Domestic Violence

Young Colombians Talk About Their Danger Zones

Monday, March 26, 2012

A new wave of programs is gently stirring young Colombians in violent cities to talk about their lives. Organizers say their goal is to help women think about protecting themselves and their children from family violence.

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Dangerous Domestic Norms

The culture of violence is also linked to dangerous norms in private life. Domestic violence permeates Colombian society to an unknown, but likely profound extent, SISMA Mujer says.

The Colombian Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences documented 137,814 cases of interfamily and partner physical violence, mistreatment and sexual violence against women in 2010, in addition to 125 cases of femicide. The National Demographic and Health Survey found in 2010 that 73 percent of women who are physically abused did not denounce the violence they suffered.

During one of the CedaVida sessions in Soacha, Rubio and her friend, Angie Murillo, 17 and also pregnant, giggled at the thought of their male counterparts attending a parallel session.

"It would be good for them," Murillo said eventually. "They need to think about us more."

CedaVida has so far led 28 other groups like this for women in six departments, or states, over the past seven months. It has also conducted 10 programs for men.

The first session in Soacha drew almost 30 young women. Several were pregnant and many had their young children in tow.

Most belonged to the age category--between 17 and 34–when Colombian women are considered most vulnerable to gender-based violence, said Flor Diaz, a Bogota program coordinator for UN Women, headquartered in New York.

In the first session in Soacha, participants joined ice-breaking games, such as sketching outlines of their bodies and writing in the white space their favorite things about themselves.

The second session included a discussion of basic connotations of the terms "violence," "men" and "women." They linked "violence" directly back to women. When it came to "men," words such as machismo sprung to the minds of participants. For "women" some of the words were "beauty" and "money holders."

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Amy Lieberman is a freelance journalist based in Bogota, Colombia.

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