By Anastasia Moloney
BOGOTA, May 10 (Openly) - Mother's Day is a cause for celebration, but in Colombia it is infamous for bringing violence and death.
On Sunday, families will come together, flowers and alcohol will be bought in vast quantities and restaurants will be packed.
But in Colombia, Mother's Day is also one of the most violent days of the year, with women bearing the brunt of it in the home.
Historically, domestic and sexual violence in Colombia spikes around and on Mother's Day, as does the murder rate.
The number of people killed in Colombia leading to and on Mother's Day has increased in the past three years.
According to the National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences, a total of 126 people were murdered last year on Mother's Day weekend - defined as Friday, Saturday and Sunday - up from 121 in 2017 and 114 the previous year.
On an average day in Colombia in 2018, 34 people were murdered in a country of about 50 million.
"Mother's Day is one of the most violent days of the year against women in Colombia, and figures also show that on this day violence among men also increases," said Ana Guezmes Garcia, head of the United Nation's Women's agency in Colombia.
Violence against women is driven by Colombia's macho culture.
"Machismo hurts and kills women, but also men and society as a whole ... control and power over women at the hands of people close (to them) is unfortunately expressed through violence," Guezmes said.
To combat the violence, this week the government launched a social media campaign, calling on people to celebrate in peace and show respect for women on Sunday.
"Fights, domestic violence and aggressions among family members are the types of behaviors that most occur during the celebration of Mother's Day. Let's change this reality," the attorney general's office tweeted.
The public-awareness raising campaign has enlisted the help of local celebrities, actors and beauty queens, who have posted video messages on social media.
"Our mothers, we have to protect them with all our hearts," said Miss Colombia, Gabriela Tafur, in a video.
According to Cristina Velez, Bogota's secretary of social integration, the violence on Mother's Day is mainly fueled by a combination of people drinking too much and the macho culture.
"When one looks at the cases, or the reasons or justifications that the aggressors have sometimes made, it has to do with their inability to express their emotions and also, of course, a negative view of women," Velez said.
Velez said public awareness raising campaigns, led by the mayor's office, have helped to reduce the murder rate and violence against women in Bogota on Mother's Day weekend from 118 reported cases of violence against women in 2017 to 89 in 2018.
Across Colombia's cities, about two in every five homes are headed by a single mother, and as extended families and absent fathers come together on Mother's Day, arguments over childcare payments and other disputes tend to break out.
"When people drink, conflicts that haven't been resolved among families come out," Velez told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
To address the violence, six family arbitration centers in Bogota will be operating for extended hours on Mother's Day weekend to deal with family disputes and cases of domestic violence, she said.
(Reporting by Anastasia Moloney @anastasiabogota, Editing by Jason Fields. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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