Girls and Boys Born in the Jungle • La Nación

The final report of the Truth Commission includes a special chapter on children and youth in the context of internal armed conflict. Among other stories, the volume “This is not the lesser evil” talks about the abuse of women and minors and wants them to be recognized as victims as well. Here is part of it.

Juana Valentina, Andrea, Carol, Luis and Camilo experience from different perspectives the consequences of being children of guerrillas or members of the public force. Their stories coincide in the change of address and in the fact that they were left in the care of their mothers. But the daughters and sons of fighters born in the jungle have also experienced orphanhood and absence because their parents had to hand them over to relatives or rural families. In all cases, the right of children and adolescents to peace and family has been violated.

The action of the armed organizations and the war itself affected the lives of these children and adolescents, as they were separated from their parents in an arbitrary and forced manner. In the case of the FARC-EP, abortion has become a policy not recognized in the statute: although it is not provided for there, the evidence shows that when the guerrillas become pregnant, they must abort or, in any case, submit to the decisions of the commanders. which nullifies the autonomy over their bodies and the exercise of their motherhood.

As Laura, a thirteen-year-old recruited by the FARC-EP, said, commanders kept saying, “You don’t come here to have children, you come to fight, and we’re an army, we’re not here to be fathers or mothers or anything like that.” The women fighters, many of them recruited girls and adolescents, were punished for becoming pregnant and forced to abort or give their children up for adoption, meaning that the aims of the war were prioritized over their rights and immunities, in addition to subjecting them to humiliation and cruel treatment.

The girls and boys were handed over to rural families who tried to hide them from the armed groups and even from the relevant institutions so that they could not be traced or prosecuted by the community. Pedro, a villager from La Sierra, Cauca, was one of those parents to whom the Farc-EP one day gave a baby. Pedro raised him until, in 2019, the dissidents of this partisan came to recruit him.

“His story comes from when I was working with Family Welfare as a father in the community. I always gave a lot to the community and they always saw the love I had for my children and for people and that I would be able to be a good father. Supposedly for this reason, one day I was taken to a village in San Pedro Alto, where there was a woman who gave birth to a baby for me. She said she was eight months old, but the baby actually looked like a newborn. They handed it to me and told me to take care of it until the day they wanted it.”

The stigma of being the daughter or son of a fighter was a burden that caregivers hid to protect them, and although it is difficult to count the number of babies born and given to relatives of fighters or to rural families, the approximate magnitude is in the figures from the Socio-Economic Census of Farc-EP members (2017).

The said study estimated that 54% of the 10,015 former FARC-EP fighters who were in rural areas that year as a result of the peace agreement had sons or daughters. Many of them had to hide their identity, change their first or last name, even their date of birth. In these cases, the state must promote changes to ensure their right to identity, which is their responsibility under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In addition, the Party of the Communes (the name of the political organization created by the former FARC-EP) told the Truth Commission that of the 319 female former FARC-EP fighters surveyed, 42% became pregnant and of these, 73% had a baby. Of the 78% of mothers whose daughters or sons were outside the camps, only 23% were reunited with them and they in the armed ranks.

Facilitating these approaches, contacts and accompaniment to re-establish relationships, with care and case-by-case analysis, is a fundamental step for the reintegration of ex-combatants. Likewise, it is essential to answer the questions of children and adolescents who grew up with their parents in the war and to repair the social fabric of communities.

A census conducted by the National University in 2017 found that 2,267 female ex-combatants were pregnant in rural areas. This scenario deserves deep reflection and is a warning so that these girls and boys do not live under a stigma that exposes them to further violence and do not become recipients of the psychological consequences of their mothers and fathers.

Daughters and sons born of sexual or consensual violence between civilian women and members of the security forces were also stigmatized.

“Ah, can’t you see that you are children of paracos”

Daughters and sons of combatants have also resulted from assaults on civilian women or from consensual relationships they had with them in areas of action. In these cases, it was common for minors to receive accusations from their families and communities. For example, those born as a result of sexual abuse were given nicknames suggestive of the perpetrator, which translated into re-victimization and dangerous stigma.

This accusation was narrated by Rosa, a woman of African descent who was sexually abused at the age of sixteen by members of the Bloc Calima of the AUC, which operated in the village of La Balsa, in the municipality of Buenos Aires, Cauca, between 2000 and 2004. The armed group entered the territory in the late 1990s, fortified its bases and carried out several massacres that mainly affected the women of the department.

For example, on September 4, 2000, members of the Farallones Front from the Calima block entered La Balsa, where they killed five people, raped the women and tortured the youths, situations that were repeated during their stay in the territory. Rosa has a son as a result of the rape; at the time of the interview, this son had already turned sixteen. In the community, he and other children and adolescents born as a result of sexual violence are defined as “paraquitos”, a name that ignores the violence suffered by their mothers, who in many cases were adolescents and young adults when the violence occurred in paramilitary raids .

The commission registered 1,172 victims of sexual violence during the hearing; 434 (37.03%) were children or adolescents at the time of the events. The main perpetrators were the paramilitary groups and the FARC-EP guerrillas. Some victims also reported experiencing this type of abuse more than once.

According to the information collected by the Commission, the departments where sexual violence against persons under the age of eighteen is concentrated are Antioquia, Valle del Cauca, Cauca, Meta, Putumayo and Narinho.

Stigmatization involves denying the identity of children and adolescents and attributing traits to the perpetrator, which is a new form of victimization and discrimination. It also implies that they are assigned roles and tasks because of their background. For example, Rosa’s son and those of the other women who were sexually abused in La Balsa were told: “You will be paramilitary like your parents.” This is how these women not only had to deal with the consequences of sexual violence, but were also forced to take on forced motherhood, explain their origins to their daughters and sons, and hide them to protect them from stigma.

This is how Rosa tells: “When the children were born, the same people from the village used to call them “parakeet, parakeet”. They said to them: “Ah, don’t you see that you are the children of some bastards”. Likewise, you knew that sooner or later you had to tell them, explain to them, because that’s something you, as a mother, have to do. But on the street it was not like that, but as a mockery.

“Join the ranks”

And although it is not generally accepted, some investigations show how sexual abuse was systematically used to father children for war. This was the case of Hernán Giraldo, head of the AUC’s Tayrona resistance bloc, who undertook a campaign to rape and then identify the children who were the product of this violence in order to join the ranks of the armed group.

This case is very eloquent about the way actors have disposed of the lives of children and adolescents in the context of armed conflict. In addition to reinforcing ideas that have been held in the past about them as passive, modelable, disciplined and appropriated subjects, these modus operandi indicate the level of planning and rationalization that practices such as sexual violence, recruitment and stigmatization must control territories and to obtain military advantages.

In general, daughters and sons born of sexual violence or consensual relationships between civilian women and members of the security forces were also stigmatized. In Mitú, Vaupés, for example, they were called “the children of the green people”. This was also indicated by the indigenous women of the Nasa people of the Çxhab Wala Kiwe Woman Fabric in northern Cauca, in a report that collects the voices of women victims of sexual violence.

All these reports and testimonies that the Commission received allow us to confirm that the stigmatization of children and adolescents because of the participation of their parents in the war is a form of discrimination and dehumanization.

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