Guatemala's Femicide Law: 2009 Monitoring Report
Friday, August 21, 2009 2:48 PM

A year after the Guatemalan government passed a law prohibiting femicide, the Guatemalan Human Rights Commission (GHRC), a non-profit organization based in Washington D.C., U.S.A., reported that the femicide law "represents an important step in challenging the history of gender violence and rampant impunity," but has yet to stem the rising tide of murders.  The number of murders has increased whereas the number of perpetrators held accountable has not.

The GHRC report places femicide within a particular historical, cultural and socio-political context, describing the 36-year internal conflict that resulted in rape, torture and murder of tens of thousands of Guatemalan women and girls.  In fact, the culture of violence did not end with the signing of peace accords, but has continued through organized crime, drug trafficking, human trafficking, a culture of machismo and misogyny, and a lack of rule of law.  

Over the past decade or more, human rights advocates both within and outside of Guatemala have pressure the government to take action to address violence against women and the government has passed several laws including a Law to Prevent, Sanction, and Eradicate Domestic Violence in 1996 and a Law for the Dignity and Comprehensive Promotion of Women in 1999.  The Law Against Femicide and Other Forms of Violence Against Women passed in April 2008. 

The GHRC report notes that the government has made progress in implementing some aspects of the Law Against Femicide, including the first conviction in February 2009 and the arrest of another alleged perpetrator of femicide.  But, the report also points out that the lack of understanding of the law, continued social unrest, poor media portrayal, and inadequate efforts to implement the law stand in the way of serious progress.

Finally, the GHRC recommends that the government of Guatemala improve investigation and prosecution of crimes of violence against women, protection of the victims of violence and their children, education of both the professionals responsible for responding to such crimes and the public, and develop a coordinated approach to healing and the framing of such violence within the context of human rights for all Guatemalans.

Compiled from:  "Guatemala's Femicide Law:  Progress Against Impunity?" The Guatemalan Human Rights Commission (April 2009) (PDF, 17 pages).