Report: Colombian children forced into prostitution during armed conflict
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
3/17/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
The South American nation of Colombia has been mired in fighting between state security forces, leftist rebels and right-wing paramilitary militias for almost 50 years. Along with drug-running, these armed gangs are responsible for sexual violence against children. According to t a new report, nearly 50,000 Colombian children, most of them girls, were raped and or sexually abused by warring factions in the country's armed conflict between 2008 and 2012.
Colombian children caught between uprisings are often forced into situations where they are sexually exploited.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - In a study by Oxfam International and 10 non-governmental organizations, children there were being used in "networks of forced prostitution" in regions where foreign contractors work in the oil industry.
Colombia has no national register for sexual violence against children. This makes it especially difficult to gauge the extent of the issue. This in turn hinders the Colombian government to provide adequate support to child victims of sexual violence.
"The numbers are appalling. It's an underreported problem. We couldn't know the characteristics of victims. We don't know their exact ages, if they are Afro-Colombian or indigenous. Knowing this is important because it conditions the response the Colombian government has to give to children," Diana Arango, Oxfam's coordinator of the campaign "Rape and other Violence", says.
"We also need to know who is perpetrating these acts. On the registers it just says armed actor and doesn't say if it's an illegal armed group or a legal group (security forces)," she told journalists.
Described as the first of its kind, the report says at least 48,915 children under the age of 18, including 7,602 boys, suffered some type of sexual violence, such as rape, sexual exploitation and forced prostitution between the years of 2008 and 2012.
The figures in the report combine data held by various government institutions that have received reports from children, sometimes accompanied by their parents, who say they were victims of sexual abuse by armed groups.
Children are increasingly being used in "networks of forced prostitution" in Colombia's remote Amazon jungle provinces in the country's south, where foreign contractors employed in the oil sector work, the report said.
"Forced prostitution and sexual exploitation of children is something that is happening more and more in the country," Arango says.
Rights groups have called on the Colombian government to do more to provide justice and support to child victims of sexual violence, in a country where only two percent of such crimes are punished, Arango said.
"We are calling on the Colombian government to get a complete registry system of child victims of sexual violence and make them homogenous so that we can understand the magnitude of the problem. If there is no such registry, no public policy can be fulfilled," she said.
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