Friday, 27 December 2013

Spoils of war

I almost didn’t write this, because the events it depicts are so awful; and the words are necessarily graphic. But sometimes that is why we have to write, to inform others of some of the terror that is in the world. That is, after all, why some of these women are now breaking their years of silence.

Spoils of war

Jineth Bedoya Lima
Their scars are unseen,
their tragedies written
on the insides of their bodies,
where they bleed,
where they hold their tears,
where their hearts lay broken;
those young women of Colombia,
whose injuries are the spoils of war.

But now is not the time to be silent,
the victims are speaking out.
Four paramilitaries gang-raped her,
stabbed her five times in the breasts
and twice in the genitals.
She was 14, she survived.
And now she speaks.

Another, six months pregnant, was raped,
they cut her open,
cut the foetus in pieces
and threw them both into the river.
She was 16, she died.
Her community was forced to watch.
They survived,
and now they speak.

Sexually abused by seven men
from the National Police Force,
her breasts were cut off.
She was 13, she survived.
And now she speaks.

Gang-raped by hooded men
from an illegal armed group,
she was 16.
Her sister was tortured and raped.
She was 11.
They both survived,
and now they speak.

Eleven girls were sexually abused
by members of the army.
The youngest was eight.
They survived,
now they all speak.
They all speak
and their tragedies
are written in their own blood,
on the outside.

This poem was inspired by Jineth Bedoya Lima, a journalist in Colombia who was kidnapped twice, raped by several men, tortured, beaten unconscious and dumped naked by a roadside. She remained silent about these atrocities for nine years, but now is speaking out. This is for her and all the other women who are demanding justice for those who have until now been the silent victims of war.

In Colombia the abuse of women’s bodies is routinely used to terrorise communities, who are often made to watch; and sexual violence against women has become a weapon of war around the world. 

A report on this by many international charities -- ‘Colombia: Women, Conflict-Related Sexual Violence and the Peace Process’ -- calls for Governments to act. The British Government is asked, among other things, to fulfil its G8 commitments to work with the Colombian Government on a number of initiatives, including improving access to justice for victims of sexual violence. As part of the implementation of the UN guidelines on business and human rights, the report calls on the UK Government to provide guidance to companies listed or headquartered in the UK with operations in Colombia, to ensure that contracts with public or private Security Forces include an explicit zero-tolerance policy with regard to sexual violence or exploitation. This is not enough, but it would be a start.

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