Women’s Rights in Colombia
Colombia is a South American country between the Caribbean Sea and the Andes Mountains that people know for its salsa dancing and its coffee. The country has come a long way in the past century in its advancement of women’s rights in Colombia.

Throughout the colonial era and the 19th century, Colombia operated under a patriarchal society, and many relegated women to being housewives. Few besides the wealthy had access to education, and it had limitations for those who did. However, by the 1930s, higher education schooling received legalization for women, and society began to recognize women as equal to men for their academic achievements. Around this time, Colombia offered full citizenship status to women as well.

In the present day, Colombia demonstrates greater gender equality due to the several measures that it previously took to support and protect women. Here are four facts about women’s rights in Colombia.

4 Facts About Women’s Rights in Colombia

  1. Colombia’s government has strong laws in favor of women’s rights and gender equity. For example, in 1991, the Political Constitution of Colombia replaced the 1986 Constitution and included several articles supporting women’s equality. Some articles expanded on women’s rights to participate in society, including freedom from discrimination and the right to participate in politics and public administration. Others improved gender equality in family life, establishing the possibility of divorce and special protection during pregnancy. Furthermore, in 2011, Colombia’s government passed Law 1475, which establishes a 30% quota of women candidates in all elections; the same percentage of women must also occupy the highest level of the government’s public service. The passing of this law has increased women’s participation in politics and government, therefore strengthening their influence over future legislation. In 2018, half of Colombia’s cabinet ministers were women, and for the first time in history, the country had a female minister of the interior. By comparison, the average for female representation in Latin American legislatures was 22% in 2010.
  2. The Colombian government actively combats violence and discrimination towards women. Domestic violence is a prevalent issue in Colombia, with nearly 38,000 reported cases of violence against women at the hands of an intimate partner in 2014. Therefore, legislation that supports women in vulnerable positions is even more crucial. Law 1257, passed in 2008, is one example, as it issued regulations to prevent and punish forms of violence and discrimination against women. Additionally, Law 1719, passed in 2014, ensures access to justice for victims of sexual violence. These recently-passed regulations protect women from abuse and provide them with greater autonomy in leaving harmful domestic relationships.
  3. Young women have access to schooling and education. In 2018, 83% of Colombian children aged 11 to 12 attended secondary school, with girls outnumbering boys by 5% – 80% attendance for girls versus 75% for boys. Young women are overall more educated than men in Colombia, providing them with more opportunities to enter high-earning careers. The technology sector is one industry that is expanding in its employment of women. Colombia is experiencing a boom in IT investment, and as a result, the country’s 1,800 software development companies are creating hundreds of thousands of new development and programming jobs. The Bogotá Chamber of Commerce has launched a World Bank pilot for women in IT, creating a scholarship program to train women in programming and web development at the Bogotá Institute of Technology. At present, women occupy 17% of IT jobs in Colombia; however, programs like these are helping women rapidly increase their participation in the industry and become high-wage earners. Furthermore, this is a valuable resource for the country’s long-term economic growth. Fostering gender equality in the labor market would improve efficiency, increase industry specialization and decrease unemployment rates, propelling Colombian industry and innovation forward.
  4. Colombia’s civil society has increased social mobilization for women. Efforts from community groups and activist organizations have increased awareness of women’s rights issues in Colombian society. For example, LIMPAL, the Colombian branch of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, works to protect women’s rights through advocacy and women’s political participation. The organization does much to increase women’s social autonomy, including providing women with training workshops and legal support to better defend their rights and improve quality of life. With greater representation in governmental roles and positions of authority, women have redirected political debates to include a feminist perspective. Women now have greater influence over legislation regarding sexual harassment, equal pay and domestic violence. This has increased national recognition and visibility of the pressing issues impacting women’s rights in Colombia, as well as creating new methods of addressing these issues. Claudia López, the current mayor of Colombia’s capital city, Bogotá, is one female politician who is paving the way for Colombian women, especially those pursuing governmental positions. Elected on October 27, 2019, López became both the first woman and the first openly gay mayor of Bogotá. In her victory, she pledged to fight the misogyny, racism and classism that is still present in Colombian society.

Women’s rights in Colombia continue to progress every year as women occupy more positions of authority and increase their influence over legislation and societal expectations. Colombia has moved away from its patriarchal past, providing women with greater opportunities for education and career success than what was previously available. Hopefully, more progress is in store as Colombia continues to move towards greater gender equality.

– Natasha Cornelissen
Photo: Unsplash