Colombia - Social development

According to legislation enacted in 1971, social security coverage extends to salaried and nonsalaried people alike, including small business people, and other self-employed workers in both rural and urban areas. In 1994, a private insurance system was introduced. Employees may choose between public or private pension systems, and may also select from among many privately run pension management systems. Both employers and employees contribute to the program, while the government guarantees a minimum pension. A comprehensive medical program was implemented in 1995, and coverage is being extended gradually to all inhabitants, regardless of their contributions. Employees contribute 3% of earnings and employers 8% of payroll, while the government funds low earners. A worker's compensation program is funded fully by employers and provides benefits in proportion to the degree of incapacity. Maternity benefits cover 100% of earnings for 12 weeks.

The law provides women with extensive civil rights and prohibits any form of discrimination against women. However, there is still discrimination against women, especially in rural areas. They earn 30–40% less than men for doing similar work, and occupy few of the top positions in government. Rape and other acts of violence against women are widespread, and traditionally the law has not provided strict penalties for offenders. However, a 1996 law provided penalties for acts of domestic violence, and legislation the following year modified the penal code.

Urban Colombia, and especially Bogotá, has acquired a reputation for street crime: pickpockets and thieves are a common problem. Drug trafficking flourishes on a large scale, despite government efforts to suppress cocaine smuggling and to eradicate the coca and marijuana crops. Kidnapping, both for political reasons and for profit, is widespread.

Human rights excesses by security forces continue with reports of extrajudicial killings and disappearances. Human rights abuses are committed by many groups, including guerillas, narcotics traffickers, paramilitary groups and the military. Prison conditions are harsh, but international monitoring of conditions is allowed by the government. The constitution provides for special rights and protection for Colombia's many indigenous minorities, but these are not always respected in practice.

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