Femicide rate in Guatemala is one of the highest in the world. During the first semester of 2010, 532 women died. Lorena Cabnal : « Behind Russia, Guatemala is the secound country in the world regarding the number of violent deaths. Everyday, impunity increases. 99% of exposed femicide cases remain unpunished : there are big shortcomings in the whole Guatemalan judiciary, regarding law enforcement and access to justice. People who’re dispensing justice are reluctant to apply existing tools and there is a lack of understanding of these very tools. » Investigations and fact finding on cases, especially in indigenous communities, are clearly lacking. As a result, impunity keeps increasing. Women movement does its best to make exposure of cases easier and to contribute to the eradication of this scourge.
The law against femicide establishes the creation of integral support centres for women surviving to violence. However, there are only eight centres of that kind in Guatemala, which is clearly insufficient. Moreover, many women don’t know about their existence. They’re not well-publicized by the state and the worst of it all is that these very centres have also been threatened. The Guatemalan women group has publicly denounced these threats coming from women attackers.
In the Jalapa department, women human rights defenders receive threats from three sectors.First of all, there is the political party Unión del Cambio Nacional – which is linked with organised crime and drug trafficking-, his secretary general and their supporting political leaders are present in the mountains region. The latter wants to maintain a widespread manipulation of the population (predominantly female) during the elections. There is also repression from landowners, who exercise an hegemonic power and are linked with mining companies. For example, on 12 october 2010, which is the Indigenous People Resistance Day, Lorena was threatened to death by a landowner’s bodyguard, just after a political speech of one of his fellows from the organisation.
« More than 50% of our territory has been expropriated. Denouncing it brought daily threats on the women engaged in this struggle », explains Lorena. Another source of threats against human rights defenders comes from organized crime. In Jalapa, there are several structured networks, in which state institutions are involved. These networks are made up of the national civilian police, judges, lawyers or persons who are bringing women from the mountains region to Jalapa or Guatemala City. These women are kidnapped or people make them believe that they will find a job. In 2006, a colleague of Lorena was kidnapped with her 7-month-old daughter. That’s why they discovered how the gangs work.
According to Lorena: “In order to register a complaint, a Xinka woman has to go to the department of Santa Rosa, which involves travelling accross the country and paying for a two days journey, accommodation and food.
The National Coordinating Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Violence against Women was created thanks to the struggle of women, including indigenous women. Some legislative headway has been made, such as the law on femicide and other forms of violence against women, and the Law on Universal Access to Family Planning Services. However, the State has not made the necessary efforts to implement them in the communities”.
In their Xinca communities, women organizations have to face patriarchal and male-chauvinist cultural patterns which make their action more difficult. Women have only started to be recognized as legitimate actors in the territory at the beginning of a struggle against mining companies, that is to say very recently.
“As an organization, we manage to put violence against woman in the agenda of the Xinka government, basing ourselves on our world view and background, in order to coordinate joint activities which will show the historical and structural inequality within our people. This inequality prevents men and women to live together harmoniously”.
Despite the fact that this struggle is a many-years process which has to be repeated every time there is a government change -i.e usually every two years -, the possibility to speak about this subject at the Xinca government level is a huge challenge in an indigenous community of 85 000 people.
According to Lorena, “this allows us to strengthen the political and territorial action of women, because defending our territory -which can also be seen as our body- and land from a feminist point on view regarding the defense of our natural resources is extremely important”.