"Those guys always looked at my sister and me and they would start to sing the song, Negra Tomasa and they would laugh at each other," said one survivor. After this type of harassment, she said, the sexual abuse would start and for some victims, could even end in death.
Afro-Colombian women are documenting testimonies like these to inform the new online observatory, VigiaAfro, created to report on and raise awareness about sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) against Afro-descendants. VigiaAfro was developed by Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN), an Afro-descendant collective of more than 100 grassroots organizations, Community Councils, and individuals formed in Colombia in 1993, and MADRE, an international women's human rights organization that works in partnership with community-based women's organizations worldwide in contexts of conflict, disaster, and their aftermath, within the framework of a project entitled, Afro-Colombian Community Initiative for Sustainable and Inclusive Peace in Colombia.
The documenting and quantifying of SGBV cases by Afro-Colombian women informs the VigiaAfro Observatory as a tool to promote the analysis of the roots, patterns, perpetrators, factors and underlying causes of SGBV against Afro-Colombians. Between May and November, PCN documented 102 cases of Afro-Colombian women SGBV victims and survivors in the regions of the Colombian Caribbean and Norte de Cauca, and in the towns of Tumaco and Buenaventura. Documenters found the top three perpetrators of SGBV are former domestic partners, illegal armed groups, and gangs. Documenters also revealed Afro-Colombian women have suffered a range of forms of SGBV, with high numbers having suffered conflict-related SGBV.
According to Project Coordinator, Charo Mina Rojas, “[Colombia’s] Law 1761 of 2015 (the law against femicide) offers an opportunity to end the impunity that has nurtured and allowed SGBV against Afro-descendant women to rise to grave dimensions. Our work on VigiaAfro serves to provide information and analysis that allows us to understand SGBV from an ethnic-racial perspective as well as its causes and real consequences, so that there is true justice and methods to prevent it."
According to JM Kirby, Director of Advocacy at MADRE, “This observatory serves as a vital tool to make visible the situation of Afro-descendant women in the context of the internal armed conflict so that they can truly access justice, reparations and the necessary services.”
VigiaAfro will be online as of January 2019.