20 Apr 2012 Tackling violence against women in Guatemala and Mexico
Feminicide is a form of misogyny and extreme violence that affects the daily lives of thousands of women in Guatemala and Mexico. In 2011, according to the National Institute of Forensic Sciences, 708 women suffered violent deaths in Guatemala alone. The murders are characterized by rape, mutilation, decapitation and dismemberment.
According to CEDPCA, two terms are used to describe the murder of women in the context of unequal power relationships between women and men. Femicide is a legal term and is found in Guatemalan law. Feminicide is a political term, used by activists to highlight that the State does not guarantee the right of women to a life free of violence and is, therefore, complicit in such crimes by not prompting actions that solve these murders.
The CEDEPCA project used the term feminicide with the aim of pressuring the States of Guatemala and Mexico to take action to protect the lives of women. Guatemala has a Law against Femicide and other Forms of Violence against Women (decree 22-2008). Its scope is to promote and implement regulations aimed at eradicating physical, psychological, sexual, economic or any other kind of coercion against women, guaranteeing them a life free of violence as stipulated by the Constitution and international instruments on human rights ratified by Guatemala.
Mexico has a General Law of Access by Women to a Life Free of Violence, which is aimed at preventing, punishing and eradicating violence against women. It also sets out principles and modalities that guarantee access to a life that favours women’s development and well-being in accordance with constitutionally upheld principles of equality and non-discrimination.
Against this background, CEDEPCA conducted a whole series of workshops to build awareness of women’s rights, to facilitate educational spaces for dialogue and testimony, to reflect on alternatives to help prevent violence against women, to exchange information and knowledge about denouncing violence, and to work with families and communities to recognise the rights of women.
Especially difficult was the realisation that a male centric ideology was deeply embedded in the two countries and that their culture, religious traditions and education system contribute to the naturalization of violence against women. A culture of impunity also exists when it comes to the murder of women, reflecting a lack of political will to sustain a fair judicial system.
After one workshop, an indigenous woman in Guatemala commented, “I tell everyone I speak to about violence in the home and the laws that protect the lives of women and I encourage women suffering violence to take the first step to speak up and report it.”
Communicating awareness and building on lessons learned are a vital part of tackling the violence that is prevalent in Guatemala and Mexico. CEDEPCA has offered hope and the possibility of transformation.
This project was supported by WACC, the United Methodist Church (USA), and Women’s World Day of Prayer (Germany).