Guatemala: Congress Stands Up for Women Victims of Violence

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In early May, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) introduced Senate Resolution 178 condemning the brutal murders of women and young girls in Guatemala and expressing sympathy for their families. In addition to honoring the struggle these families have faced in seeking justice, the resolution calls on the Guatemalan government to finally address these murders and end the impunity which has left them unsolved. The resolution makes concrete recommendations to the President and Secretary of State including making the investigation of these murders part of the bilateral agenda with Guatemala, supporting efforts to improve better train and equip special police and prosecutorial units, and urging judicial reform.

Since 2000, more than 3,000 women have been murdered in Guatemala, their bodies often bearing signs of rape when they are discarded in public places. Although there are thousands of victims, Guatemala’s ombudsman for human rights has pointed out that less than ten percent of these cases are ever investigated.In fact, in the past six years, only twenty killers have been brought to justice. Rather than condemning these heinous crimes and expressing sympathy for the victims’ families, public officials have often accused the victims of being prostitutes.

Statements like these seem to condone violence and put all women at risk. Put simply, murderers in Guatemala know they have nothing to fear when their victims are women.Murderers in Guat emala know they have nothing to fear if their victims are women.The recently established International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) represents a significant step toward ending the wanton violence that has plagued the country for years. Given its mandateto investigate clandestine groups and structures, the commission could go a long way to strengthening the
justice system and rule of law in Guatemala. Just this August, members of the House of Representatives sent a letter urging the president of Mexico to do more to combat violence against women. To follow this letter with the passage of S. Res. 178 would send the clear message that preventing and investigating femicide is an important part of relations with the United States. We encourage you to ask your senator to cosponsor this resolution to bring justice to victims of femicide in Guatemala.