Posted by: Paula Delgado-Kling | December 2, 2010

Women are most vulnerable among displaced

Colombia’s conflict has produced 4.9 million displaced people, according to CODHES, a well-known NGO dedicated to the human rights of internal refugees.

Back in 2000, in the days of President Pastrana’s demilitarized zone, the town of Mocoa was FARC capital. Nowadays, around 60 percent of Mocoa’s population is comprised of internal refugees.

And the most vulnerable among them are women and girls, falling prey to sexual and domestic violence.

Many refugee women arrive in Mocoa as head of their household because the father or male figures have been killed. They also find themselves without social or community networks.

The latest figures for violence against women in Mocoa, compiled by Colombia’s National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences, show 28 cases of murder, 190 of sexual violence and 253 of domestic violence between 2004 and 2008. Many of the victims were under 18 years of age. Those are significant totals for a little town of 36,000 people.

Further, few victims report cases of sexual violence: indigenous women, for example, face stigmatization if word spreads that they have been assaulted by strangers or beaten in their homes. Most victims are also very young and have little or no knowledge of their rights, including how to file a complaint. Another problem has been the lack of institutional capacity to effectively address sexual violence.

Related reading:

Sexual and Gender-Based Violence against Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons. Guidelines for Prevention and Response, UNHCR (SGVB Guidelines)

Guidelines for Gender-based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings, Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC)

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