Colombia: Violence against Women and Information Communication Technologies

4 November 2009

By Lucy Niño and Lida Nuñez

Read the English abstract of the paper below. Full paper is available in Spanish.

In 2004, 52,000 women suffered violence, 91% at the hands of spouses, partners or boyfriends. About 2,500 of these women suffered sexual violence. Sexual attacks against women also take place in hospitals, police stations, schools and nursing homes.

Furthermore, internal war in Colombia is a source of violence against women (VAW).

Trafficking of Colombian women involves a good number of young women who are lured to abroad via promises of jobs and find themselves trapped by trafficking networks.

About 50,000 Colombian women are caught in prostitution outside the country, many of them forced to take drugs. In the countryside, women become involved in prostitution because of the internal violence, predominantly forced by militia, paramilitary, or armed forces. Women in conflict areas are liable to suffer sexual violence and exploitation as domestic workers by armed organisations. Their land is posessed by the military or powerful local landowners. In 2007, 90 women in conflict areas were condemned to death with no trial. Women are heads of households in 67.8% of the displaced families in war areas. There is trafficking of women and girls in conflict areas where they are forced to join the parties in conflict. In 2007, between 7 and 8 thousand boys and girls were members of the armed forces in conflict. In urban militia, 25% of the members were young girls. In Colombia, there is a law on VAW and also on trafficking.

Thirty-eight percent of the population uses internet regularly. Almost thirteen percent have internet services at home, and 87% of families have at least one cell phone. Approximately thirty-six percent of internet users are women. The Colombian government has paid special attention to ICT policies, offering ICT literacy programmes and ICT inclusion in marginalised areas. ICTs are used to promote prostitution and pornography produced in the country via the internet and cellphones. Government has produced a campaign to foster a “healthy use” of internet and to protect children. Social movements and women´s movements have also used ICTs for anti-VAW campaigning, supporting survivors and promoting images of women free from stereotypes in the media.

Main recommendations for action:

Government: the country needs urgent action to end VAW in public, private and institutional spaces, in the internal armed conflict and in the symbolic sphere. There is a need to unify all information systems and to strengthen the Inter-institutional Committee Against Trafficking to prevent this crime and assist victims.

Though there are laws that try to prevent VAW and punish perpetrators, there are no public policies aimed to eradicate VAW. In the ICT arena, government has made progress in ICT use and universal ICT access programmes. More has to be done and measures should be taken to prevent ICT use in VAW. Government should also take steps to protect women in conflict areas, where they are victims of different kinds of violence (economic, social and sexual).

Civil society organisations: organisations should start using ICTs strategically to prevent VAW, via campaigns, research, information and analysis. They should be able to disseminate good practices to overcome VAW.

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