Colombia's Revolutionary Alternative Force of the Commons (FARC) has issued a statement rejecting a "media smear campaign" involving alleged sexual violence, calling for a "new way of doing politics" based on respect instead of "dirty campaigns."
"We call for a new way of doing politics; for a Colombia that privileges ideas, and for a new way of communication that does not exacerbate hatred," the FACR said in a statement released Thursday.
The organization was responding to claims published by several Colombian media outlets that the numerous women in the FARC are victims of rampant sexual abuse.
"The women of the FARC reject the media campaign that is being developed in certain media outlets and that uses the issue of sexual violence against our comrades," the statement reads. "Women who were part of the armed struggle... do not consider ourselves to be victims of sexual violence."
The FARC emphasized the important role that women were given both in the armed struggle and in the ongoing quest for peace.
"We took up arms to defend our people and our ideas; we take up arms to defend millions of exploited, excluded, marginalized and violated women.
"Our organization had the rules and elements to protect all of us from male violence; we were educated and trained to fight against patriarchy, despite being part of a macho society."
The FARC also denounced claims that forced abortions took place, and clarified that pregnant women have never been accepted into their ranks, with the use of contraceptives hving always been promoted.
In the case of pregnancy, women were permitted to leave their role as a soldier in order to assume the responsibilities of motherhood, the statement said.
According to the statement, sexual abuse and assault are strictly prohibited in the organization, and will be met with punishment. The FARC encouraged any potential victims to come forward through appropriate channels.
"Clearly, yes, there have been cases, but these aren't a part of the politics of the organization," Girlandrey Sandoval was quoted as saying by Upside Down World.
Over the course of the 53-year civil war against the Colombian government and paramilitaries, women have consistently joined and fought, currently making up around a third of the FARC's ranks.