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in brief: Colombian women soldiers face routine abuse in rebel army

Image: Daniel Lobo

Image: Daniel Lobo

Women enlisted in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are facing routine abuses, including sexual slavery, forced abortions and infanticide.

FARC’s female soldiers are reportedly subjected to the sexual whims of commanders and all are given routine contraceptive injections.

The Marxist rebel forces lure in girls with the promise of a better quality of life, but reports from Thompsons Reuters say the movement has moved from freedom fighting on to drug trafficking and extortion over its 50 years of battle.

Colombian women are reported to be subject to a high rate of sexual and domestic abuse, hence the initial appeal of FARC’s care.

A young Indigenous Colombian woman, Claudia Roa, is one of these, who was drawn in to join FARC by the promise of the universal right to education. ‘They promised me thousands of things, that I’d learn stuff, that there’d be many opportunities to study,’ Roa told Thompsons Reuters.

Women have been central to FARC’s campaign, with human rights groups citing their extensive contribution by gathering intelligence, recruiting minors, digging trenches and latrines, standing guard and even fighting on the frontline.

Of the estimated 7000 troops in FARC’s ranks, about 30% are women.

Peace talks are currently underway between the rebels and the government, and, with two women on FARC’s negotiation board, the army asserts it is promoting gender equality.

This is evidently not the case as in addition to the routine reproductive rights abuses, few women ascend the FARC ranks.

‘You don’t have the right to question authority,’ Roa said of the limited freedoms she had in her ten years with FARC.

‘You don’t have the right to see your family and women don’t have the right to have a baby, to be a mother.’

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