Thousands of people marched in the streets of Bogota, Colombia, in a memorial to a rape victim and to protest the serial abuse of women in the Latin-American nation.
Politicians, musicians and peace activists, among others, gathered at the National Park in the center of the capital to demand tougher punishment against rapists in a country where 51,000 women were attacked last year.
All Colombians reject any form of violence against women, wrote Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on his Twitter account.
Rosa Elvira Cely, a 35-year-old single mother, was sexually assaulted on May 23 while selling candy in Bogota. She was found in National Park semi-nude with signs of torture on her body. She died four days later in the hospital.
Last Friday, a 44-year-old man named Javier Valasco, was arrested on charges of torturing and killing the woman. A second suspect was picked up by police on Sunday.
Protesters who honored Cely held up placards with such slogans as Not one more, Life sentence for the rapists and No more violence against women.
We regret the death of Rosa Elvira and reject violence, said Cristina Plaza, a government minister on women’s affairs, who took part in the demonstration. We want quick justice in such cases, because impunity is a form of violence against women.
Bogota has one of the world’s highest crime and murder rates, much of it fueled by the nation’s drug trafficking subculture. But the country’s civil war between government military forces and leftist guerillas featured a different kind of crime -- the rape of women as a weapon of war.
Paramilitary forces, who sought to control much of Colombia between 1997 and 2005, as well as the guerilla rebels, committed uncounted rapes of women in the countryside. Many of these victims of sexual assault were also tortured, mutilated and murdered.
A report from 2006 by a special rapporteur of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights declared: The actors in Colombia's armed conflict, particularly the paramilitaries and guerrillas, use physical, sexual and psychological violence against women as a strategy of war.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.