MARCH 2009

The  effects of the intersection between militarism and sexism in Colombian society


By Maria Suarez Toro, FIRE


Statistics are taken form the document about discrimination and authoritarianism against women in government policy in Colombia presented by 18 women´s organizations [1]in Colombia at the meeting with the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights on October 28, 2008.




Context - inequalities in Colombian society: A Gini index of 0.576%. In spite of its economic growth (8.03%), unemployment persists (11.2%), affecting women most: The female unemployment rate is 14.7% as opposed to 8.3% unemployment among men. Furthermore, 330,000 rural jobs have been lost.[2] 

The right to a decent job is basic and strategic for overcoming discrimination and violence against women. In Colombia , women have entered the job market massively even as rights are curtailed through legal reforms and an increase in precarious jobs: during the past six years, the number of the so-called cooperatives for associative work (cooperativas de trabajo asociado)[3] rose from 50,000 to almost 500,000.[4] 

Job precariousness has affected primarily sectors with a majority of female labor: services (77.5%), textiles (60%), and agroindustry (70%). At present, women in Colombia work more and earn less, have no guarantee of a permanent income, and face great difficulties in gaining access to social security.[5]


  • Militarization of Colombian society:


-       Number of personnel: Between 2002 until today, the number of soldiers per 1,000 inhabitants has almost doubled. At present there are 4.9 soldiers for each irregular combatant (guerrillas and paramilitaries). The figures show also an increase in guerrilla combatants: for every 100 combatants rendered out of combat.


-       Public spending priorities are set: The Colombian state invests nearly 6.5% of the GDP on military spending.[6]  For 2008, it is expected that 81.2% of all public sector jobs will be filled by public servants assigned to defense, security, and policing tasks. Total investment in the security sector is equivalent to the sum of investment in health, education, and sanitation together.[7]


  • Assassinations of women: Between July 2002 and December 2007, at least 1,314 women lost their lives out of combat as a result of sociopolitical violence; of these, 179 were victims of forced disappearance. In cases in which the presumed generic perpetrator of the violations is known, 70% is attributed to State responsibility and 30% to guerrilla groups; at least 82 women were victims of torture.


  • Kidnapping of women: Women are still becoming victims of kidnapping: at least 1,944 women lost their freedom as a result of this crime. Paramilitary groups are the presumed perpetrators of 564 of these cases.[8]


  • Forced displacement of women: An increase of 41%  of displacement of people took place during the first semester of the current year in comparison with the same period in 2007,[9] affecting women in a special way – both quantitatively (53%)[10] and qualitatively –, who, besides facing historic discrimination because of their ethnic, social, and gender identities, must also face yet another type of discrimination: that of being victims of forced displacement. 98% of these homes are under the poverty line, and 81% under the indigence line.[11]


  • Arbitrary detentions: Between 2003 to today, the arbitrarily detained population increased 300% where at least 483 of them were women. 


  • Sexual violence against women: According to official data (Prosecutor General’s Office and National Institute for Forensic Medicine), State security forces.[12] Rank highest among all the combatant groups that perpetrate sexual violence. According to analyses by NGOs, the participation of the State security forces in acts of sexual violence almost tripled, in percentage points, in the last five-year period in comparison with the immediately preceding period.[13]


  • Forced prostitution in war and conflict by paramilitary: Some reports reveal that in many areas of the country, paramilitary groups have taken advantage of the conditions of poverty and exclusion faced by women to gain control of their bodies and their lives through lending them money. The testimonies of some women give an account of this practice, known as “daily pay” (“paga diario”):[14]:  “As payment for the debt, they demand the surrender of the body of the women or of their daughters;” “the daily pay has given rise to an increase in the phenomenon of prostitution;” “the daily pay system is controlled by demobilized persons; they arrive in the regions offering important amounts of money to displaced persons.” Displaced women are the most frequent victims of the “daily pay” system as a new form of slavery. 


  • Feminicide and domestic violence: In the period between 2000 and 2005, two important aspects of feminicide – the assassination of women because they are women – can be observed: In the first place, an increase in the rate of women assassinated in the context of family violence; and secondly, the fact that they are assassinated by their sentimental partners, companions, and spouses. [15] Between 2001 and 2005, a 10% increase was registered in the rate of women assassinated as a result of family violence. Women are the primary victims of family violence (91.1%).[16]


Full document by Colombian women´s organizations

1.        [1] Alianza Iniciativa de Mujeres Colombianas por la Paz-IMP

2.        Asociación Nacional de Mujeres Campesinas, Negras e Indígenas de Colombia - ANMUCIC.

3.        Centro de Estudios de Derecho, Justicia y Sociedad - DeJuSticia

4.        Colombia Diversa

5.        Comisión Colombiana de Juristas - CCJ

6.        Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento - CODHES

7.        Corporación Casa de la Mujer

8.        Corporación de Investigación y Acción Social y Económica - CIASE

9.        Corporación Humanas - Colombia

10.     Corporación Sisma Mujer

11.     Facultad de Filosofía de la Universidad de la Salle

12.     Instituto Latinoamericano de Servicios Legales Alternativos programa de derechos humanos y mujeres - ILSA

13.     La Alianza - Organizaciones sociales y afines por una cooperación para la paz y la democracia en Colombia.

14.     Liga de Mujeres Desplazadas

15.     Liga Internacional de Mujeres por la Paz y la Libertad – Limpal Colombia

16.     Mesa de Trabajo Mujer y Conflicto Armado

17.     Red Nacional de Mujeres

18.     Ruta Pacífica de las Mujeres



[3] The cooperatives for associative work are a modality of contracting services through which labor relations are broken. There is no employer and no employee since the workers “associate voluntarily” to offer their services. The workers are responsible for their own social security and other obligations that the employers assumed in the past. These cooperatives have become labor intermediaries in which union organization is not possible.

[4] Cecilia López Montaño, Informe para sustentar la ley de Transformación Social hacia una Nueva Política Social (Report Justifying the Law of Social Transformation toward a New Social Policy) presented in the Senate of the Republic, October 2, 2008.

[5] Make Trade Fair Campaign: My Rights are Not Negotiable – More for Less. Bogotá, 2005

[6] Op. cit., Note 6.

[7] Op. cit., Note 6.

15 Escuela Nacional Sindical de Antioquia (ENS – National Union School), Plataforma Colombiana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo (Colombian Platform for Human Rights, Democracy, and Development),  Crecimiento y déficit: La ficción del trabajo decente en Colombia, Informe Nacional del Trabajo Decente en el año 2007 (Growth and Deficit: The Fiction of Decent Work in Colombia, National Report on Decent Work in the Year 2007), Bogotá, October 6, 2008.

[8] According to data by Fondelibertad, an office of the Ministry of Defense charged with coordinating policies against kidnappings and other crimes against personal freedom.  The supposed authorship in the case of women are attributed as follows: 73.19% (1,423 victims) to common delinquency groups, guerrilla groups, and paramilitary groups. Of these, 39.63% (564 victims) are attributed to guerrilla groups and 6.11% to paramilitaries. Cases are also known in which active and retired State agents have participated. Nonetheless, the official statistics to not reveal the cases of hostage taking committed by State agents. The data cited from Fondelibertad cover the period between January 2002 and December 2007.

[9] Codhes Informa, Bulletin Number 74, Bogotá, September 25, 2008, 

[10] Comisión Nacional de Seguimiento (National Follow-Up Commission), Encuesta Nacional de Verificación (National Verification Survey), September 25, 2008.

[11] Ibíd.

[12] See in: Instituto Nacional de Medicina Legal y Ciencias Forenses (INML – National Institute of Forensic Medicine), Informes periciales por presunto delito sexual, Colombia, 2007 (Expert Reports on Presumed Sexual Crimes), in  and in  Corporación Sisma Mujer, Violencia Sexual, Conflicto Armado y Justicia en Colombia (Sexual Violence, Armed Conflict, and Justice in Colombia) Bogotá, Sisma Mujer, August 2007, p. 14.

[13] See in: Colombian Commission of Jurists, La violencia contra las mujeres y las niñas en Colombia: agravada por la política de “seguridad” del Estado (Violence Against Women and Girls in Colombia: Worsened by the State’s “Security” Policy) , Bogotá, mimeo, October 2008.  

[14] Effects of paramilitary demobilization on the lives of women. Todas y Todos, radio broadcast 98.5, transmitted on September 7, 2008 in:     

[15]Olga Amparo Sánchez, Las Violencias contra las mujeres en una sociedad en guerra (The Violences Against Women in a Society at War), Ruta Pacífica de las Mujeres Colombianas, Bogotá, June 2008, p. 45.


[16] Ibid.

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