Press release

Women’s Link Worldwide files an initial report with the Colombian Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP in Spanish) documenting violations of the reproductive rights of women and girls within the ranks of the FARC

The report includes the stories of about 35 women, including the emblematic case of Helena,* a woman who was forcibly recruited by the FARC when she was a child, then forced to have an abortion and use contraceptives, a widespread and systematic practice within the group

This represents an opportunity for the JEP to set an important international precedent by defining violations of the reproductive rights of women and girls within armed groups as serious human rights violations and war crimes 

  • Country: Colombia
  • Date: 07/10/2019
Women’s Link Worldwide files an initial report with the Colombian Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP in Spanish) documenting violations of the reproductive rights of women and girls within the ranks of the FARCHelena at the Courthouse in Colombia © Laura Martínez Valero / Women's Link Worldwide

Bogotá, October 7, 2019 - The organization Women’s Link Worldwide is filing an initial report with the Chamber for Recognition, Truth, Responsibility, and Determination of Facts and Conduct of the JEP. The report, entitled “Violaciones a derechos reproductivos de mujeres y niñas al interior de las filas de las FARC-EP: una deuda de la justicia” (“Violations of the Reproductive Rights of Women and Girls within the Ranks of the FARC-EP: Justice in Debt”), documents crimes committed against women and girls during the internal armed conflict.

An emblematic case in the report is that 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 guerrilla group. Because of the unsafe conditions in which the abortion was performed, and the fact that it was done by force and coercion, she still suffers serious health complications today. Helena epitomizes the cases of the many women and girls who are seeking justice before the JEP for these forms of violence.

Her case is an example of the reproductive rights violations committed against women and girls in armed groups during the conflict in Colombia: sterilizations, forced abortions, forced pregnancies, and forced use of contraceptives, forms of violence seldom recognized by domestic or international justice systems, particularly when they are committed within the ranks of armed groups.

Requests before the JEP

With this case, the JEP has an opportunity to set one of the world’s first precedents on reproductive rights violations within armed groups and send a message to any groups that are still operating in the country, recruiting girls, and subjecting them to these forms of violence.

“We are asking the Special Jurisdiction for Peace to put an end to impunity and recognize that violations of reproductive rights within the ranks of the FARC were a systematic and widespread practice constituting war crimes and serious human rights violations. This court’s work will not be done until these crimes are investigated, prosecuted, and punished, and the voices and the stories of the victims are heard. Many of these women are still at acute risk today,” notes Women’s Link attorney Mariana Ardila.

Juliana Laguna, an attorney with the same organization, adds, “Women’s Link’s position is that all women and girls, whether civilians or combatants, are entitled to chose motherhood or legal abortion for themselves, both in times of peace and in times of war. Nobody—not the state, not armed actors—can decide for them. Regardless of what country or armed group we’re talking about, the victims must receive truth, justice, and reparations.”

Taking Helena’s case to the Constitutional Court

Helena’s case has also been brought before the Constitutional Court of Colombia through a tutela action for reparations. This case, too, could set an important precedent for women and girls who are victims of reproductive rights violations within armed groups.

The Unit for Attention and Reparation of Victims has refused to include Helena in the Registry of Victims as a victim of sexual violence for the forced abortion she was subjected to, effectively blocking her access to the reparations meant for survivors of this form of violence.

*Name changed to protect her identity.

See the links below for a video of Helena telling her story and photographs, audio and video that may be used in media pieces:

For more information 

Sonia Mesa

+57 3002648634

+57 3508347288

s.mesa@womenslinkworldwide.org



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.

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