These days it is marked that the UN Security Council this year 2000 passed Resolution No. 1325 on women, peace and security. The purpose of the resolution was to focus attention on how women are affected by conflict, to ensure women's participation in peace processes, and to ensure the protection and prevention of conflict. Eight follow-up resolutions elaborate and further develop issues related to women's participation in peace processes and women's protection needs: Women must also be able to participate actively in politics and community building. Equality is important in order to achieve lasting peace.
This was the theme of an October meeting organized by Norwegian Women's Affairs Association og International Women's League for Peace and Freedom.
Women at the negotiating table
In the peace process for Colombia, Norway was one of the facilitator countries. Only in 2013 did women join the delegations. After three negotiating points (land distribution and rural development, political participation and drugs) were finalized, a subcommittee on gender-related issues was established in 2014. Particularly during the negotiations on the victims' position, the women's organizations actively participated, insisting that they include five important points that include the demands for the eradication of sexual violence, the establishment of a truth commission and a special tribunal that addresses sexual violence cases in the conflict.
The peace treaty in Colombia was designated by the UN as the clearest peace treaty in the world
gender and gender equality perspectives.
A dedicated program will not only ensure uprising for women who have been subjected to sexual violence, but also prevent relapse. All points – including the full gender review – were included in the peace agreement. The points about sexual violence were particularly contentious: Both government forces, paramilitaries and guerrillas have practiced sexual violence in Colombia and fear what may emerge when the cases are brought before the Truth Commission.
After more than 50 years of conflict, the peace agreement between the government of Colombia and the guerrilla organization FARC-EP was signed in November 2016. By then, the parties had been meeting in Havana in Cuba since 2012 with Norwegian diplomats of both sexes as active listeners and facilitators.
Women, peace and security were one of the main areas for the Norwegian delegation. Norway had actively supported Colombian women's organizations for several years through the FOKUS women organization. It was therefore natural to encourage both women to participate actively at the negotiating table and to have the gender perspective included in the agreement.
The peace agreement was designated by the UN to be the peace agreement in the world with the clearest gender and gender perspective. According to the opposition, which consisted of conservative and evangelical leaders, the gender perspective was the main reason for the peace agreement being voted down by the referendum on October 2, 2016. The agreement was revised by the parties and the opposition and passed by Congress in November of that year, just in time for President Santos to travel to Norway and receive the Peace Prize.
Three years later, the picture is little encouraging: it confirms that the political violence in Colombia is almost endemic, as Nobel Laureate Gabriel Garcia Márquez describes it in his novel One hundred years of solitude.
Violent election campaign
On Sunday, October 27, local elections were held. The election campaign has been very violent. According to a report from the Election Observation Committee (MOE), from October 27, 2018 to August 27, 2019, 364 local politicians and social leaders have been subjected to violent threats, assaults or kidnapping, a total of 91 killed. The most vulnerable are candidates who run for election to a political party, election officials, social leaders and leaders of human rights organizations, journalists and others. Unfortunately, the data from MOE is not broken down by gender.
There are still almost six million internally displaced people in Colombia due to the violent conflicts in the country. Instead of declining according to the peace agreement, the number is increasing, much due to the new illegal and violent groups that have partly taken over the areas of the FARC. Over sixty percent of internally displaced women are women, and a large proportion of them have been subjected to sexual violence. Many flee to major cities such as the capital Bogotá to get away.
The peace agreement states that the perpetrators must be notified and prosecuted. Women organizations that work specifically with displaced persons report that many women feel that the abusers are tracking them down and threatening them with life to prevent notification.
As bleak as it seems in Colombia, both single women and women's organizations dare to stand up and contribute to openness and improvement. Journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima was kidnapped, tortured and raped by paramilitary groups while working for the El Espectador newspaper in 2000. Three years later, she was kidnapped by the FARC. She now works in the newspaper Weather, and in 2010 she started the campaign No it hears the callar (Now is not the time to shut up). The intention is that women who have been subjected to sexual violence by the parties to the conflict should be able to come up with their stories. The promotion will appear on El Tiempo's TV station.
Another fearless journalist is Marta Ruiz in the weekly magazine Semana. Since 2008 she has managed the site verdadabierta.com (the open truth), where women who have been subjected to sexual violence, or have experienced family members disappearing, can tell their stories. Marta Ruiz is now a member of the Truth Commission.