Negotiators working to end Colombia's decades-long civil war are seeing women as a critical component of lasting social and political peace.
LIMA — Most people know about the peace talks between Colombia's government and the insurgent Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which are expected to end the country's decades-long civil war.
But few know about the focus on gender in these talks.
One government negotiator, María Paulina Riveros, observed it was necessary to give particular attention to women because they were suffering "specifically and disproportionately the effects of the conflict." Research has already shown that not all parts of a society suffer an armed conflict in the same manner. Some groups suffer more than others.
Young men, for example, are more inclined to take up arms and face a greater risk of dying in extra-judicial executions. In turn, they also benefit from conflict, as young men are rewarded both socially and politically for bearing arms. Fighting also gives them privileged access to economic resources.
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María Paulina Riveros — Photo: Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos
In a war, women are far more likely to become victims of crimes like sexual violence and trafficking. During periods of conflict, raping women is often a strategy to access territories or resources.
Levels of poverty among women rise 30% in countries embroiled in conflict, according to a study sponsored by the World Bank. Poorer countries are, of course, more likely to suffer conflict, which feeds a vicious cycle. Another World Bank study finds that political violence is becoming the first cause of poverty as an increasing number of countries get caught in recurring cycles of political unrest. Some 90% of the countries that suffered civil wars between 2000 and 2011 had gone through a civil war in the preceding three decades.
Recent research suggests that including the wartime experiences of women, though not those few on the front lines, can help in both preventing and resolving armed conflicts.