Elections in Colombia: the peace agreement, and with it the security of women under threat

The fate of the country’s historic peace process, and how it will affect Colombians living under a fragile truce, may well be at stake. Both candidates have stated that they intend to support the implementation of the peace process, but the details of this support are not always clear. Understandably, this caused fear among those most affected by the conflict, who worked hard to bring about peace.

The competition has a number of firsts. If 62-year-old former guerrilla Gustavo Petro wins on June 19, he will become Colombia’s first left-wing leader. Petr won the first round with just more than 40% of votes. In the second round, he is running against the 77-year-old centrist construction tycoon Rodolfo Hernandez, a populist.
Also for the first time, Afro-Colombians were candidates for the final round candidate. Francia Marquez, 2018. Goldman Environmental Award Winner with a long history of rural social activism, included in the ticket with Peter. With Hernandez Marelen Castillo Torreswho has spent her professional life in academia. She is currently the Academic Vice Chancellor at the Minuto de Dios University.
The two women played different roles in the campaigns. Marquez, who after leading women in her community to protest illegal mining and population displacement, has been a public figure in Colombia since the 2010s, rallied against political and economic status quo of the country during the election campaign. Marquez has long been an advocate for women’s rights, economic empowerment programs and land access for the poor.
Little is known about Castillo, who has no history in politics. She is a recent addition to the Hernandez campaignand has made few public appearances, although she has spoken in interviews with the media about expanding access to education.

What can Colombians – and especially Colombian women who have borne the brunt of the longest armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere – expect from their future leaders, other than the woman at the right hand of the president?

History of conflict-related violence

Women in Colombia have suffered disproportionately in more than 50 years of conflict between government forces, guerrillas and paramilitaries. However, women also played an important role as peacekeepers in ending this conflict and in rebuilding their communities in the aftermath.

Sexual violence was widely used to gain social and territorial control. The latest data from the documents of the register of victims of Colombia over 31,000 cases reported sexual violence. Millions of women also suffered forced displacement, with many taking economic responsibility for their families after their husbands were killed and forced to leave their homes and communities.
Research has shown that displaced women are at high risk gender-based violence, including sexual violence. As a direct result of the gender implications of the conflict, gender equality has featured prominently in peace agreements, as has recognition the need for racial and ethnic justice.
Women played an important role during the negotiations, even forming “Gender Subcommittee”a unique space made up of FARC, government and civil society representatives and designed to ensure that all experiences of conflict are acknowledged and accounted for in the final deal.

When completed, the Columbia Final Agreement included commitments in key areas, including rural reform, security and protection guarantees, and victims’ rights.

“Recognizing racial, ethnic and gender discrimination as the main forces of conflict and incorporating provisions directly addressing them … was a relentless achievement by civil society, especially women’s, LGBTIQ, Afro-Colombian and indigenous organizations,” wrote an assistant professor of law at City University of New York City’s Lisa Davis Overview of Colombian Human Rights Law.

Davis added: “Afro-Colombian organizations, under the strong leadership of Afro-Colombian women, have developed a vision for a peace process that recognizes and redresses the historical injustices and discrimination committed against them, including gender discrimination, to ensure a comprehensive and lasting peace. . “

However, Ivan Duque’s conservative government, which came to power in 2018, has yet to fulfill 42 of the 133 gender commitments that have been agreed upon.Kroc Instituteresponsible for monitoring the implementation of the Agreement.
Speaking more broadly about the agreement, the Washington-based research and advocacy organization VOLA wrote on the fifth anniversary of the agreements, it states that “implementation of the agreement has gone worse than expected, and opportunities to break the vicious cycle of violence are evaporating.”
Although the peace agreement is legally bindingthe severity with which it is applied depends on the interests of the government in power.
Petro and Marquez clear plan how they plan to carry out the peace process if elected. Although Hernandez and Castillo also say they will implement it, their promises are more vague. Hernandez has already been hit international media attention for what the critics say is the gap between the campaign and the man behind the campaign. CNN, for example, reports that while Hernandez’s “biggest pitch was his promise to ‘get rid of corruption’… [he] He has had his own problems with corruption allegations, and some of them continue. Hernandez denied the charge, which is expected to go to court next month, saying, “With the laws in place, every candidate can be sued by anyone.”

For their part, the social leaders I’ve spoken to in recent weeks are unsure that the implementation of the process will be the focus of the Hernandez government, meaning that security conditions in rural areas could remain the same or even become more precarious.

“Whether, how and when the next president of Colombia will implement the peace deal could be a matter of life and death for women leaders.”

Researcher Julia Margaret Zulver

The pursuit of peace and opposition to drug trafficking, the recruitment of children into armed groups and environmental degradation have cost Colombian women leaders dearly.

Over the past seven years, I studied how women seek justice in a time of heightened risk. During this time, I have heard dozens of reports of threats, harassment and attacks on activists.
Many of the women I spoke to, often accompanied by their government-appointed bodyguards, said that not only did the 2016 peace process never materialize, but the threats they face. more intense than ever.

Their names, for example, have been included in public death threats issued by armed groups with a simple call: stop your social activities or die. As a result, many no longer live in their home communities, isolating themselves from their families to protect their children.

Last week, colleague and I spent time with Afro-Colombian women leaders in northern Cauca province, the conflict-ridden region in the southwest of the country where Marquez herself was born and began her work. In recent weeks, many of these women have told me they have received death threats by phone or text. Some say they barely survived the assassination attempts.
Community leader Dona Tuta suffered a worse fate. She was murdered in the nearby city of Cali just last week. She is the latest in a long line of women human rights defenders who have died in Colombia since the signing of the Peace Accords.

For Colombian women leaders across the country, what is at stake in this election is their ability to live safely in their communities. Whether, how and when the next president actually implements the peace deal could be a matter of life and death for them.

Supporters of left-wing Colombian presidential candidate Gustavo Petro put up banners ahead of a rally in Bogota's Fontibón district on June 12, 2022.

The peace process is more important than ever

Although Colombia is now a post-conflict state on paper, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) continues to grow as other armed groups continue violent clashes.
Colombia now has third largest number IDPs in the world, second only to Syria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Latin American state was described by Reuters as “the most dangerous country in the world for environmentalists”.
Following the demobilization of the FARC in 2016, other armed groups took their place. By vying for control of valuable resources such as coca and illegal mining, as well as transportation routes, these groups reinforced their targeting of community leaders who were promoting the implementation peace agreements in their communities.
Petro and Marquez Platform recognizes that women have been particularly affected during the conflict. He promises to fully implement the peace agreement with FARC and will focus on rural land reform, protection guarantees and environmental protection that women need to be able to earn an income and support their families.
Hernandez also stated that he would honor the peace agreement and seek a deal with the National Liberation Army, the largest left-wing guerrilla group in the country, known by its Spanish acronym ELN. Compared to Donald Trump partly for his controversial commentsincluding about female roles as “ideally…[devoting] raise children,” Hernandez, however, did not elaborate on how the unique needs of women would be included in this implementation of the peace process.
Polls stay strongt leading to a vote on Sunday. Colombians are frustrated by the country’s ongoing economic crisis, rising levels of violence and diminishing opportunities. Thus, in addition to gender issues, Petro campaign for profound social and economic changewhile Hernandez focused on post-pandemic growth and the fight against corruption.
The broad and urgent needs of Colombian women, and in particular Afro-Colombian and indigenous women, need not be the focus of upcoming elections, but it is clear that all Colombians hope for change. For the at-risk women leaders I work with, change can’t happen fast enough.