Sunday, January 20, 2013

Six women slain in Guatemala

Six women were killed on a deadly day last Wednesday in Guatemala. Two young girls, ages 6 and 12 were found in their pajamas on a Guatemala City street. They had been strangled. Two other women were found killed not too far away. It turns out that these women were two sisters, their mother, and their cousin. The bodies of two other women, a mother and her sixteen-year old daughter, were found shot to death in Zacapa.

Guatemalans were outraged at the latest violence against women here. It's tragic that so many Guatemalans, especially females, live and die amidst such violence.

However difficult it is to believe, though, Wednesday's murders took place within an improving security climate for Guatemalans and women. As I mentioned two weeks ago, homicide rates decreased for the third year in a row in 2012. Homicides against women decreased as well.


After peaking in a very violent 2009 with nearly 6,500 murders, Guatemala recorded fewer than 5,200 were killed in 2012. That's 1,300 fewer overall homicides reported. In terms of female victims, 720 women were murdered in 2009 and fewer than 600 were killed in 2012 - about a 20% decrease. These statistics come from the PNC.

If you use INACIF's statistics, the numbers of violent deaths (homicides plus other deaths), the overall numbers are higher but the downward trend remains the same - 834 to 700.

While it's no consolation to the families and friends who lost their loved ones last Wednesday, their deaths occurred in the midst of a significant reduction in femicide.

I'm glad to see Amnesty International issue a call for the Guatemalan government to do more to protect women in Guatemala but not with issuing press released entitled Time to end the inaction over killings of women in Guatemala.
Around 560 women were murdered in Guatemala in 2012, 631 in 2011 and 695 in 2010, according to official figures.
Less than 4 per cent of all homicide cases result in perpetrators being convicted. Guatemala’s congress passed a law in 2008 that typified various crimes of violence against women and established special tribunals and sentencing guidelines, but this has not stemmed the violence.
“There is no let-up in the cases of killings of women and girls recorded every month, despite the national scandal this has become for Guatemala,” said Sebastian Elgueta, Guatemala researcher at Amnesty International.
Inaction? AI mentions the 2008 Law Against Femicide and Other Forms of Violence Against Women which has been passed but weakly enforced. In one of his first acts as president, Otto Perez led a protest march up a volcano. He established a task force to tackle femicide. There have been special offices established to prosecute femicide in Alta Verapaz, Huehuetenango, and Escuintla. CICIG and Paz y Paz have also made inroads. None of these scream inaction.

Needs to do more. I agree. Needs to prioritize violence against women. I'm with you. Inaction? Good headline but it doesn't reflect reality.

The homicide data that is presented in the AI press release also show a decrease from 2010 to 2011 to 2012. They also report 4% of all homicide cases result in convictions. That is terribly low but better than the 1-2% reported not too long ago. Sebastian Elgueta's quote about "no let-up in the cases of killings of women and girls recorded every month" is not consistent with what comes before the quote. Still too high? I'm with you.

Female victims comprise about 11% of all homicide victims. That's not good but it's also below the 18% that was the global average not too long ago.

The press seems to be jumping on the story as an example of increasing violence, particularly murder, against women in Guatemala. Statistics say that's not the case. It's dangerous for women in Guatemala but less so than it was in the not so distant past. In many ways, the coverage is similar to the May 2011 Peten massacre. The horrific crime occurred even though murders decreased that year, something the was missed in the coverage.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims' families and friends even though I have problems with the coverage of their deaths.

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