Categoría: Inglés

Colombia: Botched plastic surgeries and misogyny

Columna publicada el 12 de diciembre de 2016 en Al Jazeera. Para leer la versión en español, haga click aquí.

This column was published December 12, 2016, in Al Jazeera. For the Spanish version click here.

Colombian women, victims of unsafe plastic surgeries, struggle to find justice and understanding in a sexist society.

In Colombia, more than 350,000 plastic surgeries are performed each year; that is, 978 procedures a day, 40 an hour and three procedures every five minutes.

Plastic surgery is one of the most profitable branches of medical services in the country. The demand for cosmetic procedures responds to a massive need, fed by the hyper-sexism of the Colombian society which limits the professional and personal opportunities for women. Often, “being pretty” is the only way forward for a Colombian woman.

This is why it is understandable that there is such a high demand for such surgeries and so little regulation. Over the past decades, Colombia gradually became the perfect setting for offering unsafe surgeries like labiaplasty (learn about labiaplasty Melbourne precautions), as the government took no serious action against the surgeries and victims felt too afraid to speak out.

Political Violence is Directly Linked to Online Harassment

Article published on WMSpeech Project on April 22, 2016.

In May 2012, just before the anniversary of the ruling of the Constitutional Court that legalized abortion in Colombia in 2006, I was working as a communications officer in the offices of the NGO Women’s Link Worldwide in Bogotá. Its program director, Monica Roa, had filed the 2006 Constitutional Claim that led to the court’s ruling. Roa and another co-worker were working late at the office that night, preparing for an upcoming meeting of activists. Suddenly the building went dark and they heard two shots. Roa felt pieces of glass bouncing on her hair. An unknown car drove away, its tires screeching against the pavement.

Part of my job at the time was to monitor social media. In the days before the incident, online misogynistic abuse had been more aggressive than usual. Most of the trolling directed at us on social networks appeared to be coming from social conservatives. For example, a Twitter account, self-described as part of the extreme right, had created a meme of Roa dressed “as Hitler.” One of their leaders is currently Columbia’s “Procurador,” the Inspector General who has openly used his office to restrict women’s rights. Highly active right-wing extremists not only focused on social rights, but were a militarist right wing that loudly sympathized with powerful paramilitary groups.

Guatemala sexual slavery verdict shows women’s bodies are not battlefields

Op-ed published at the Newspaper  The Guardian on February 29th 2016.

Two men have been found guilty for enslaving indigenous women in Sepur Zarco in a case symbolising a wider battle for Latin America women


The word muxuk refers to a woman who has been “desecrated”, a woman whose “social and spiritual world was destroyed and broken in all of the areas of her life”. In the Q’eqchi’ language there are four ways to refer to sexual violence, yet muxuk is the term Guatemalan women of the Sepur Zarco community have chosen to use when talking about the war crimes perpetrated against them.

Neither Spanish nor English have the words to describe precisely the horrors these women experienced in 1982, during the Guatemalan armed conflict.

The Sepur Zarco trial was groundbreaking for three reasons. Unlike other trials involving sexual violence during armed conflicts – such as the cases in Rwanda(pdf) and former Yugoslavia – the proceedings were conducted entirely by a national court.

The verdict has set a precedent for treating domestic and sexual slavery as war crimes – something that is crucial for the advancement of transitional justice in many Latin American countries.

And it seeks to build a standard of proof based on the testimony of survivors – important because, in a case like this, where the events occurred more than 30 years ago, little physical evidence is available.

Like many conflicts in Latin America, what happened in Sepur Zarco was a battle over the ownership of territory – both land and women’s bodies.

The digital divide: a report from Latin America

Chapter of the foundation Plan UK’s annual report, “State of the World’s Girls Report 2015”. October 2015.

When I was 11, we learned how to use the Logo operating system in computer classes in Barranquilla. Since I didn’t have a computer at home I had to write out all the calculations manually and I would use pencil drawings and a typewriter to do my homework. We got our first computer at home in 1996. At school it was always the boys who knew most about computers. They were the ones who studied systems engineering. I studied philosophy and visual arts. The closest I came to systems engineering was probably maths, but it depressed me to think that if I studied maths I wouldn’t be attractive and I would end up alone. Of course, that’s being really superficial. Or maybe it isn’t, because the need to feel accepted and loved is no small thing. Perhaps I was just very young at the time and didn’t realise that my own choices were influenced by machista prejudices.

Honduran women refuse to be silenced in face of yet another setback

Article published on March 18th, 2015 in The Guardian

Even in a country where struggle is a way of life for feminists, the imprisonment of the celebrated women’s rights defender Gladys Lanza marks a fresh low

ladys Lanza, a Honduran feminist activist, was recently convicted of defamation for defending a woman who accused a Honduran government official of sexual harassment. The verdict is aimed at sending a powerful message to all defenders of women’s rights in the country: “If you don’t want to be prosecuted, stay silent.”

In Honduras, violent deaths among women increased by 263.4% from 2005 to 2013. In 2009, the year of the coup d’état, femicide rose by 62%, while in 2013, a woman was murdered somewhere in the country every 15 hours. Between 2012 and 2013, 525 cases of harassment against women’s rights activists were documented. From 2009 to 2012, victims filed 82,547 accusations of domestic violence, 92% of which came from women. In 2013 alone, 2,851 charges of sexual violence were filed. More than 90% of cases end up with no conviction. The work of women’s rights activists is more important than ever.