Jineth Bedoya: Sexual violence in war is very normalized

The Colombian journalist Jineth Bedoyawhich has become a symbol of the fight against sexual violence in armed conflicts in Latin Americaassures that this “crime against humanity” is so “naturalized and normalized” that it is seen as “something that touches us” to experience women.

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“There is a war and in the middle of it there are going to be hundreds of raped women, but they say that “it is what they have to do because they are women and because they are in the middle of the war,” Bedoya assures in an interview with Efe on the occasion of his designation by the UN as Champion in the Fight Against Sexual Violence in conflicts.

“We are seeing it in Ukraine with the Russian troops who have committed barbaric acts with the Ukrainians and with the Russians who live there. But we also see it in the refugee camps of women who have left Syria and in Mexico, in that behavior that the drug cartels have,” he adds.

This normalization, he explains, is what has caused sexual violence to be used in wars as a “recurring” weapon to punish the enemy. And he regrets that the international community does not take strong action to stop this attack on the human rights.

“The efforts we make to make this visible remain more in political discourse and paper commitments than in real actions. Of the 120 countries that signed the agreement six years ago to implement actions in their government policies to stop the sexual violence in the midst of armed confrontations or criminality, only three or four nations have invested resources,” he says.

“The rest only talk about it when a meeting arrives in United Nations and are held accountable or on November 25 (International Day of the Elimination of Violence against women). The rest of the year they don’t remember,” she adds.

Now, he assures, he will take advantage of his designation as “Global Champion” to “raise your voice” not only “for the victims and survivors of Colombiabut for the victims and survivors of all the places in the world where today we have to face armed conflicts”.

“I think part of my responsibility is to be there reminding them that there are thousands of women and girls who are being violated in all forms and that this is not just against one person, but against society, because sexual violence has that destructive power,” he says.

In October 2021, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued a historic sentence against the Colombian State in which it was held responsible for the systematic impunity of which the journalist was a victim after the rapes and torture she suffered on May 25, 2000, when she was intercepted and kidnapped by paramilitaries at the gates of La Modelo prison, in Bogota.

A ruling that recognizes the use of sexual violence as a weapon to intimidate journalists and that for Bedoya is “a great step towards justice.”

“I believe that the impact of the Court’s ruling is vindication. In the justice process there are many stages, including that moral justice that many times is the most vindictive and the most necessary and is the one that they believe you. In addition, it gives a glimmer of hope to millions of people because in our countries, unfortunately, impunity, especially in this type of crime, is so high that it becomes part of the landscape,” he emphasizes.

According to the study of sexual violence in Colombia of the National Center of Historical MemoryIn the context of the armed conflict, at least 15,786 victims of rape were registered. Bedoya doubles that figure: “With various organizations we have documented more than 40,000 cases (…) and there is 98% impunity.”

It is for this reason that he has asked the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), the transitional justice body created ad hoc by the 2016 peace treaty, to open a macro case on sexual violence in the Colombian conflict.

“I believe that reality is going to explode in their faces. As a journalist I can tell you that I have all the first-hand information that the JEP definitely does not want to open the case because it considers that sexual violence is a related crime and not a autonomous crime that was engineered, systematically ordered by the different armed groups. And that is a big mistake.”

And he also regrets that, in the middle of the electoral campaign, “no” candidate has spoken about this. “From “It’s not time to shut up” and from other instances we have asked all the candidates to open a space, to at least make a comment in the different discussions and in its pronouncements on sexual violence. None have accepted. And I think that’s a very clear message.”

“It is impossible that whoever is going to lead this country, whether from the left or from the right, does not have in his government policies to address sexual violence, especially considering everything that we have made visible internationally and the high degree of impunity that this country has. “, he concludes.

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Jineth Bedoya: Sexual violence in war is very normalized