Tuesday, March 07, 2006

GOTB Action #3: Protest Killings of Women in Guatemala

GOTB will visit the Guatemalan consulate in New York to protest the failure of the Guatemalan authorities to adequately investigate the murders of hundreds of young women or bring their killers to justice.

Between 2001 and 2004, over 1,188 Guatemalan women and girls have been brutally murdered. Exceptional cruelty and sexual violence characterize many of the killings. Some of the victims had their throats cut, or were beaten, shot or stabbed to death. Many of their bodies show signs of rape, torture, mutilation or dismemberment. Many victims were abducted; some were held for hours or even days before being killed.

In post-civil conflict Guatemala, violent crime and homicide are on the increase generally, but the rise in killings of women is far out of proportion, and more so every year. Thus far, most killings of women occur in urban areas, targeting women between 13 and 40 years of age. Most victims come from poor sectors of society - domestic employees, shop or factory workers, or migrants from neighboring Central American countries. A range of motives are reflected, and both state and non-state actors are involved, but in all cases the victim's gender is a significant factor - in the kind of violence perpetrated, and unfortunately, in the level of response by authorities as well.

What these numerous killings of women have in common, in addition to their brutality, is a failure by the Guatemalan authorities to investigate or prosecute the crimes. Impunity is the rule in most cases of violence against women in Guatemala; with respect to these killings, Amnesty International has found serious and persistent shortcomings. Among these are failures to seek or locate women reported missing; failures to protect the crime scenes; failures to gather or process crucial forensic evidence; and failure to act on arrest warrants. Many killings of women have not been investigated at all - 40% of the cases are simply "archived" - and in others, a lack of coordination between police units and Public Ministry prosecutors has derailed all but minimal investigative efforts.

Guatemalan women encounter widespread discrimination and violence in all areas of their lives. The many brutal killings of women - and the state's responses to them - reflect this discrimination in law and in practice. Not only does the law fail to take into account the specific needs of women, but also, officials frequently dismiss women victims as gang members or prostitutes, and belittle crimes against women as domestic affairs. Amnesty International calls on the Guatemalan Government to demonstrate its political will to stop these killings - by ensuring the full cooperation of all relevant state institutions, and by providing the necessary gender training, technical assistance and resources to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Read Amnesty's report and learn more about other human rights violations in Guatemala.

Take action to demand justice for the women of Guatemala.

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