Guatemalan Government: Stop the killing of Women

Amnesty International is calling for the Guatemalan Government to act to stop the killing of women. According to official figures, 685 women were killed in 2010 alone in Guatemala amid a culture of impunity, a legacy of the 1960-96 internal armed conflict which led to hundreds of thousands human rights violations which remain unaccounted for.

“Women in Guatemala are dying as a consequence of the State’s failure to protect them,” said Sebastian Elgueta, Guatemala researcher at Amnesty International.

“High levels of violence and a lack of political will along with a track record of impunity, mean authorities are both unable to pursue perpetrators, or just don’t care. Perpetrators know they will not be punished.”

“This culture of violence and impunity must end and women’s human rights be respected and protected.

“Passing laws is not enough.”

The government must initiate effective investigations into killings, improve police training and ensure prosecutions are effective” (http://www.violenceisnotourculture.org/node/1627).

It is shocking to know that Guatemala has one of the highest murder rates in the world, but less than 4% of cases end in a successful conviction. Why aren’t the authorities doing more to convict the perpetrators? In 2008 Guatemala passed a law specifically aimed at violent crimes against women, but Amnesty says the authorities are not making full use of their powers (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-12671446).

What’s the point of having a law to protect women from violent crimes if it isn’t being enforced? What about the families of Maria Isabel Franco and Mindi Rodas? Amnesty International called them out on the way they handled Maria Isabel Franco’s case. María Isabel Franco was a 15 year old student when she was raped and brutally killed in December 2001. She is one of thousands of women in Guatemala murdered since 2001.

Her mother Rosa Franco has been fighting for justice ever since, but the Guatemalan authorities have so far failed her and her daughter.

In a conversation with Amnesty International in February 2011, Rosa Franco explains her distress that “the authorities in charge of this case, including those from the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the national police, have completely failed so far. Their attitude, not only in the case of my daughter, but on the cases of thousands of women killed, has been terrible.”

María Isabel Franco’s case was handled extremely poorly, and the delays in investigation are completely unjustifiable. The lack of interest and compassion on the part of the authorities in cases of sexual violence against women and killings of women is shocking and unacceptable; Rosa Franco was told by the Assistant Prosecutor who processed the crime scene that her “daughter was killed because she was a nobody, a prostitute.”

Can you imagine being a grieving mother and hearing that? Is the Prosecutor saying that because she is a nobody and a prostitute she doesn’t deserve justice? What happened to her was a crime. Instead of passing judgment on the victim, the prosecutor should be doing his job and make sure that the perpetrators are prosecuted to the full extent of the law. This kind of callous and insensitive attitude and lack of interest will send the wrong message to those who commit violence against women.

I was horrified when I read about Mindy Rodas and watched her video Mindy’s Nightmare on YouTube. Before her death, she suffered violence at the hands of her husband. He attacked her on the bank of a river in Casillas, Santa Rosa. He beat her head with a rock and attempted to remove her face by cutting off her forehead, nose, lips and chin. After leaving her for dead, he removed her clothes, shoes, cell phone and purse. When Mindy woke up, her face was gone. A tomato farmer found her and called the fire department (http://www.ghrc-usa.org/Resources/2011/Mindy.htm).

Another thing that struck me as I watched the vidoe was what a woman being interviewed said about the Guatemalan judicial system. “In Guatemala you can hit, rape or murder a woman… and get away with it. Our judicial system is designed to protect the rights of men, but not the rights of the women. In our society the rights of women are not recognized, only her duties.”

The judicial system failed Mindy Rodas whose body was found on December 18, 2010 in Guatemala City. She had been tortured and strangled to death (http://hablaguate.com/articles/8975-the-story-of-mindy-rodas).

Mindy’s message to all women was, “No more violence and that they need to break the silence, talk about the violence and report it to the police.”

The Guatemalan judicial system needs to change. It needs to start protecting the women so that they don’t meet the same fates as Maria, Mindy and countless others. It needs to send out the message that if you hit, rape or murder a woman, you will NOT get away with it. Guatemalan women, break the silence. Stand up and say, “No more violence!”. Stand up for your daughters, grand-daughters, sisters, friends, neighbors and yourselves.

Adele Butler, A Celebration of Women 2011

The West Indian News

http://www.thewestindiannews.com/guatemala-must-act-to-stop-the-killing-of-women/

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