Tejiendo Redes Infancia - Unión Europea

The armed conflict and organized crime give no respite to girls, boys and adolescents in Latin America

09 / April / 2019

  • A total of 193 million girls, boys and adolescents live in the region. Many of them are victims of criminal gangs and illegal armed groups that use them for micro-trafficking or to give notice when the authorities come. In the case of girls, their bodies are used for sexual purposes.
  • International and national experts were invited to Bogotá, Colombia, for the III Latin American Thought Seminar on Children's Rights: “Challenges and responses to violence against girls in theaters of armed conflict and organized crime”, convened by REDLAMYC and organized by the Alianza por la Niñez Colombiana, a member of this network of networks, within the framework of #TejiendoRedesInfancia, a project co-financed by the European Union.

Bogota Although Colombia and Latin America in general have progress in the regulatory framework and examples of positive initiatives in the defense and guarantee of the rights of girls, boys and adolescents, it is a fact that a few months after the 30th anniversary of the Convention on Human Rights of Children, the efforts remain insufficient and the challenges increasing. Especially in relation to girls and adolescents.

In Colombia, in 2018 there were increases in violations of children by post-demobilization armed groups, paramilitaries, local armed groups, the National Liberation Army (ELN), Popular Liberation Army (EPL) and dissidents of the FARC-EP, in which the girls took the worst part. The UN verified more than 400 serious violations against children and adolescents, which include murders, mutilations, use, kidnapping, sexual violence, denial of humanitarian assistance and also attacks on schools and hospitals.

"I am also concerned about the situation in some border areas in conflict where migrants and refugees, especially children and adolescents, face risks such as: recruitment, use and sexual violence", Virginia Gamba, special representative of the United Nations Secretary General for the issue of children and armed conflict, pointed out in the message sent to the national and international experts meeting in Bogotá.

Professionals from different areas and from 19 countries participate in the III Latin American Thought Seminar on Children's Rights: "Challenges and responses to violence against girls in scenarios of armed conflict and organized crime", convened by REDLAMYC (Latin American and Caribbean Network for the Defense of the Rights of Boys, Girls and Adolescents) and organized by the Alliance for Colombian Children, a member of this network of networks, within the framework of #TejiendoRedesInfancia, a project co-financed by the European Union.

The experts presented a long list of challenges in the matter today: persistence of the armed conflict with the reconfiguration of illegal armed actors that seek to exercise control over the territories and the large incomes of illegal economies (illicit crops, illegal mining, smuggling, production and commercialization of narcotics); insufficient applied knowledge of children's rights and the differential approach by public servants and contractors; historical weakness and absence of state social institutions in continually victimized areas; high indices of inequality and the serious humanitarian situation of migration of the Venezuelan population and the Colombian returned.

According to the figures available to the Unit for Comprehensive Attention and Reparation to Victims of Colombia, in 2018 there were 243,547 victims in the country due to the different events generated by the conflict, of these 31.66 % , that is, 77,107 are boys, girls and adolescents between 0 and 17 years old.

“We have a weakening of the State that is reflected in the little territorial control, violence and the destruction of the social fabric. The fragility of the state is what generates money, not the coca leaf; that is why in Mexico we have a human rights crisis and in Central America and Venezuela, an exodus, and that is not an isolated issue, it has to do with all of us and with girls and boys, and especially with girls ”, said Juan Martín Pérez García, executive secretary of REDLAMYC.

For Mario Gómez, deputy prosecutor for children and adolescents in Colombia, the disconnect between the norms and reality is another reason why children are affected. “In the last decade, 65,000 children under the age of 14 became mothers and the health institutions did not communicate it, despite being a crime. The DNA of the child that is born belongs to the aggressor and it would be a simple test to show who the sexual aggressor was, but we have been trying to get the database for two years and it is not done because the identity reservation is alleged. We embrace the hope of peace, but the ELN and the dissidents are in a continuous confrontation, as happens in Chocó where children are seen in the middle of the fire ", he pointed.

What to do to face the challenge The experts pointed out several actions to deal with violence against children in theaters of armed conflict and organized crime, among which are: 

  • Understand that girls, boys and adolescents are subjects of rights and we must do what is required to guarantee them, without fear of raising our voice. 
  • Look in a particular way at the effects of girls in the conflict, because there is evidence of the major impacts it has on them. 
  • Create information systems that can differentiate and identify cases associated with the armed conflict and illegality. 
  • To ensure that men have a more active role in the upbringing and care of children, so that the macho culture that prevails in the region changes. That includes taking inequality between girls and boys more seriously. 
  • Address the migration that is taking place in Colombia and the rest of the region with a differential approach and by age.
  • Adopt measures that respond to the protection needs of girls, boys and adolescents according to their context.
  • Give greater investment of public resources for prevention work with special emphasis from childhood to adolescence.
  • Strengthen the dialogue between the different actors that work for the rights of children and adolescents in the territories, in such a way that coordinated actions are achieved, not duplicated, more efficient from the perspective of the rights of girls and boys, for example In the dialogue between civil society and public entities, there is leveraging of new resources in the face of the needs of the territorial entities that are not left only in the sum of the contributions of the organizations.

Relevant figures

  • In 2018, the UN registered more than 400 cases of violence against children and adolescents (murders, mutilations, recruitment, use and denial of humanitarian assistance, among others).
  • According to the report "Childhood, victim of an armed conflict that still persists", released by the Alliance for Colombian Children in November 2018, a total of 2'382.086 Colombians between 0 and 17 years of age are victims of the conflict armed.
  • After the positive figures between 2015 and 2017 (product of the negotiations between the Government and the Farc), according to Coalico, in 2018 50 events related to involvement and recruitment were reported, 28 of the use of minors in civic-military campaigns, 66 forced displacement, 29 violations against the right to life and personal integrity, 21 attacks and occupations of civilian objects (such as schools and hospitals), 10 blockades of supplies and basic services, seven violations against personal liberty and three against liberty sexual.

More information in: https://redlamyc.org/seminariointernacional03/


Media contact:

Verónica Morales, Regional Communication Officer #TejiendoRedesInfancia +52 1 55 5620 9309

Image: Photo by Daniel Stuben. on Unsplash

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