The subversive victim
: victimhood and sexual and gender-based violence inside non-state armed groups in Colombia

  • Daniela Suárez Vargas

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Abstract

This thesis explores two often overlooked aspects in Colombia's transitional justice studies. First, it investigates how the concept of the "ideal victim" affects the recognition of fighters as victims, focusing particularly on women fighters subjected to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) within non-state armed groups. Second, it examines how certain social movements have challenged or reinforced dominant narratives about women fighters and SGBV victimhood in their pursuit of visibility and engagement in Colombia's transitional justice system. The study draws on a broad range of disciplines including transitional justice, victimology, law, gender studies, war studies, political science, and international relations. It analyses primary and secondary data from different documentary, archival, multimedia, journalistic and social media sources, including the Colombian Truth Commission, Centro de Memoria Historica, JEP, Peace and Justice Tribunals, the Colombian Congress, Colombian political leaders, and victims’ groups. Employing a critical discourse analysis approach, the thesis dissects the discourse surrounding SGBV victimhood in Colombia's transitional justice.

The thesis argues that the prevailing discourse of the "ideal victim" perpetuates power imbalances and discrimination rooted in socio-political and gender norms. Women fighters who have suffered SGBV are perceived as what this thesis calls "subversive victims". They are seen "subversive" not only for their military actions that challenge public order, but also for disrupting traditional gender and political norms associated with “ideal victimhood”. These "subversive victims" are defined by their agency (whether armed, political, or individual) in resisting and transforming the narratives that perpetuate their victimisation and marginalisation. The thesis also highlights the diverse nature of SGBV victims and organisations representing women fighters. Some groups, like Corporación Rosa Blanca, adhere to traditional narratives of victimhood and womanhood, complicating the efforts of Colombia's transitional justice system to integrate these perspectives while promoting progressive and intersectional representations of victimhood advocated by historically marginalised groups.

Thesis is embargoed until 31 July 2025.


Date of AwardJul 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsAHRC Northern Bridge Doctoral Training Partnership
SupervisorLuke Moffett (Supervisor), Aoife O'Donoghue (Supervisor) & Rachel Killean (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • subversive victim
  • victimhood
  • transitional justice
  • sexual and gender-based violence
  • fighters
  • non-state armed groups
  • Colombia

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