Abuse by the FARC
But the paramilitary groups, the army and the police are not the only parties in the conflict to have committed acts of violence against LGBT Colombians. There is also evidence of abuses by the FARC.
Perhaps the most distinctive case took place in Vistahermosa, one of the five municipalities included in the demilitarized zone that the government and the FARC agreed on as part of a failed peace process between 1998 and 2002.
FARC commanders discovered in 2001 that some of their fighters, coca growers and other affiliates were having sex with Vistahermosa men. They forced all those involved in the scandal to write a comprehensive list of all their sexual partners, outed them to their families and displaced them from the demilitarized zone.
FARC commanders discovered that some of their fighters, coca growers and other affiliates were having sex with Vistahermosa men
Because LGBT people are stigmatized as likely carriers of HIV, the FARC also forced all men and women older than 12 to get tested for the virus. Those who tested positive, the majority of whom were LGBT, were forced to leave the demilitarized zone.
Though there is no evidence of threatening pamphlets distributed by the FARC, the guerrilla group has used other methods to express its rejection of LGBT people. For instance, it has often forcefully displaced gay men and transgender women because they are seen as weak and feminine and therefore useless as potential fighters. But in some cases, they are allowed to stay in exchange for sexual favors or to work as collaborators planning kidnappings, growing coca and committing extortions, the Center of Historic Memory Report shows.
Although homosexuality is prohibited in the ranks of the FARC, lesbian women have been often forced to enlist because they are perceived as tough and masculine — traits the FARC looks for in its soldiers. But once they are part of the guerrilla group they are not allowed to acknowledge their sexual orientation, Fernández said.
Inside the FARC
Commander Isabela Sanroque admitted in an interview with the news site Colombia Plural that the FARC has always been a “heterosexual” organization that doesn’t allow any form of expression of homosexuality.
“For sure there are LGBT people (in the ranks), but the FARC doesn’t officially allow people who identify in this way to enroll…this happens because there are a lot of sexist vices, a lot of ignorance,” she said.
“For sure there are LGBT people (in the ranks), but the FARC doesn’t officially allow people who identify in this way to enroll…”
Former FARC fighter Yoed Arenas, who managed to escape earlier this year, said that members who engage in homosexual behavior are executed by firearm. He enrolled when he was 14 and stayed for seven years. Although he never witnessed an execution, he did hear of this type of punitive killings happening in other camps, he said.
Yoed knew that soldiers who didn’t report cases of sexual misconduct were also sentenced to death, which is why he feared for his life when he found out that one of his closest friends in the FARC was having a romantic relationship with another male fighter.
“When I caught them kissing they almost started crying and they made me promise that I wouldn’t say anything,” he said. “I kept the secret because you never break your promises, especially not the ones you make to your friends. But I wish I didn’t know, because keeping the secret could have cost me my life.”