Infobae Colombia spoke with the feminist activist who won the 'Women's Media Center Progressive Women's Voices IMPACT Award', an award that recognizes her role in demanding women's rights in the country
Mariana Ardila wins the Women's Media Center Progressive Women's Voices IMPACT Award. (Infobae, Jesús Avilés).
“Abortion was a sin. If the subject was discussed, it was in secret, because it was taboo. This is how lawyer Mariana Ardila Trujillo remembers the first injustices and questions that she had in her adolescence against the Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy (IVE). Decades later, she herself would be part of the green tide that claimed the rights of women to decide over their bodies in Colombia.
On the night of November 17, 2022, Mariana Ardila won the Women's Media Center Progressive Women's Voices IMPACT Award, an award that recognizes her work as a feminist leader for more than a decade and that has been fundamental to achieving a transformation in the country.
Infobae Colombia spoke with the lawyer about what's behind that award. “It feels like a great responsibility,” said the activist, acknowledging that it is not a job that falls solely on her. “I know that none of these things can be accomplished alone. There are many colleagues with whom we have collaborated and dreamed together for this.”
A feeling of injustice
Mariana Ardila lived in Neiva (Huila), a city—in her opinion—traditionally conservative, and studied at a private, Catholic, female school. “I did not have any formal approach during that time to feminist movements or readings of that type”; however, when she came to study law at the Externado de Colombia University her perspective began to change.
All those cases of teenage pregnancies that she heard in whispers were felt “with a certain tone of injustice”, but she did not have the elements to define violence and discrimination based on gender . In her fourth year of college, in 2006, she was able to put a face to that feeling with the legalization of abortion for reasons, which occurred in cases of rape, malformation of the fetus or risk to the mother. mother's health.
“There was a much more public debate: in the classroom, in the families,” the activist explained. At that time, she began to approach the subject from a legal and intellectual point of view. What she didn't know was that she would later end up linked to Women's Link WorldWilde, the organization that achieved that historic ruling through a lawsuit. p>
When Mariana began to become more involved in the issue, there were no openly organized feminist movements, “it was something more of certain niches where I was not and with whom I had not met yet.” But it did begin to get the purple glasses, with which he recognized gender violence at parties, romantic relationships, in the media, etc.
The lawyer became interested in Constitutional Law from the university, so much so that she even became a monitor of that department in her faculty. She began to read the Constitutional Court rulings on how minors should not stop studying because they get pregnant. Her enthusiasm was such that she ended up working for five years in the same high court and, somehow, gender issues got into her hands.
“In a certain way I specialized because of that interest that I showed and that other people began to recognize,” explained Ardila Trujillo. His knowledge was not only empirical, but she also sought the academy. That is why she has a Postgraduate Diploma in Women and Human Rights from the University of Chile and a Master's degree in International Law from New York University.
Reproductive violence: a recognized truth of the armed conflict
After her master's degree, Mariana worked at the Attorney General's Office to investigate gender violence in the armed conflict in Colombia. What the lawyer found were cases of abortions and forced contraception by the now extinct FARC guerilla.
The activist did not spend a long time at the investigative body, as she later found a place that would become her work for almost a decade: Women's Link WorldWilde. “When I walked in, surprisingly they were working on the issue of non-voluntaryabortion in the context of the armed conflict,” explained the feminist.
Infobae Colombia reviewed the study delivered by the organization —and which also reached the hands of the Truth Commission. “Forced contraception and forced abortion constituted forms of reproductive violence that were part of the process of disciplining the bodies of women combatants and girls illegally recruited in the context of the conflict,” the document reads.
< p class="paragraph">The achievement was gigantic, since the entity that was born with the signing of the Final Peace Agreement described this type of gender violence as a truth. “Thanks to this report and others presented by other organizations, the reproductive violence that occurred by various armed actors, not only the FARC, was recognized,” stated Mariana Ardila.
The case of 'Helena' and reparation for the victims
For the report, Women's Link WorldWilde took into account as primary source 'Helena', a woman victim of forced recruitment by the former Farc when she was 14 years old. Her case was considered emblematic of many women and girls in rural areas, especially after the Constitutional Court recognized her as a victim of the armed conflict.
'Helena' had been denied register in the national registry of victims. “When we won in the Constitutional Court, it was the first time that someone told him: 'yes, you are a victim of the conflict, it was not your fault,'” the lawyer said. That was very important to her.”
The truth is that the fact of recognizing that truth is a form of reparation to the victims, “that what happened to them was not their fault.” For the feminist, this is a common denominator in gender violence: “denial is very painful because deep down they are calling you 'liars.'”
However, the repair still has many gaps. “I think we have to go beyond the sense that there is comprehensive sexuality education in schools, that there are sexual and reproductive health services in all areas of the country,” said the lawyer, noting that it would be a basis for there is no repetition of these crimes.
“Let it be understood that it is wrong to force a woman to both give birth and have an abortion,” he added.
The Just Cause Movement and the decriminalization of abortion
The story of Mariana and feminism began with the 2006 sentence and crossed again with the decriminalization of abortion until week 24 in 2022.
In conversation with Ana Cristina González , one of the pioneers of the Just Cause Movement, mentioned to this outlet that a group of lawyers translated a public health problem into legal terms to present the lawsuit that finally achieved the historical fact . One of those lawyers was Mariana Ardila.
In context: Decriminalization of abortion: the story behind the two most influential Colombian activists, according to Time magazine
“The movement had more than 90 arguments”, clarified the lawyer and with With the support of other compañeras and constitutionalists, they set about the task of “translating all that language according to what the Court requests”. Ardila Trujillo emphasized the collective work and the multiple hands that were behind that demand.
The feminist had not been fully aware —until the moment of this interview— of the common thread that abortion has been in its history. “Having started to be interested in the subject in 2006 and later, life puts me in the group of lawyers for the lawsuit that finally achieved the historic triumph,” he reflected during the meeting.
Mariana doesn't get full of ego when talking about the award either; her entire journey has been thanks to collective work. So much so that she ended up working at her university and now that there are several feminist movements, she sees herself “as just another student.”