The Quiet Femicide

Recent Guatemalan history has seen a military regime overthrown and replaced with a democracy.  However, the supposed transition from war to peace has only seen an increase in domestic violence, homicides, and rape in this Central American country.  The Guatemalan government strives to project an image of a stable political system and a growing economy, to improve relations with the UN and world leaders.  Internally, atrocious acts are committed daily with impunity.  A lax judicial system, ambivalent government officials, and scant world press coverage, are among the many factors that have allowed femicide, the murder of women, to continue unabated.


In their report, Three Thousand and Counting: A Report on Violence Against Women in Guatemala, Marty Jordan and Julie Suarez, co-directors of the Guatemala Human Right Commission, declared Guatemala “…the most dangerous place for women in all of Latin America.”  Below are excerpts from GHRC publications.  For more information, go to, where you can read past publications, sign up to receive bi-monthly updates on Guatemala, learn about upcoming events, and learn how you can help. 

In solidarity,

Matt Goodridge   


Exerpts from:

 Three thousand and Counting:A Report on Violence Against Women in Guatemala

By Julie Suarez and Marty Jordan

“In May 2007, a mother of two small children left her house in Guatemala City to look for work. She never returned home. The woman’s mother, at home watching her grandchildren, frantically called her daughter’s cell phone. Finally, someone answered.  An unidentified man said, “You can find your daughter at the morgue.” Unfortunately, stories like this are all too common in Guatemala. The brashness of a killer to answer his victim’s telephone illustrates the impunity with which assailants commit murder, knowing that the case will never be investigated. It is a daily occurrence to read newspaper articles about women or girls that have been raped, tortured, mutilated, and killed. Their body parts are tied up in garbage bags or abandoned in ditches. This is Guatemala, where more than 3,000 women have been brutally murdered since 2000, and fewer than 2% of cases end in convictions. This is Guatemala, where femicide, or the murder of women, claimed the lives of at least 665 women in 2005, 603 women in 2006, and 306 women during the first seven months of 2007. The majority of the victims are young, poor women between the ages of thirteen and thirty. This is Guatemala, the most dangerous place for women in all of Latin America.”


“When posed with the question “Who is killing these women?”, the most common response is members of organized crime. Guatemala ended a brutal 36-year civil war in 1996 that left more than 250,000 dead or disappeared.  Many of those victims perished at the hands of “death squads” that roamed the country committing heinous, torturous acts on behalf of the US-funded Guatemalan military government. When the Peace Accords were signed officially ending the war, the death squads stopped serving as State sanctioned units, but maintained connections to Guatemala’s power structure.


Today, members of those death squads have emerged as participants in clandestine operations that have become entrenched in every facet of Guatemalan society. They have de facto control throughout communities, traffic drugs, buy off judges, and keep politicians in their back pockets. These illicit groups demonstrate their power through intimidation, violence, and terror. Women suffered atrocious human rights violations during Guatemala’s internal armed conflict. Females were seen as potential mothers for future guerrillas and were therefore deemed threats to the State. Pregnant women were butchered, and rape was commonly used as a tool of war. Ten years later, former death squad participants have not changed the way they view women. As they were trained to rape, dismember, and torture in the past, they continue to use the same tactics now. Although these organized criminals no longer have the State’s explicit permission, the government’s indifference has become a form of permission nonetheless.”


Excerpt from:

 “For Women’s Right to Live” Delegation Reflection.  July 29th-August 6th 2006. 

“Over and over again, we were told that the laws in Guatemala fail to protect women and, in some cases, even place them at further risk. Domestic violence, sexual assault, and rape by a spouse are not considered crimes in Guatemala. In fact, if a woman is experiencing violence in the home, it is considered a reasonable response to her inability to obey and please her husband. Until recently, a rapist was exonerated if he married the victim, as long as she was over twelve years old. The police told one woman who was trying to report her husband for abuse that there was nothing they could do. In Guatemala, “it is a right to hit a woman, not a crime,” as one woman told us during our meeting at Nuevos Horizontes, one of the only women’s shelters in Guatemala where women can stay with their children for over five days. One month before our visit, there were seventy people living there.”



One Response

  1. Thanks for this post, Matt.

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