Daily life in Colombia is dominated by a traditional societal model that fully embraces male-dominance and idealizes the principles of machismo. Nowhere is this more apparent than in rural areas like Chocó, where women have little to no control over their lives and are structurally disadvantaged. They have low educational standards, depend on either their father or husband, even for elementary decisions, and are paid considerably less than men for identical work. To add to these pressures, women are also often responsible for the care of the entire family; this is often made worse by the prevalence of missing fathers, a phenomenon which is the consequence of both the countless tragic murders and kidnappings as well as the active choice by fathers to be absent.
During the paramilitary conflict in Chocó, a woman’s body simultaneously became a weapon and a target: not only were they a victim of rape and physical abuse, but women were often exploited to put pressure on their families.
However, violence against women in Chocó is not unique to conflict; domestic abuse is disturbingly commonplace. Judicial punishment for these crimes is rare – if the crime is even reported to the police. The economic dependence of the female victim on the male perpetrator inhibits Colombian society from making progress in prosecuting sexual mistreatment. Structural inequality, daily abuse, and the absence of any serious rehabilitation programs for victims only begins to characterize the challenges women face in rural Colombia.