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Thursday, 06 April 2017 00:00

Guerillas and feminists: birth control as a weapon

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The women of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) share two decisions: the political option that led them to join the guerrilla, which was born to demand for the rights of the peasants, and clinging to contraceptives as weapons.

The word "gender" appears 57 times in the 310 pages of the agreement signed in Havana and endorsed by the Congress and the Colombian Constitutional Court. It was one of the propositions most defended by the FARC during the negotiation. Guerrilleras and feminists: FARC-EP women played a key role on the road to peace. A chronicler was in the jungle with them and tells their stories:

None of them wanted to have children while the armed conflict lasted. But the Peace Accord, which began to emerge five years ago, changed the landscape: pregnancies multiplied at the rhythm of progress the pace of negotiation, which led to a document [the Peace Agreement] traversed by the gender perspective. That guiding principle acted as a revulsive to the right wing of Colombian society and strained the debate at depth among the members of the guerrilla.

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"Here [in the FARC-EP], people take care of animals. We cannot have children because of our condition [as combatants] and for that reason many take a lot of care of animals. Some dogs have their little pet beds built right by the beds of combatants" says Laura Villa, who is 36 years old and is one of the women who became pregnant when she began to glimpse the possibility of peace. Her daughter, Laura Sarita, is five months old and clings on her mother’s breasts eagerly while she is sitting in a plastic chair at the guerrilla camp in the northern province of Santander near the border with Venezuela where the region's troops are grouped for their reincorporation to civilian life.

Laura had not sought her pregnancy. She was very careful about her birth control but something failed with her contraceptives and decided to have it. "The obstacle to having children was not the organization but the confrontation. And I did not want to have children because I believe that children should be raised by parents. I saw many children raised by grandparents or other relatives and that generated a kind of hatred from the children against their parents because they felt abandoned" she explains while something changes in her tone.

Among the many laws that have FARC internally have, there is the one that establishes birth control: contraceptives are as important as weapons and provision of coffee, which they call "tinto". None of that can be missing. But when women become pregnant they have two options: aborting or continuing the pregnancy and raising the child to six months and then leave the child with a relative that is not a combatant. "War is not an easy thing. We saw children used as decoys to capture their parents" she says as her voice becomes cloudy again.

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Source: LatFem

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