Colombia rejected the peace agreements signed between their Government and the guerrilla movement FARC in a referendum held on Sunday. The efforts to stop the more than 40-year-old conflict and the work to address the inequalities and violence created by the conflict hang by a thread at the moment. Conservative forces managed to confuse the population about the affirmative actions aimed at making sure that women and LGBTI people equally benefit from the peace process.
“Women and LGBTI people have been some of the most affected groups by the armed conflict in Colombia. Conservatives forces want to keep us as second class citizens, as if our tears and pain do not count,” said Wilson Castañeda, Director of Caribe Afirmativo, a Victory Institute partner organization in Colombia.
Victory Institute and Caribe Afirmativo had been working to help political parties prepare to implement the peace agreement’s provisions on boosting political participation of women and LGBTI people. Both organizations, in collaboration with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung en Colombia (FESCOL), National Democratic Institute (NDI), and Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD), organized a working breakfast with representatives from different political parties to listen to their ideas, and share a briefing document with concrete recommendations to implement that mandate.
The inconclusive results of the referendum could mean the return of the conflict, and a missed opportunity for Colombia to build a more inclusive and fair democracy for all ofcitizens. In a historically low voter turnout of 37 percent, the peace agreement was rejected by 50.2% of voters. Caribe Afirmativo led a joint campaign by more than 130 LGBTI groups from the country asking people to vote yes for the peace agreement.
Conservative forces in the country, led by the anti-equality former Public Prosecutor, Alejandro Ordóñez, confused the population by spreading messages in the media stating claiming the peace agreements would mean the destruction of the family. They opposed the inclusion of any language mentioning gender equality and LGBTI people. Particularly, they strongly rejected provisions aiming at reinforcing the social and political participation of these groups.
Victory and Caribe Afirmativo will continue their joint efforts to increase political participation of LGBTI people in Colombia, and invite people to march in favor of the peace process on October 14.