Invisible Violence: Research on violence against women by the Army and the Police in Colombia
It’s not new for anyone that militarism has a huge impact on people lives. Sometimes it can be more obvious or easier to see, but sometimes it is not so clear. Last year, ACOOC, one of the antimilitarist organisations in Colombia, carried out research on violence against women by their husbands or partners that are members of police force or army.
This research helps to see more clearly the link between patriarchy, violence and militarism. Sharing the results should encourage the antimilitarist and pacifist movements to look more in deep into the invisible effects of militarism.
This research intended to show the reality and the struggles of women that have been victims of violence, aggressions and femicide by agents of the public forces (army and police forces) in Colombia.
These are the three issues that the research highlights:
First, how women become the object of social standards and expectations. When a woman gets married to a man that is part of the military or the police forces there are social impacts, and beliefs of progress, social status and success. Most of the women that were part of the research were teenagers when they met their husbands or partners. Some of them recognised being victims of violence or control by the partners resulted in stress, depression and anxiety.
According to the research, from 2015 to 2017 the Prosecutor General's Office received 4337 complaints for violence by public force members against women. 1306 were personal injuries, followed by 890 cases of domestic violence. Army members are the most indicted for violence against women, followed by police members. The statistics also show that, from 2015 to 2017, 498 women were victims of femicide by agents of the public forces.
Second, the research shows how difficult it has been - and continues to be - for women to access justice and protection from the state. The army and the police follow a military code of loyalty to the institution that states that orders should be followed, and superiors must be obeyed. The researchers identified the complicity and the omission of any justice and legal procedure, especially from the police, when women that were victims of violence by a member of the military institutions tried to denounce. Investigations are never open, and women are threatened or instigated to manage the situation internally (the army forces and the police have their own doctors, hospital and “family commissaries”) or not to make any complaint at all. It seems that is more important to protect the careers of these institutions rather than safeguard women’s lives. Most of the cases remain in impunity and women remain completely unprotected. From 2015 to 2018, only 34 members of the public force were prosecuted for committing crimes against women.
Third, when these crimes or cases are public, the institutions avoid taking any responsibility and the media cover the cases in an irresponsible way. In most of the media stories that the research analysed, the public media usually use as sources the official military or police statements that usually claim that the institutions don’t have any responsibility in the cases. Also, public media give coverage to the case depending on how cruel or violent the crime or femicide was. If it’s a case considered “minor”, they only publish a short story, if they ever publish anything. The victims and their families’ struggles for justice and protection receive no attention from the media.
It’s difficult to carry out research projects like this one. The data and the information available (as everything in relation to violence against women) is very limited, but this project is the first step to continue looking into these issues, and take action.
If you want to read the complete report, you can find it in Spanish here.