Press Release

Women and girls who were victims of sexual violence within illegal armed groups should be considered victims of the conflict in Colombia and therefore entitled to reparations

The Constitutional Court of Colombia, ruling on a case filed by Women’s Link, has set a precedent allowing for reparations to be made to women and girl victims of forced recruitment and reproductive violence

  • Country: Colombia
  • Date: 12/12/2019
Women and girls who were victims of sexual violence within illegal armed groups should be considered victims of the conflict in Colombia and therefore entitled to reparationsHelena in front of the Courthouse in Bogota, Colombia. © Laura Martínez Valero / Women's Link Worldwide

Bogotá, December 12, 2019. - The organization Women’s Link Worldwide filed a constitutional claim on behalf of Helena,* a woman who was forcibly recruited by the FARC when she was 14, then forced to use contraceptives and have an abortion while she was a member of the group. In the claim, the organization asked for urgent protective measures for her right to health and comprehensive reparations, because the Victims Unit has refused to include her in the Registry of Victims (RUV in Spanish), and the public healthcare system has not provided her with adequate treatment for the serious physical and mental health problems she has suffered for years as a result of the reproductive violence she was subjected to while she was with the FARC.

Yesterday, the Court considered the claim and ordered the Victims Unit to add Helena to the RUV, entitling her to reparations under the Victims Law. This is a victory not only for Helena, but also for many other women and girls in similar situations. 

Women’s Link attorney Mariana Ardila says that “Women who went through the same thing Helena went through at the hands of illegal armed groups were in a sort of legal limbo. They were excluded from reparations under the Victims Law because they demobilized or fled as legal adults, and there was no other path to reparations for them. Thanks to this ruling by the Constitutional Court, they will now have access to the comprehensive care they need to move forward with their life projects get the procedures and treatment they need to recover their physical and psychosocial health.” 

The Constitutional Court’s Ruling 

In its ruling, the Constitutional Court held that:

The Victims Law “cannot become an obstacle that keeps victims of sexual violence during the internal armed conflict who were combatants in the ranks of illegal armed groups, having been victims of forced recruitment as minors themselves, from receiving comprehensive reparations, for such an interpretation of the scope of the law would leave them totally unprotected.”

The Court went on to note that: 

“The State should ensure specialized care and assistance for women and girls of all ages who have survived sexual violence committed by armed actors, which includes the obligation to provide victims with immediate, comprehensive, and specialized assistance, with a differential approach and as long as necessary to recover from the physical and psychological harm resulting from the abuse they suffered.”

Women’s Link attorney Juliana Laguna adds that, “Despite the prevalence of reproductive violence in situations of conflict, it has historically been disregarded, and there are very few legal rulings on the issue worldwide. This ruling by the Constitutional Court sets an international precedent for the recognition of this form of violence perpetrated against women and girls within armed groups and the rights that need to be upheld.” 

Amicus Curiae 

The constitutional claim filed by Women’s Link was supported by 17 amicus briefs submitted by domestic and international human rights groups, women’s and victims’ advocacy organizations, scholars, and international experts, including Human Rights Watch, Nobel Women's Initiative, Las Cinco Claves, the Colombian Commission of Jurists, Coalición contra la Inclusión de Niños y Niñas en la Guerra (COALICO), Corporación Mujer Sigue Mis Pasos, and the Public Actions Group at Universidad del Rosario.

* The Constitutional Court refers to the petitioner as Helena to protect her identity and privacy. 

See the following links for more on Helena’s story and pictures for media use. 

For more information:
Sonia Mesa
+57 300 264 8634
+57 350 834 7288

About Women's Link Worldwide

Women’s Link Worldwide is an international organization which uses the power of the law to promote a social change which promotes the rights of women and girls, especially those facing multiple forms of discrimination.

PRESS ROOM VIDEOS
Helena, a story of forced abortion in Colombia
Helena, a story of forced abortion in Colombia

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