continuities and discontinuities, and its displacement from private life to the public realm and from the public realm to the private sphere. It includes the practices, stereotypes, and evaluations about women and feminized bodies. The chapter ends with recommendations to Colombia’s Truth Commission to guarantee non-repetition and coexistence.

Women victims from the following groups and regions present recommendations that they hope will contribute to the Truth Commission’s work,  and ultimately contribute to responding to the expectations and needs of women victims: 

  • Women from Caldono, Santander de Quilichao, Lorica, Montería, Tierralta, Valencia, and Granada.
  • The Association of Women of Ariari- Association of Women Building Development for the Region of Ariari Asomuariari
    (Asociación De Mujeres Construyendo Desarrollo para la Región del Ariari, Asomuariari).
  • The Association of Victims of the Internal Armed Conflict of Lorica
    (Asociación de Víctimas por el conflicto armado interno de Lorica, Asovilor).
  • Foundation for Social Development and Agricultural Research
    (Fundación para el Desarrollo Social y la Investigación Agrícola, Fundesia).
  • Network of Social Organizations of Communal and Community Women of Monteria (Red de Organizaciones Sociales de mujeres, Rosmuc).
  1. With regard to interpreting the violent acts against women during the internal armed conflict, we suggest that the Truth Commission:
  • Take into account the existing relationships among armed conflict, patriarchy, and capitalism, and how these contribute to violence against women; that is, creating cartographies that demonstrate the intersection of structural violence with the violence experienced by women because they are women, in all their diverse identities;
  • Recognize that violence against women is fundamental to the mapping of geographies of power, control, and masculinized “disciplining” of women’s bodies and territories; 
  • Highlight the importance of deconstructing the patriarchal and capitalist ideologies that place women’s lives in a place of precariousness that is exacerbated within a scenario of armed confrontation; 
  • Recognize women as holders of rights, in all their diverse identities; implying that the recommendations should ensure that the state guarantee enabling conditions for the effective enjoyment of rights for all women, without any distinction whatsoever. Additionally, it means changing the perspective that all women have the same needs, instead understanding that women victims have individual experiences and rights, allowing them to demand that the state comply with its constitutional and internationally recognized responsibilities.
  1. In order to politicize women’s pain and emotions, we suggest the Truth Commission give a privileged place in its report for women’s pain and emotions. Such pain and emotions are linked to the ruthless exercise of power by men—armed and unarmed—over women, the violence against them, and the dispute over their bodies, their territory. 

Therefore, we suggest the Truth Commission urge the Colombian state to: 

  • Design and agree on national and territorial plans for the psychosocial accompaniment of victims by women’s and victims’ organizations and provide the needed economic and professional resources. Plans should emphasize strategies that focus on women’s pain and care for the body, promoting reflection on the deprivatization of pain, self-care, self-esteem, and autonomy in all their diverse identities. The national and territorial plans should include ancestral knowledge and practices of care and self-care; 
  • Design, coordinate, and implement communication, cultural, and educational strategies that transform images and stereotypes that uplift the value, life, and dignity of women in all their diverse identities; 
  • Build monuments and public parks to honor the memory of women victims and declare sites linked to the violence committed against women during the armed conflict as spaces of memory (after putting together an inventory of sites in consultation with women’s organizations); 
  • Recognize the responsibility of the state, armed actors, and civil society organizations in the territories for the violence committed against women and for the pain caused because they did nothing to stop, denounce, investigate, and punish this violence. They failed to protect women; 
  • Apologize to the victims of sexual violence, especially women and girls, and other people of different sexual orientations and different gender identities for the grave violations committed against them.

In regard to guarantees for non-repetition and reconciliation, we suggest the Colombian Truth Commission: 

  • Immediately comply with the Peace Accord and, in particular, with measures focused on women’s rights and a gender perspective;
  • Design and implement programs and actions that help guarantee non-repetition. They should aim to recognize the experiences and authority of women, as well as remove the structural causes of oppression and subordination, injustices and exclusions, and the violence women experience in public and private spheres; 
  • Give full support and legitimacy to the work of individuals, institutions, and organizations that defend women’s human rights, feminist organizations, and victims’ organizations;
  • Provide support to collective memory initiatives proposed by local institutions, women’s organizations, and communities affected by severe violations of women’s human rights—in all their diverse identities—and international humanitarian law; 
  • Design, coordinate, and implement, in public and private educational centers, a pedagogy for reconciliation based on the recognition of and respect for otherness, dialogue as an option for dealing with public and private conflicts, solidarity and cooperation, as well as the need to legitimize and grant authority to the experience of women in all their diverse identities. The construction of peace and reconciliation requires the transformation of social norms and the material and symbolic elements that reproduce war, discrimination, and privileges for political, economic, social, ethnic, and sexual reasons; 
  • Guarantee the equal participation of women in all their diverse identities in the mechanisms adopted to follow up on the implementation of  the Truth Commission’s recommendations. 

We call upon the international community to: 

  • Urge the Colombian state to advance the integral implementation of the Peace Accord, in particular with regard to women’s rights and a gender perspective, demilitarize the response to social protest, and guarantee women’s right to social and political participation.
  • Support the design and implementation of programs and actions aimed at guaranteeing the non-repetition of acts of violence experienced by women;
  • Accompany the process of widely distributing the Truth Commission’s final report when it is published in mid-2022. 
  • Consistently follow-up, through international monitoring, on the implementation of the Truth Commission’s recommendations for coexistence and non-repetition. 
  • Support peacebuilding initiatives led by civil society organizations, especially those led by women.

Tags: Gender Perspective, Transitional Justice

October 25, 2021

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