TEASER: WHEN WOMAN'S VOICES AREN'T HEARD OVER ALL THE VIOLENCE
Updated: Nov 25, 2021
By Anna Heppermann
Colombia’s history is marked by violence. Apart from the brutal colonialization, the country suffered a series of civil wars. The first one began in 1839 and until 1902 Historians counted at least 54 of them. Although the upcoming period was a bit calmer, social conflicts started to arise. With the Industrialization issues like better working conditions, restructuration of agricultural rights, and Indigenous groups demanding restitution of their communal land came up. That changed again with the assassination of liberal leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán in 1948 and the situation escalated. The upcoming period was then known as La Violencia.
Photo Credits: Anna Heppermann
The Liberals and Communists began to organize self-defense groups and guerrilla groups started to arise. With this development, the violence and crime rate started to increase again. The staged military coup in 1953 then led to the new regime of the Frente National in 1958 which officially declared the period of La Violencia for ended, but the guerrillas stayed. The homicide rates during La Violencia increased drastically which lasted until the 1960s. Only 20 years later in the 1980s with the upcoming Drug war the homicide rates increased again, finding its peak in 1992. At this point guerillas, paramilitaries, and drug cartels were almost inseparable. Nowadays the homicide rate is back to the level of the 1960s. In 2016 than after long negotiations and more than 50 years of conflict the acuerdo de paz (peace agreement) was signed by the Colombian government and the guerilla group FARC. Since then, the usage of firearms may have decreased but other social issues started to surface.
This leads us to the new movement called Paro Nacional in which the citizens lay down labor and tray to block the infrastructure, in order to make their voices heard. The Paro Nacional in 2018 was led by students and condemned the social injustice, especially for the upcoming generations. The demands which were made differ from economic and educational injustices over disagreements on the way the peace agreement was handled, to gender related issues. The Governments reaction to the massive protests nationwide was again marked by violence. Unfortunately, the protests came to a stop as the Covid-19-crisis hit the country in 2020. But then with a new economic reform in 2021, not even the lockdown could stop the people form going on the streets, so on the 28th of April 2021 a new wave of protests began. Once more, several social inequalities were brought to light. But the government reacted like the last times with violence and the main topic in the media was the overall violence. All these events lead to the problem that certain issues were majorly overseen.
With the femicide of Rosa Elvira Cely in 2012, the topic got for the first-time public awareness. These resulted in the low Ley 1761 de 2015¹. But afterwards as in many cases, the issue disappeared from the public discourse. Only in 2018 than the organization Fundación Feminicidios Colombia started to actively research and educate around this topic. The organization confirmed for 2020 294 cases of femicides. Until the 13th of September 2021, there were already 200 cases registered. Regarding the time frame, this shows a 17,65% increase in cases. Because its often difficult to get the needed information in order to be able to declare it a femicide the actual numbers are probably much higher. Because the Organization only reports the ones, which they could clearly identify.
This increase in femicides is frightening and something must change!
But for this change to happen, the problem has to be known and understood. That means that the femicides have to be declared clearly as such. To do that, facts about the cases must be gathered and be available. In addition to that, the structures which lead to the femicides have to be understood in order to be combated. And then of cause, all this information needs space in the public discussion because it isn’t enough that a few people understand the issue to change it. One way of doing that is to use the Paro Nacional to their own advantage. Now with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on the 25th of November 2021 big protests were announced in which gender issues like femicides are broad to light.
To understand the underlying problems better and to find solutions to how actual change can be made I will talk to members of the Fundación Feminicidios Colombia together with the Austrian feminist Organization Cafèmme. Because Femicides, even though that they depend on the individual stations in their countries, are a worldwide problem. So stay tuned for the upcoming CaFèmmeversation on Instagram @cafemme.vienna.
¹The low states the femicide as an autonomy crime, which means that the accused is not only persecuted for murder but as well for the strongest form of gender hate crime.