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Internal Displacement In Colombia: A Gendered Dilemma

2281 words - 9 pages

Every year thousands of Colombians are forced from their homes due to the perpetual state of violence that has been tearing the country apart for over forty years. According to a recent field report from Refugees International, over 130,000 people are displaced every year as a direct result of this internal conflict. Some of these people cross borders to Ecuador and Panama seeking refuge, others for various reasons cannot or will not leave their country. These internally displaced persons (or IDP as I will refer to them for brevity’s sake) are amongst the most vulnerable populations in the world. Since the start of this violence more than 3 million people have been left as refugees in their own country (A refugee in their own country – the fate of the Colombian IDPs n.d.). These people are forced to live in deplorable conditions, have suffered the loss of friends and family, live with the pain of their experiences that memory will not allow them to forget, and live in a state of fear for survival of this violence both directly and indirectly. Caught in the crossfire, innocent men, women and children suffer alike . . . well, not exactly alike.
While all IDP suffer, their experiences are not identical. An individual’s experience is shaped by their age, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic class, and so on. This paper will focus on how internal displacement is a severally gendered experience. Specifically, it will focus on the experiences of internally displaced women (or IDW), exploring the contradictory, multi-layer identity of an IDW. It will explore the physical, symbolic, and structural violence that IDWs are subjected to, the ways in which individual power is taken from them, and the ways in which they strive to obtain a level of agency.
Before delving into the plight of the IDW, it is necessary to step back and look at the cultural context of the situation. Especially apparent in rural regions, Colombian society is deeply patriarchal (Meertens 1996:7). This system subordinates women based on their universal role as mothers and homemakers. Women occupy a private (domestic) sphere, while the men dominate the public (more prestigious) sphere. Furthermore, men being in the public sphere, hold the prestigious economic and political roles (Warms and Nanda 2012:192-193). A paper, written by Donny Meertens (a lecturer on women-and-development studies at National University of Bogotá), examines how displacement impacts men and women differently as considered in terms of the intra-household relationships. Meertens discusses the rigidity of these separate spheres in rural Colombia saying that “the limits of the life spaces of peasant women and girls are set by male parameters” (Meertens 1996:7). That is to say, women are subordinated to their male kin (first by their fathers and later by their husbands). Meertens also briefly describes the isolation (both geographical and social) that women endure in being restricted to the private sphere (Meertens...

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