Colombia sees surge in femicides amid uptick in violence

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Medellin, Colombia – Letica Estacio hoped the wave of gender-based violence that surged during the coronavirus lockdown in Colombia would sluggish after the South American nation eased restrictions in early September.

However after the five-month lockdown was lifted, femicides – the killing of girls because of their gender – surged throughout the nation, knowledge from Colombia’s Femicide Observatory exhibits.

A mean of practically three ladies a day have been killed in Colombia in September, with 86 femicides recorded within the month. It’s the highest month-to-month complete researchers have documented since they started monitoring the killings in 2017.

Watchdogs stated the spike in violence towards ladies is a product of compounding long-term ripple results of the pandemic – a resurgence of armed group violence and financial fallout – that disproportionately have an effect on ladies.

“On daily basis the battle will get worse and worse. The narcotrafficking, the killings,” stated Estacio, a 52-year-old ladies rights chief within the western coastal metropolis of Tumaco. “It’s extremely heavy, and much more so for ladies.”

Girls participate in a protest towards violence towards ladies in Medellin, Colombia, on June 19, 2020, amid the brand new coronavirus pandemic [Joaquin Sarmiento/AFP]

Surge in gender-based violence

Originally of the pandemic, nations the world over noticed rises in home violence as lockdowns restrictions closed ladies in with their abusers. Latin America, a area which recorded excessive charges of gender-based violence earlier than the pandemic, felt that even more acutely.

Estacio and different leaders in Tumaco, a hub for narcotrafficking and armed battle, have been overwhelmed by an preliminary surge in home violence circumstances after the nation entered a nationwide lockdown in March.

However because the state diverted sources from some components of the nation with a purpose to give attention to bringing the coronavirus outbreak underneath management, a patchwork of felony teams – left-wing fighters, right-wing paramilitaries and narcotrafficking gangs – moved into areas vacated by the federal government and waged territorial warfare.

“Right here, there’s no such factor as regulation,” Estacio stated.

In consequence, mass killings and comparable bloodshed paying homage to occasions earlier than the nation’s 2016 peace course of have jumped country-wide.

Sexual and gender-based violence have lengthy been used as instruments of warfare to sow terror in communities. Now, Estefania Rivera Guzman, a researcher on the Observatory, is anxious that the strategic focusing on of girls could possibly be on the uptick.

Up to now in 2020, the group has registered 445 circumstances of femicide, up from 431 circumstances throughout the identical interval in 2019. The numbers recorded in September have been greater than double ranges witnessed earlier this 12 months.

Since September, ladies’s rights leaders have additionally famous one other disturbing growth: As armed teams conflict in rural areas and exploit vulnerabilities attributable to the pandemic to extend youngster recruitment, there was a spike within the variety of ladies and women killed by firearms.

In current weeks, one man pleaded responsible to beating and stabbing a girl who rejected his sexual advances, throwing her into the western Cauca River the place her physique was discovered floating.

Close to Tumaco, armed males reportedly stopped and shot up the automotive of a neighborhood ladies’s and Indigenous rights chief.

And within the central city of Segovia, one 14-year-old lady was reportedly killed by a hitman and, a day after being buried, her physique was discovered unearthed and bare within the cemetery.

“It’s these acts of violence which are so excessive that they ship a message,” Rivera Guzman stated. “And the message isn’t only for ladies, but additionally for the boys who stay within the zone, and it’s: Who has the facility?”

Whereas officers in Segovia stated they “reject all violent acts” towards ladies and women and police say they’re investigating the crime, nearly all of femicides within the nation finish in impunity.

Girls play drums throughout a protest towards violence towards ladies in Medellin, Colombia, on June 19, 2020, amid the brand new coronavirus pandemic [Photo by Joaquin Sarmiento/AFP]

In Tumaco, Estacio and different observers say ladies are sometimes too scared to report gender-based violence as a result of males working with armed teams camp exterior authorities places of work the place ladies would usually report.

Financial misery

In the meantime, the financial fallout attributable to the pandemic and the lockdowns has disproportionately affected ladies, placing them extra at heightened danger.

Earlier than the COVID-19 outbreak, Colombia had one of many highest financial gender gaps in Latin America. In current months, female-dominated industries like tourism and the service sector have taken extreme hits.

In August, the unemployment fee for ladies was 21.7 p.c, and the unemployment fee for males was 31.4 p.c, based on the newest authorities knowledge.

Estacio stated ladies in her group who would usually assist themselves by working informally and promoting avenue meals have been left with no earnings, as work dried up amid the lockdown.

It has stripped at-risk ladies of “financial autonomy”, defined Carolina Mosquera, researcher on the Bogota-based think-tank, Sisma Mujer. And with it, their capability to flee from an abusive state of affairs that might escalate to one thing as excessive as femicide.

In a single current case, a girl referred to as the organisation’s home abuse helpline, and so they labored to get her out of her house the place she was being abused by her husband. Hours later, after they referred to as again, she instructed help staff she couldn’t depart as a result of she was surviving off her husband’s wage.

Once they tried to observe up “she merely stopped answering.”

“It’s a lack of 10 years of labor towards gender equality as a result of ladies are returning to those patriarchal areas,” Mosquera stated. “It brings us again to this outdated dynamic of the person because the supplier and the lady who cares for the house.”

The pandemic left greater than 15,000 ladies in Colombia at excessive danger of femicide, based on the Nationwide Institute for Authorized Medication and Forensic Science. Related upticks have been seen in different Latin American nations like Guatemala and Mexico.

Whereas native and nationwide governments tried to reply to the violence, establishing sources like native and nationwide home violence consideration traces, critics have stated it’s not sufficient and that ladies lack efficient judicial sources.

Colombia’s Ombudsman’s Workplace, which oversees the safety of human rights, declined to remark, saying that because of lack of state presence attributable to the pandemic, they haven’t been capable of formally register the femicides.

“A line doesn’t assure entry to justice, to a restitution of their rights. No, a name is only a name.” Mosquera stated. “This effort by the federal government falls quick in comparison with the amount of circumstances, killings and violence we’ve seen within the pandemic.”

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