Workshop digest: The symbolic power of the law and its capacity to prevent and redress sexual violence

On 14 September 2022, GAAMAC’s Americas Initiative convened an expert roundtable to discuss how accountability for past crimes of sexual and gender-based violence can prevent future occurrences.

How can GAAMAC’s 2021 publication on conflict-related gender-based and sexual violence (GBSV) in Latin America provide insights on ongoing judicial efforts and, beyond that, prevention? To answer this question, GAAMAC’s partner in Colombia Corporacion Humanas, invited 28 experts to share their expertise in an event supported by GAAMAC.

A unique momentum

In July 2022, the Colombian Special Jurisdiction for Peace (Juridicción Especial para la Paz in Spanish, or JEP) announced its intention to open a case of sexual violence during the armed civil conflict. Although GBSV has been addressed by the JEP in other cases, it failed to encompass all the patterns of violence suffered by women, girls and people of different gender expressions. Corporacion Humanas sees it as an opportunity for the government to recognize the systemic nature of GBSV, many aspects of which are ongoing.

The event was meant as a space for exchanges on the lessons learnt during the armed conflicts in Guatemala and Colombia. The participating people, selected for their expertise, were invited to draw on these lessons to produce a list of recommendations to the JEP, in order to fortify the symbolic weight and potential for prevention of the new case.

Participants reflecting the diversity of Colombia

The 28 people who participated to the roundtable reflected the diversity of Colombia and the variety of groups who suffered GBSV crimes during the conflict: they came from different regions of Colombia, including remote rural areas; socioeconomic backgrounds; ethnic groups; sexual orientation and gender expression.

An effort was also made to diversity points of view: 18 were from civil society, 4 were academics and 6 were representatives of different UN offices in Colombia. In its introductory speech, GAAMAC saluted this holistic and horizontal methodology.

Finally, an expert from Guatemala virtually joined the roundtable to present lessons learnt from the peace process in her own country.

Next steps

A synthesis of the most important recommendations will be put together by Corporación Humanas and sent to the JEP. It has approximately until the end of the year to formally open the case.

A parallel event on GBSV in Guatemala will be organized by Impunity Watch, who co-wrote the report, also with the support of GAAMAC.

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