War’s violence comes home

May 8, 2017
Hands holding model of home.

After a civil war that’s lasted nearly 60 years, Colombia is finally moving toward peace. Yet unfortunately, peace is no closer for many of Colombia’s women, who still face domestic violence.

“Colombia’s war has gone on for so long, but one of the things that isn’t talked about in relation to the war is domestic violence. They are very much connected,” says Greta Friedemann-Sánchez.

Among developing countries, Colombia’s laws criminalizing intimate partner violence and providing protection for victims are considered the gold standard. And yet despite that, Colombia’s rates of partner violence are among the world’s highest.

Friedemann-Sánchez, an assistant professor of international development at the U of M’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, has joined other researchers to launch a study that asks: “Why is the prevalence of violence against women so high even while the country’s lawmakers have taken a stand against it?”

Her team has interviewed 125 family commissioners, municipal officials, and nongovernmental organizations in Colombia to assess the situation.

The team’s initial analysis concludes that these officials are seldom given the resources and respect they need to do their jobs.

Domestic violence cases are complicated, and the family commissioners have far too many of these cases to address them effectively. Commissioners have to juggle unrelated tasks, such as enforcing underage drinking policies and supervising school lunch contracts. And family commissioners are held in low esteem, often harassed by the very city officials who control their budgets.

Friedemann-Sánchez says the team’s study is being welcomed by the Colombian government and by NGOs. She hopes to help create a process that countries around the world can use to implement and evaluate laws to address intimate partner violence.