“I Want Guatemala to Be Known for Our Struggle to Stop Violence Against Women.”

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In Guatemala, violence against women has reached staggering levels in recent years. Since 2000, over 4,700 Guatemalan women have been brutally murdered with almost no accountability for a single perpetrator of these crimes. On March 3rd, 2010, American University hosted an event with the Guatemala Human Rights Commission (GHRC) called “Stop Femicide in Guatemala!” Internationally acclaimed human rights advocate Norma Cruz spoke with students and professors about the increasing rate of violence against women in Guatemala. The following quotes were taken from that event.

Norma Cruz is the founder and director of the Survivor’s Foundation, an organization supporting victims of femicide in Guatemala. In spite of the many threats she receives for speaking out, she works tirelessly to end violence in her home country and around the world.

Norma Cruz speaks at American University

Last year, the US State Department recognized her with the 2009 International Women of Courage award. 

      “I am happy to not only see all the young women here, but also the men. It’s really great for our society because the topic of violence against women is not just a problem for women. It’s a problem that men and women have to work together to solve.
      “During the 36-year war in Guatemala, this issue was invisible because of the systematic violation of human rights in my country. We talked about massacres, forced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings without paying attention to the fact that right at the center of all these problems there was a new type of violence.

      “We also have to bring attention to impunity. We live in a society where this type of crime is not punished. A woman can be attacked, raped, and killed and nothing will happen to the perpetrator.”

Part way through the presentation, Norma showed a photo of mutilated young woman.

      “The message that we are receiving today is that women are disposable. I’ll use them. I’ll crumple them up into a ball and then throw them in the trash. It’s not just in Guatemala, but Guatemala is the country where this is most represented. Being here with you tonight I’m not trying to frighten you all with these photos, but sometimes we think these things just happen in the movies. However, this is really happening.

      “I am sure that even though that it is not on a grand scale, in the United States women are being killed like the one in this photo. It could be that we are not aware of it. As societies, we have to struggle against this type of violence. As citizens of the world we cannot allow this to happen. In Guatemala, Spain, Latin America, Europe, nor any part of the world. Because to allow these killings is to disrespect life.

      “I don’t want you all to know Guatemala for the number of people killed. I want it to be known for the struggle that we are organizing to stop violence against women and to be an example for the world that we can do it. I hope the day comes when we will have zero deaths of women, not just in Guatemala, but in the whole world. If we organize and fight then our dreams will become a reality. I hope you can collaborate with us to help make this dream a reality.”

For more information about femicide in Guatemala, click here to check out GHRC’s fact sheet.

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