Guatemala has an alarmingly high rate of violence against women. Militarization, culture of impunity against abusers of women, a dysfunctional justice system, and Machismo have led to worsening treatment of women across Guatemala. Guatemala has the 3rd highest rate of femicide in the world, highest being neighboring El Salvador. These rates have been increasing in recent years. However, fewer than 3% of reported femicide cases are settled by the courts, More than 90 percent of cases formally investigated in the justice system are abandoned by women too submissive, scared, or with no agency to continue to pursue them.
Attacks on women activists, human rights defenders, and journalists have increased 681% from 2001 to 2011. Those most targeted are people fighting for indigenous rights and environmental protections. In 2000, 213 women were assassinated, in 2010 that number had jumped to 685. Indigenous people are once again under attack from mining companies and agribusiness that want their land. Though the statistics of violence against women improved post-conflict, the instance of abuse and murder is at it highest point since the conflict and the outlook is grim for Guatemalan women.
There is a new wave of militarization today because of the drug wars and it has created a new generation of victims. The militarization of Guatemala has not been beneficial to women. It broadens access to weapons, which raises the instance of violence and abuse of women. Even today, knowing the history of human rights abuses in Guatemala, these persist. Many of those same military officials that committed human rights abuses and mass killings during the conflict are still in government today. In August 2013, the Guatemalan Human Rights Commission came together to explore current abuses and the treatment of citizens. The commissions discussed the corrupt justice system, the continued preference to large corporations over the interest of citizens, and the continued violence against women.
A U.N. survey in Guatemala established, "80% of men believe that women need permission to leave the house, and 70% of women surveyed agreed.” There has been a deep-rooted gender bias and culture of misogyny for generations in Guatemala. Another cause of high rates of violence is the lack of formal education, especially in indigenous communities because schools are located too far from indigenous and rural communities. The lack of education prevents women from having the agency to report cases of abuse and murder. Impunity remains ingrained in the cultural so many act without feat of repercussion. Machismo culture runs deep in Latin America. Research in Guatemala showed that many men did not want their wives working and wanted them to fulfill traditional gender roles in the household. Some men only agreed to let their wives do jobs they deemed as a feminine job, such as weaving traditional Maya clothing and textiles. Though women were permitted to make a small income, they were still forbidden from entering the formal economy. Women can be treated as the property of the men and must act as docile and submissive. Machismo can also be the belief that men are superior to women academically and physically. This concept can be taken to extremes which leads to a high rate of domestic abuse, sexual violence, and femicide. Persistent stereotypes permeate culture and society in Guatemala and women’s subordination to men remains a huge obstacle toward gender equality and the safety of women.
Unfortunately, today we do not see major action or policy steps to improve the safety and treatment of women. The current government has failed to protect women and failed to ensure their basic human rights. As the Nobel women’s initiative stated, “Widespread violence against women is a top priority not only for humanitarian reasons but because it represents a serious violation of human rights since it demonstrates governments’ non-compliance with two fundamental obligations: to guarantee the safety of their citizens and to eliminate discrimination.” Women are now making strides joining together to tell their stories and advocate about the treatment of women across the country.
Women we met in Guatemala were influenced by the machismo culture and spoke of their fathers and husbands not approving of the work they do as weavers. Elena's mother would stay up late at night to weave as not be pestered by her alcoholic father. Women said that their husbands only approved of weaving because it has traditionally been a job for women. We saw strides towards formal education for all the weaver's children, which will help combat traditional gender roles and stereotypes.
Rohter, Larry. "Guatemalans Formally End 36-Year Civil War, Central America's Longest and Deadliest." The New York Times. The New York Times, 29 Dec. 1996. Web. 23 Apr. 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/1996/12/30/world/guatemalans-formally-end-36-year-civil-war-central-america-s-longest-deadliest.html>.
Post, Dianne. "Land, Life, and Honor: Guatemala's Women in Resistance - Fair Observer." Fair Observer. N.p., 04 Oct. 2013. Web. 22 Apr. 2016. <http://www.fairobserver.com/region/latin_america/land-life-honor-guatemala-women-resistance/>.
"From Survivors to Defenders." Nobel Women's Peace Initiative Report (n.d.): n. pag. Nobel Women's Initiative. Oct. 2012. Web.