The Impact Of Covid-19 On Gender-Based Violence And Femicide Cases In Guatemala

On 9 October in Guatemala City and the Teculutan municipality, hundreds of women took to the streets to protest against the two new cases of gender-based violence and femicide that occurred two weeks apart from each other. Laura Daniela Hernandez and Litzy Cordon were the two victims of these femicide attacks. Both individuals were in their early twenties. Laura Hernandez was murdered a week before Litzy Cordon. Litzy Corden was abducted on Monday with her body found the following day in Teculutan, 130 miles east of the capital of Guatemala City.

Litzy Cordon’s aunt, Gladys Guardado, told Aljazeera News that Litzy’s brother Pablo learned of his sister’s murder through social media alone and all they want now is justice, stating, “I know that nothing is going to bring her back, but I want justice.” Another female protester told Aljazeera News, “I know what it feels like to live in fear and I am tired of it.” In 2017, Guatemala had over 600 reported cases of femicide according to the Guatemalans Women Group. However, during Covid-19, violent domestic cases have been high in Mexico and significantly down in Guatemala. However, according to Lynn Maire Stephan, Professor of Anthropology at the Graduate Faculty of Indigenous, Race, and Ethnic Studies, at the University of Oregon, believes this is mostly because women in Guatemala are too afraid to call police on the partners with whom they are locked down. 

Femicide in Guatemala has been an ongoing epidemic. Gender-based violence is also a historically deep-rooted issue that disproportionately affects women of colour, with indigenous Guatemalan women being most affected. During the nation’s 36-year civil war when citizens and insurgents rose against the government, mass rapes of indigenous women occurred as a systemic tool used to create terror during mass massacres. During this conflict, indigenous women known as Mayans were used as weapons.  According to Horizon, a charity committed to eliminating the root causes of poverty in Central America, more than 100,000 indigenous women were victims of mass rape and forced into sexual slavery by the military. Fast forward to 2014, the Latin American Public Opinion Project at Vanderbilt University released a report that showed that Guatemalans were more accepting of gender-based violence than any other Latin American country. This was put down to the prevailing Machismo culture in Guatemala, with this idea of females being submissive, meek and docile, while men are to assert their presence on a woman. 

In 2008, to combat this growing gender-based violence epidemic, the Guatemalan Congress passed two laws against femicide. Two years later in 2010, the attorney general created a specialized court to try femicides and gender-based violence cases. Then in 2012, the Guatemalan government had created an established task force for crimes against women to ensure victims receive justice. However, despite the laws passed, Guatemalan femicides and gender-based violence cases have been continuously growing, with 62 women killed every month according to the National Institute of Forensics in 2017. According to Lynn Maire Stephan, during COVID-19 we can expect to see that number grow.

Muzna Erum
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