KAIROS condemns the violence that has been exacerbated by COVID-19 in Colombia

Carlota Isabel Salinas Pérez, a woman human rights defender, was murdered outside her home on the evening of March 24 in San Pablo

KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, which unites ten churches and religious organizations, condemns the assassinations of social leaders and the rise in gender-based violence that have accompanied the spread of COVID-19 in Colombia. 

On March 25, KAIROS learned about the feminicide of a long-time member of the Organización Femenina Popular (Women’s Popular Organization, OFP), one of KAIROS’ partner organizations in Colombia.  

Carlota Isabel Salinas Pérez, a woman human rights defender, was murdered outside her home on the evening of March 24 in San Pablo, a municipality in the department of Bolivar. Carlota was a social leader in her community; in fact, on the same day of her murder, she had been collecting foodstuffs for families in need.  

Carlota is one of at least seven social leaders who, to date, have been murdered since measures to contain COVID-19 have been in place in Colombia. And these seven individuals join the estimated 800 human rights defenders who have been killed in Colombia since the peace agreement between the government and the FARC was signed in 2016. 

In an urgent action released after the feminicide of Carlota, the OFP writes:   

Carlota was our colleague for more than 10 years; her family has been a part of the territory’s fabric of life and we remember her for her commitment, her dedication, and her expressed solidarity with everyone. Her spirit of helpfulness led her to join the OFP and since then she had promoted groups of women producing new economies, defenders of victims, and defenders of a life free of violence. She was also part of the Civil Defense in San Pablo where she worked on disaster risk management, social action, and environmental management for the well-being and quality of life in the territory. She was a mother of two young adult children and a teenager. Hours before her painful murder, she was collecting foodstuffs for families as a means to ward off the effects of this pandemic. 

Rachel Warden, partnerships coordinator at KAIROS, states “this pandemic  magnifies the horror that exists and at the same time masks it because there is so little reporting on anything else.” 

Armed actors are taking advantage of institutional and governmental fissures exacerbated by the global pandemic to target individuals and groups working for and with the most vulnerable: Indigenous, Afro-Colombian, and LGBTQ+ communities, especially in rural areas where the armed conflict was most pronounced.  

Equally alarming, cases of gender-based violence are rising, not just in Colombia but across the globe. Women and children are being physically, sexually, psychologically, and emotionally assaulted as a vast number of the world’s population is being ordered to remain indoors.  

Days before Carlota’s assassination, the OFP, as part of a regional network known as the Territorial Agendas for Women, Peace and Community, released a statement denouncing the sexual assault of a child and the physical attack of a woman on the first day of a nation-wide drill on social distancing.  

Among other essential demands, the OFP is calling for authorities to implement measures to safeguard the safety and well being of women, children, and human rights defenders, which includes a global humanitarian ceasefire.  

KAIROS urges that all levels of the Colombian government immediately adopt the Organización Femenina Popular’s recommendations as well as support and protect grassroots organizations and social leaders who are on the forefront in the defense of peace and public health. These recommendations include: 

  • that the Colombian Attorney General’s office carry out a prompt and effective investigation to determine the motives for the crime as well as the organized groups that are present in the region and who are responsible for the assassinations of leaders in the Magdalena Medio. 
  • that URGENT MEASURES be adopted by the national, departmental, and municipal governments to guarantee the timely and adequate protection of WOMEN SOCIAL LEADERS during this time of Mandatory Preventive Isolation, which was decreed by the government as a means to stop the COVID-19 pandemic in our country, as well as the use of all available means to STOP the attacks. 
  • a global HUMANITARIAN CEASEFIRE so that life prevails, and we ASK for the adoption of exceptional measures so that we can accompany each other at this time. 
  • CALL TO THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY to pay special attention and provide accompaniment by demanding that the Colombian Government and local authorities protect the life and integrity of women as political subjects and peacebuilders, considering the obligations emanating from Resolution 1325 of the United Nations Security Council. 

KAIROS will continue to accompany the OFP and monitor the situation from Canada. 

For more information on the situation in Colombia, read Amnesty International’s statement: https://amnesty.ca/news/colombia-measures-against-covid-19-must-not-be-excuse-neglecting-protection-human-rights.

¡Ni Una Más! 

Filed in: Gender Justice/Women of Courage, Latin America

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