While Colombia's 1886 Constitution -- as one would expect -- makes adequate provisions for freedom of speech, press, assembly and religion, fair trials, etc., it is completely silent -- as one might also expect -- on women's rights. It was not until the constitutional reform of 1957 (Decree 247) that the Constitution was amended to provide (in Article 1) that "Women shall have the same political rights as men."
Yes, women had been granted the vote in 1954, but that, admittedly, had done little to affect discriminatory treatment in other areas of Colombian life. However, it did give women a political voice, and it is significant that the provisions of Decree 247 of 1957 contained the preamble that "the military junta of the government of the Republic of Colombia (was) interpreting the national opinion expressed in the subscribed accords by the political parties."
Regrettably, this was still far from adequate. Inequality was ingrained in the Colombian Civil Code which, via the Napoleonic Code, closely followed Roman legal sources. The pressure of change continued and became part of the campaign pledges of Alfonso Lopez Michelsen in the presidential race of 1974. After taking office, the new Chief of State promulgated Decree 2820 of 1974, which caused a virtual legal revolution on behalf of women. By examining the status of women (on paper at least) both before and after this decree, one can assess the disability of women in Colombia a scant decade ago and the scope of attempts to achieve equality.
The state of reform was set by the Declaration of Purpose which was to guide the interpretation of Decree 2820. It read:
Despite recent laws concerning the family a great disparity still exists between the law and the actual situation. There is a clear discrimination against women. Because of the limitations of the law in solving family conflicts and in doing justice to women, a grave social situation is being tolerated. // In analyzing the spirit of our legislation we find that it incorporates two attitudes which are particularly harmful to the strength and stability of the family. In the first place, this legislation makes it easy for men to neglect their conjugal obligations, and to preserve discrimination. This results in irresponsible procreation, a high number of extramarital unions and the proliferation of children resulting from these. In the second place, the submission and dependency of women has impeded the development of marital relations on a plane of equality, especially with regard to obligations and rights.
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Publication information: Book title: Discrimination Against WomenA Global Survey of the Economic, Educational, Social and Political Status of Women. Contributors: Eschel M. Rhoodie - Author. Publisher: McFarland & Company, Inc.. Place of publication: Jefferson, North Carolina. Publication year: 1989. Page number: 332.
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