COLOMBIA: Winter Colombianas

From the pre-colonial era to the present, Colombian women have played an important role in their country. Photo (c) El Pais 2016From the pre-colonial era to the present, Colombian women have played an important role in their country. Photo (c) El Pais 2016

(Guest Post by Russell A. Whitehouse): From the pre-colonial era to the present Colombian women have played an important role in their country.  However, they have gone through their fair share of institutional and cultural impediments. 

The standing that women have acquired has correlated with different eras of the country, from the indigenous era, to the colonial era, to the globalized era we live in today.  As the population has increased and contraceptives technology has improved, devoutly Catholic Colombia has also wrestled with issues of reproductive rights.

Colombian women from the colonial period onwards have faced difficulties in political representation.  Women didn’t receive suffrage until August 25th of 1954.  Only 4 other Latin American nations enacted universal suffrage later. [1]

Politics Gets Personal

Photo (c) Blu Radio 2010

One woman – Noemi Sanin – ran in the 2010 presidential elections. Photo (c) Blu Radio 2010

Colombia remains one of only 5 South American countries that has never elected a female head of state of head of government. [2]  Women currently only fill 12% of all political positions in Colombia are filled by women. [3]  A big part of the problem is the remnants of machista culture in Colombia today.

Many men and some women see men as being the only suitable people for positions of power.  They assert that a woman should limit her sphere of influence to the home.

Due to the decades-long warfare in Colombia, countless mothers and fathers have been killed.  200,000-300,000 people died during La Violencia, spanning 1948-1958.  (La Violencia in Colombia)  An estimated 31,000 people have died due to the government and its affiliated militias’ ongoing war on the FARC.  Almost half a million have died due to the war with the drug cartels since 1990.  This perpetual turmoil has also led 3,940,000 people being internally displaced.

Global Relativity 

Photo (c) Vanguardia 2011

Colombia is by far home to the most refugees in the world. Photo (c) Vanguardia 2011

Thus, Colombia is by far home to the most refugees in the world, with the Democratic Republic of the Congo coming in at a distant second. [4]   This has led to the tearing apart of families.  There are currently an estimated 580,000 orphans in Colombia, over 1% of Colombia’s entire population.  This daunting demographic dwarfs those of all but a handful of large nations in Asia and Africa, as well as Brazil.

Colombia used to be the 4th largest source of foreign children adopted by American families until it banned adoptions by non-Colombians of non-handicapped children under 7 years of age in 2013. [5]  Countless gamines, or street children, dig through garbage for food, pickpocket, become drug runners for the cartels, sniff glue to drown their misery and sleep out in the open or in abandoned buildings.

60% of girl orphans will resort to prostitution, with the kidnappings and selling of the girls into sexual slavery by their parents being common.  70% of boys will become full-time criminals.  Rural orphans are sometimes conscripted into local militias.  With the new restrictions on adoptions and the expanding population, the plight of the Colombian orphans will continue for some time.

Endurance and Intuition

Photo (c) Palabra de Mujer 2010

From matrilineal and matriarchal indigenous societies to the Spanish colonialists’ machista culture to the pro-feminist tide of globalization, colombianas are now poised to approach gender equality in the medium to long term future. Photo (c) Palabra de Mujer 2010

Women have undergone huge shifts throughout their history in South America’s second largest country.  From matrilineal and matriarchal indigenous societies to the Spanish colonialists’ machista culture to the pro-feminist tide of globalization, colombianas are now poised to approach gender equality in the medium to long term future.

However, they still face some significant obstacles in chauvinistic attitudes, sex education, abortion rights, contraceptives adaption, political representation and family stability. Countless children orphaned by civil strife still yearn for a safe and loving home.

However, Colombia’s women will continue to fight for and win ground, por la amor de patria.

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Russell A. Whitehouse is a freelance social media manager, producer and political policy essayist for the Eurasia Review, International Policy Digest & Pressenza.

Works Cited

“Central & South America « Women Suffrage and Beyond.” Women Suffrage and Beyond, n.d. <http://womensuffrage.org/?page_id=109>.

Christensen, Martin. “Woman Heads of State and Government.” Woman Heads of State and Government. Martin Christensen, 2 Jan. 2015. <http://www.guide2womenleaders.com/Female_Leaders.htm>.

Howlett, Kevin. “More Women in Colombian Politics, Please.” Colombia Politics, 28 Feb. 2014. <http://www.colombia-politics.com/women-colombian-politics-please/>.

“UNHCR 2012 Refugee Statistics: Full Data.” The Guardian, 19 June 2013. <http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2013/jun/19/refugees-unhcr-statistics-data>.

“UNHCR 2012 Refugee Statistics: Full Data.” The Guardian, 19 June 2013. Web. 15 Jan. 2015. <http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2013/jun/19/refugees-unhcr-statistics-data>.

[1] http://womensuffrage.org/?page_id=109

[2] http://www.guide2womenleaders.com/Female_Leaders.htm

[3] http://www.colombia-politics.com/women-colombian-politics-please/

[4] http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2013/jun/19/refugees-unhcr-statistics-data

[5] http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/16/world/international-adoption-main-story-decline/