Opinion: Colombian Feminicide Observatory calls for protection strategies in contexts of militarization

By Feminist Antimilitarist Network, Colombia

Feminist Antimilitarist Network, Colombian Feminicide Observatory team: Adriana Castaño Román, Estefanía Rivera Guzmán, Gloria Castaño Román, Carol Rojas Garzón

Feminist Antimilitarist Network collectively constructs analysis, mobilization, and feminist pedagogies. It vindicates life amid a narrative for death and patriarchal violence; a challenge that has become the horizon for social and political action since 2012. For us, inhabiting feminism means conceiving life as the possibility for action, creation, learning and joy; the possibility to build and deconstruct through experience and reflexivity. Understanding life as a possibility for transformation towards freedom and autonomy means asserting that the destinies imposed by capitalist, racist, militarist and patriarchal structures of domination are confinements for impoverished women and girls, and therefore are structures that must be contested.


Feminist struggles have made progress in the structural understanding of violence against women. Along this path, since 2012 the Colombian Feminist Antimilitarist Network began monitoring violence that resulted in feminicides in Colombia, creating the information system of the Colombian Feminicide Observatory (CFO). The Observatory became an important tool to understand feminicidal violence and create strategies to protect the lives of women.

A systematic analysis of this data demonstrates the close relation between feminicidal violence and the neoliberal economic model, suggesting a need to broaden the understanding of femicides and their relation to economic dynamics and militarization, in what we call feminicidal neoliberal violence.

In Colombia, most femicides are committed against women from low-income neighborhoods, who work in the home or the service sector. Local organized crime accumulates wealth through the debts that women acquire, given the precarious and deteriorating living conditions and the impossible access to banking services.[1] Women therefore enter into debt and failure to pay these debts costs them their lives.

This type of femicide linked to a criminal economy, describes an illegal form of accumulation of capital where the poorest segment of the population, women carers, and women in the informal sector, enter a debt system that puts their lives at risk. These debts are acquired to sustain their lives and the lives of those they care for (paying for health, food public services, rent) showing the silent burden that women carry, through reproductive work and sustaining life. The debts that women acquire caring for others is reflected in the numbers of femicides that occur in this economic context where debts are paid with the lives of the women.

The Latin American context urgently requires that the analysis of feminicide transcends the understanding of violence in the intimate-erotic and affective spheres. For example, in Colombia, during 2020, 55% of the 630 femicides registered by the CFO were committed with firearms. We must therefore ask ourselves, who gets rich from the arms economy? Who Controls Guns? We need to broaden the understanding of feminicidal violence beyond frameworks confined to intimate relationships to further include other forms of structural violence faced by women, especially those who live in the context of militarization AND WITH debts of the criminal economy.

Given the alarming levels of impunity, the Colombian Feminicide Observatory of the Antimilitarist Feminist Network has warned about the need to have clear information systems that are open to the public, and a special justice system for violence against women.

“According to the National Attorney General, in the 10 years that Law 1257[2] has been in place, out of the 12,226 women murdered cases opened between 2008 and 2017, only 16% reach an imputation, and only 13% a conviction. All these cases are investigated as feminicides, but it remains to be seen how many were tried as femicides.” (Ana Güezmes, representative of UN Women in Colombia in 2018 El Tiempo, 2018).[3]

Access to justice must be linked to the structural transformations of the State, in a decisive shift towards a Feminist State, where the care for life is at the center. In addition to the creation of a clear, open information system with a feminist perspective that uses numbers and data to understand the contexts in which femicides occur, it is also necessary to continue efforts to understand Latin American contexts and the joint actions for the elimination of violence.


For further information on the Feminist Antimilitarist Network (Colombia) and the Colombian Feminicide Observatory, please refer to the links below:






[1] According to UN Women Colombia, “the national female unemployment rate rose from 13.7% for the July-September 2019 to 22.8% for the same period in 2020, while for men the unemployment rate increased from 8.3% to 13.9% in the same period” (UN WOMEN, 2021, p. 21).

[2] The purpose of Law 1257 of 2008 is to adopt norms that guarantee a life free from violence for all women, both in the public and private spheres, the exercise of the rights recognized in the domestic and international legal system, the access to administrative and judicial procedures for their protection and care, and the adoption of the public policies necessary for their implementation, this law defined violence against women, taking up international provisions. In addition, Colombia has the Rosa Elvira Cely 1761 law of 2015, was achieved thanks to the national mobilization as a result of the feminicide of Rosa Elvira Cely. This law allowed the crime of femicide to go from being an aggravated homicide to being an autonomous crime. That is, create a new criminal offense.

[3] El Tiempo (6 diciembre de 2018. Sólo el 13 por ciento de feminicidios tiene condena: Naciones Unidas en: https://www.eltiempo.com/justicia/investigacion/naciones-unidas-advierte-sobre-impunidad-en-colombia-en-crimenes-contra-mujeres-300772)