COLOMBIA: Judges Unfamiliar With International Legal Norms Concerning Women's Rights: Colombia's Former Minister of Justice

Friday, August 15, 2014
Colombia Reports
South America
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
General Women, Peace and Security

Colombia's former minister of justice emphasized the need for the country's judges to familiarize themselves with international judicial norms and Colombia's international obligations at a Medellin seminar on justice for women on Thursday.

According to Colombia's former minister of justice, Ruth Stella Correa, judges in Colombia need to study and be able to implement and interpret international norms regarding women's rights.

The former minister, who served in President Juan Manuel Santos' cabinet from 2012 to 2013, recognized the lack of knowledge Colombian judges have regarding international norms that Colombia is obligated to follow as a signatory to international conventions and treaties.

“Given that Colombia has subscribed to various international instruments that guarantee the protection of women, affirmative action (…) we are very far from reality because there exist no means to materialize everything that is outlined in the established norms,” asserted the former minister of justice.

“We gain nothing from a judge that applies a gender perspective at the time of sentencing if he does not do so during the duration of the process.” Ex-Minister of Justice Ruth Stella Correa
Correa regards the application and interpretation of international norms and standards as the biggest obstacle in achieving justice for women. “States are saturated with norms in search of gender equality,” states the former minister, adding that “all that victims find are obstacles in searching for justice.”

Another panelist, Adriana Benjumea, director of the women's rights NGO, Corporacion Humanas, mentioned an instance where she was talking to a judge who worked a case regarding a man who had put “insects in his partner's vagina,” and the judge had only passed a minimum sentence of carnal abuse, as opposed to torture, which would have been given him longer sentence, had the judge applied a gender perspective.

Colombia's judges pass down a procedural justice and do not apply a gender perspective on cases that obviously merit them, according to Correa. If anything, judges apply a gender perspective at the time of sentencing, but not during the trial which is the most critical time to do so.

Benjumea, who is also a human rights and feminist lawyer, mentioned how many of her former colleagues continue to protect victimizers in the justice department, which creates a hostile environment and is hard for victims to deal with.

Benjumea reinforced this point by citing the case of an attorney that was threatened in court in front of a Justice and Peace Law magistrate when he was against the release of a paramilitary. The paramilitary told the Prosecutor General attorney that “if you, Mr. Attorney, are opposed against my release, only God knows what will happen with your life.”

According to the panelists, justice for women should extend to all courts and include affirmative action and reproductive rights.