International Women’s Day march in Bogotá

By Emma Newbery March 8, 2021

8M in Colombia: Thousands took to the streets today to campaign for equality and protest violence against women.

Slogans were painted in graffiti in several places through Bogotá. Photo: Oli Pritchard

International Women’s Day is always a time to reflect on the progress made towards gender equality — and the challenges that still lie ahead. In a year that has seen an increase in femicides and violence against women in Colombia, there were many reasons to take to the streets.

According to a recent report from Sisma Mujer, women in Colombia have borne more of the economic impact of the pandemic than men. This is true in many parts of the world. The report suggests that COVID-19 has pushed labour participation here back by almost a decade.

Economic inequality is not the only issue. The report highlights some other concerning statistics in Colombia:

  • So far in 2021, a woman has been a victim of domestic violence every 11 minutes
  • Between March 2020 and February 2021, calls to the domestic violence helpline (155) have increased by almost 85%. There were about 18,000 calls in March last year, compared with almost 33,000 this February.
  • There were 444 victims of femicide in 2020, according to data from the Fiscalía. Sisma Mujer also highlighted the increased risk of femicide during the quarantine.

As such, it’s not surprising that marches took place throughout Colombia today. In Bogotá, women congregated at the planetarium and the Parque Nacional and marched towards the Plaza Bolívar. Many of the marchers wore purple pañoletas and black clothes in mourning for the victims of femicide in the country. Tonight saw a concert and candlelit vigil for those who have died.

However, the day did not pass completely peacefully. A small group of protestors damaged TransMilenio stations and buses, while others tried to set fire to the San Francisco church. ESMAD riot police were called in at around 6pm. 

Bogotá mayor Claudia López blamed about 30 women for the violent scenes.

“This is not a protest nor assertion nor feminism,” she tweeted. “It’s unacceptable that a day dedicated to exalting the struggles and achievements of women in history was taken advantage of by a small group of violent women who believe that to protest is to destroy,.”