Responding to the alarming situation of gender violence in Guatemala, the United Nations and international women’s rights organizations launched a campaign to combat violence against women in the country.
According to the U.N.’s collected data, there are 27 registered cases of violence against women daily, including sexual, political, economic or labor violence. That means that a woman suffers from violence at least every hour in Guatemala.
The campaign “Unite to end violence against women,” calls every sector of society to 16 days of activism to raise awareness and to implement joint legal efforts from different organizations to combat gender violence in Guatemala and set a new framework for the protection of women’s rights.
It’s being promoted by the U.N., as part of its gender equality point of the sustainable development objectives, but also by foreign representatives installed in the country.
During the campaign launch event Wednesday, the resident U.N. coordinator in Guatemala, Rebeca Arias, said the numbers being reporting on violence against women keep increasing and pointed out the 51,000 teenage and child pregnancies registered between January and June in 2018. Each of those numbers represent an affected young woman, a family and a community, said Arias.
Adriana Quiñones, representative of U.N. Women, announced the organization will soon sign an agreement with the Guatemalan justice system to combat violence against women. She said Guatemala has made great legal advances, but recognized great flaws. From January to August there have been 33,000 complaints at the Public Ministry (MP), she said.
“These are unacceptable numbers. That’s why we want to create consciousness in the society,” said Quiñones.
She explained that violence against women is the result of generalized discrimination, which must be countered by empowering women, especially in rural areas. She also called to transform society so that violence against women is no longer seen as normal.
Patricia Pinto, a local women’s rights activists that has participated in a long list of rights organizations and founded the Women’s Political Agenda in Diversity and Collectiveness for the Defense of Women’s Rights in Guatemala (Codefem), demanded an increase in the government’s budget to combat violence against women, currently set at 0.5 percent.
Ambassador to the EU Stefano Gatto emphasized cultural change as a way to address violence against women. Gatto said one of the EU's main priorities is to reduce this form of violence.
“Economic development is of little help if there’s not a cultural change. Development doesn’t require just quantity but quality, it requires to focus on public policies,” he said.
Gatto also declared that the true enemy is “indifference,” and called everyone to unite in order to end every expression of violence against women.
Carolyn Davidson, the U.K. ambassador in Guatemala, said that ending violence against women should be recognized as a priority for the development of countries and regretted the necessity of launching campaigns such as these.
“Violence is not only a problem for women. It’s also for men because they’re more prone to reproduce that violence against their partners,” she said.
The Maya Kaqchikel singer Sara Curruchich performed during the event.
The campaign is using orange as its official color and calling on people to support it with the #GuatemalaUnite hashtag. It will officially begin on Nov. 25 and end on Dec. 10, 2018.
But the campaign will have a difficult time when confronting more conservative sectors of society.
President Jimmy Morales and right-wing allied political forces are promoting the ‘Bill for the Protection of Life and Family,’ also known as ‘Initiative 5272,’ which criminalizes women who have abortions — even spontaneous miscarriages, bans sexual education in schools and prohibits marriage between same sex couples.
Just weeks ago, Guatemala was shocked by the femicide of Alejandra Ico Chub, a 32-year-old Maya Q’eqchi’ women. Her partner Mario Tut Ical had been accused of domestic violence previously, even attacking his former wife with a machete, and is now the main suspect of the crime and a fugitive.
In 2017, courts issued 72 sentences condemning femicide cases, but between January and August 2018 that number decreased to 29.