BOGOTA – A group of female Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas who have either given birth recently or hope to do so in the near future are embarking on a new life project that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.
The FARC, whose nearly 7,000 members are now gathered in 26 encampments and will hand in their weapons to a United Nations mission after the rebel army signed a peace agreement with the Colombian government last year, offered an alternative for men and women looking to flee their precarious socio-economic circumstances.
And especially in the case of female fighters, life as an insurgent meant a unique chance to ascend to positions of command and authority.
But under strict FARC rules in place since 1992 these women were prohibited from bearing children and were forced to undergo abortions if they became pregnant, a widespread practice that prompted the organization Women’s Link Worldwide last year to ask the Colombian courts to try members of one of the FARC structures for war crimes.
That ban was lifted, however, on Aug. 29, 2016, when a definitive cease-fire between the FARC and the Colombian government took effect, ushering in a surge in pregnancies within the guerrilla ranks. Some other women who were already pregnant on that date were allowed to carry their pregnancies to fruition.
To date, a total of 68 children have been born to former FARC fighters, while 80 more are being carried inside their mothers’ wombs, constituting the first “peace child” generation.
In the post-conflict stage, experts stress the importance of providing basic guarantees to demobilized FARC female rebels and their partners and children as they return to civilian life.
They also say the best way to ensure history is not repeated is to analyze why these young women were drawn to a life as an insurgent in the first place.
The steps to provide adequate care for these pregnant women and new mothers include creating transition zones adjacent to the encampments where they can be evaluated and determinations can be made on how best to assist them, Real Adm. Orlando Romero said.
In addition, Colombia’s national ombudsman, Carlos Negret, recently suggested to the government that Bogota’s Central Military Hospital, which for decades has provided care to soldiers wounded in combat, reorient its efforts to the cause of peace-building and provide medical services to demobilized FARC expectant mothers and their newborns.
One woman who could benefit from these measures is 15-year-old Veronica, who is six weeks pregnant and said she felt happy and at peace and hopeful that a better future awaits the children of former guerrilla fighters.