The Central American country of Guatemala has seen decades of brutal civil war and violence at the hands of drug cartels, and the people who have perhaps suffered the most as a result are Guatemalan women. Cases of abuse, rape and even murder against women are rampant in Guatemala, but some international organizations are working to stop the atrocities.
Women are victimized in Guatemala because men involved in war and crime view them as objects and ways to intimidate their enemies. In one tragic case, a girl who refused to become the girlfriend of a drug cartel member was taken away and brutally murdered as a result.
International organizations have recognized the scope of the violence against women in Guatemala and have stepped in to teach girls how to stand up for themselves. By speaking with the girls' families and by holding group mentoring sessions, the organizations hope to, little by little, change a culture that has marginalized and brutalized women for too long.
"He had money and belonged to the Cartel del Golfo. He believed that all women should pay attention to him, but my daughter refused." - Rosa Franco Maria Sandoval, mother of murder victim
"The justice system hasn't given violence cases the importance they deserve. And with violence against women, the problem is even worse. We live in a culture of sexist behavior. And violence against women is either not seen or women are considered somehow responsible, somehow guilty." - Claudia Paz, Guatemalan Attorney General
"It's a history of political and social violence, a history of marginalization and discrimination, a very patriarchal history where girls and women have been marginalized and oppressed.Then you have, on top of that, the rise of activities related to drug trafficking and organized crime. And so all of these layers of violence have created a situation that place girls and women at very high risk." - Jennifer Catino, Population Council
1. Where is Guatemala?
2. What are some reasons why violence takes place, particularly violence against women?
3. What is a civil war? What can happen to a country and its people after experiencing a civil war?
1. Why do you think conditions of war and poverty sometimes lead to violence against women?
2. The international organizations interviewed in this piece said they often work with girls’ fathers to combat violence against women. Why do you think they do that? How could that help the situation?
3. If you were a girl or woman living in Guatemala, what steps would you take to keep yourself safe? Would you risk going to school and leaving home, even if it meant violence was possible? Why or why not?