For decades, sexual and gender-based violence went unchallenged in Colombia's internal conflict. Different armed groups used it to terrorize communities and destroy the social fabric. They targeted LGBTI civilians. In some armed groups, women combatants were raped and forced to have abortions. Few survivors spoke out, because even if they did, no one heard.
Despite their prevalence, sexual and gender-based crimes have rarely been prosecuted in Colombia. As it moves to end hostilities, however, understanding has grown among judicial officials that for peace to take root, the time for impunity is over. UN Women has helped advance investigations and prosecution by connecting the Attorney General's Office with top international experts, such as Daniela Kravetz, who spent a decade prosecuting similar violations at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
"I have worked a long time with victims," Kravetz says. "Justice is their right, and I will do whatever I can to bring that to them."
She now assists Colombian prosecutors with techniques to interview survivors, and in developing investigation plans and legal case theories. Following international courts, a new legal model is being instituted aimed at not just prosecuting individual cases, but connecting them so that leaders who orchestrated massive violations can be charged as well. The move comes not a moment too soon, given an enormous backlog of cases likely to emerge in the transition to peace-and the probability of a surge in new cases as combatants return to their communities.
As Colombia's broader peace process unfolds, UN Women has also backed women's unprecedented roles in the talks. Thorough training has honed skills of women negotiators so they can be the most effective gender advocates. Women participate on an equal footing in massive regional and national consultations linked to the process, and comprise a majority of delegations of victims presenting their concerns to the negotiations. A gender sub-committee provides ongoing inputs to keep gender equality high on the agenda.