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    Mass killings of females in Guatemala

    by Rumbold on 8th August, 2009 at 9:31 am    

    Al Jazeera reports on the shocking levels of violence against women in Guatemala:

    “Gang-related violence has increased sharply here in recent years, amid an increase in drug-trafficking activity. But while the murder rate cuts evenly across both sexes, women’s groups point out that females are often killed simply because of their gender.

    In 2007, more than 700 women and girls were murdered. The pattern of violence includes sexual assault and physical torture before the women are killed and their bodies dumped in public places. Odilia Sanchez’s niece was raped and killed by three men hoping to rise through the ranks of their gang. She was only three-years-old.”

    Women can be murdered simply for not dating someone. As so often, drugs are at the heart of the problem. I know that legalisation is not a panacea for every problem, but at least with drugs widespread legalisation would take the trade out of the hands of the drug gangs. Without meaning to sound flippant, you can’t see Tesco and Sainsbury have a shootout in Central America. Alcohol too is an addictive and popular drug, but precisely because it is legal there aren’t the gang problems related to it.

      |   Trackback link   |   Add to del.icio.us   |   Share on Facebook   |   Filed in: Sex equality

    19 Comments below   |   Add your own

    1. dtr300 — on 8th August, 2009 at 9:44 am  

      On the other hand, then the sex trade might become the primary gangster profit-maker, ending up not improving things much for the women of Guatemala. That’s assuming that not everyone currently involved in narcotrafficking would simply “go straight” and become legitimate businesspeople if drugs were legalized.

    2. Rumbold — on 8th August, 2009 at 9:47 am  

      That is true dtr300. I don’t think legalisation would solve all the problems, but it would certainly reduce the circle of violence that surrounds the drugs trade. It would also give young men (in particular) more opportunities to make it in the non-criminal world.

    3. halima — on 8th August, 2009 at 10:19 am  

      Good article and profile - glad someone is looking at the differential impact of drug and gang related violence on women and girls - usually perceived as male territory.

      I would love to see Ross Kemp do a documentary on this when he does his usually great short docs on gangs and violence in different parts of the world.

    4. George — on 8th August, 2009 at 10:39 am  

      America.gov (Mar 09) reported that Norma Cruz, co-founder and director of the NGO Survivors Foundation, provides emotional, social and legal support to hundreds of victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse and to the families of murdered women. In 2007 alone, her foundation helped find, prosecute and convict 30 individuals accused of murdering women. The NGO runs a victims’ shelter — one of only a handful in the country — and also fights to protect mothers whose babies are stolen for adoptions.

      The increasing number of killings of women in Guatemala, Cruz says, is tied to the poverty that is the aftermath of Guatemala’s civil war and to narco-trafficking. Gangsters are known to kill the female family members of rival gangs, often as an initiation rite, with little fear of legal retribution because these crimes are underreported and underinvestigated. Less than 3 percent are prosecuted.

      The more common police response, according to the Guatemala Human Rights Commission, is that a victim was a prostitute, a gang member, engaged in criminal activities or guilty of infidelity.

      Under pressure from groups including the Survivors Foundation, the U.N.-led International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) was approved by the Guatemalan Congress in August 2008. It could be an important tool in combating the targeted killing of women.

    5. douglas clark — on 8th August, 2009 at 11:11 am  


      And here is where I am more libertarian that you!

      De-criminalising all drugs would probably put a stop to this.

      Sell them through Chemist Shops or something. Stop pretending that it is a war worth winning. For the reasons you outline.

    6. Leon — on 8th August, 2009 at 11:24 am  

      Yeah I’ve long believed that d/cing drugs is something worth serious consideration…

    7. Rumbold — on 8th August, 2009 at 11:58 am  

      Or just sell drgus through supermarkets, in the same way as alcohol and cigarettes.

    8. marvin — on 8th August, 2009 at 1:22 pm  

      Legalise, regulate and tax the sex and drugs industry. I’m surprised that poorer nations do not do this by default. We should do it here.

    9. douglas clark — on 8th August, 2009 at 1:32 pm  

      Rumbold @ 7,

      Och, your just trying to out manoeuvre me!

    10. Amrit — on 8th August, 2009 at 1:43 pm  

      Child rape?

      I think that is an IDEAL justification for the legalisation of drugs! Fucking hell. I’m sure that Westerners are not the only consumers of drugs, but fucking hell, when you hear about things like this, you can’t help but curse people’s goddamn fucking selfishness.

      I don’t get why legalisation is such a bitter pill for govts to swallow… !

    11. Don — on 8th August, 2009 at 2:13 pm  

      Rumbold, drugs are likely to be only one factor. more important is the impunity with which the killings can be carried out. Sexual violence as a weapon was common during Guatemala’s genocidal civil war and many of the perpertrators are now police officers or security guards.


    12. Sunny — on 8th August, 2009 at 3:04 pm  

      While I agree with drug legalisation to a limited extent, I don’t think the problem of violence against women is simply down to drug violence.

      Of course if the drug violence didn’t exist then the problem would be a lot less.

      But once a culture develops of violence against women as a form of retribution then the problem takes a life of it’s own.

      During the partition of India and Pakistan for example, women were frequently raped or kidnapped to get at the other side. That misogyny flares up in different forms even now, for example when gangs complain that ‘our women are being forcibly converted or preyed on’ by men of other religions. It’s that idea that women are property that is at the root of the problem here.

    13. Amrit — on 8th August, 2009 at 3:39 pm  

      Sunny - yup, and I was actually going to ask how you fight such violently misogynistic attitudes, when the alternative to them (in most poorer countries) is usually religion. Which, of course, reinforces the same ideas and there are the cross-over points where corrupt church members may even be involved in drug trafficking (or similar), no matter how indirectly…

      Rumbold’s idea of selling the drugs through mainstream outlets seems like a pretty good one to me.

      Part of the problem with sexual violence used as a weapon is that while its physical effects are horrific, its mental effects are even worse. It draws its power from the ‘betrayal’ by a man of his role as ‘protector’. Thus, to fight against sexual violence, you need to challenge gender roles and assumptions and that is where we fall down.

      For example, lots of the prickfaces of Cif seem to think that treating women equally - accepting that they can be as capable and intelligent as men - means that women automatically forfeit the right to have their physical disadvantages against men (being usually smaller, weaker, etc.) recognised.

      In short, if women want to be treated equally, we should be allowed to hit them without feeling bad for having unfairly used our physical advantage against them!

      If that’s what it’s like in this country, I don’t even want to think what it would be like elsewhere…

    14. Don — on 8th August, 2009 at 4:54 pm  

      It’s that idea that women are property that is at the root of the problem here.

      Precisely. But when the police, judicial system, politicians and press seem to largely share the view that women are chattel, where do you start? As you say, once such a culture has developed it outlives the crisis which spawned it and can become entrenched. I can’t begin to imagine the courage it takes for a women in a violently misogynistic society to speak out and insist on her worth.

    15. Dalbir — on 9th August, 2009 at 8:33 am  


      During the partition of India and Pakistan for example, women were frequently raped or kidnapped to get at the other side. That misogyny flares up in different forms even now, for example when gangs complain that ‘our women are being forcibly converted or preyed on’ by men of other religions. It’s that idea that women are property that is at the root of the problem here.

      I would say the root of the problem is that some people seem to view attacks on other culture’s women as some sort of blow for the cause. Once this crap starts then you will get the inevitable reaction from the other side.

      It has nothing to do with women being viewed as property but rather attempts to demoralise/emasculate your enemy by making them out to be unable to defend a vulnerable section of their community. Yes I said it! Despite whatever politically correct crap white men come out with in regards to gender equality, generally men are physically stronger than women.

      If whitey believes his crap so much, I would like to see him make a regiment consisting solely of women and then sending them to Afghanistan or any other serious conflict.

      Anyway, people complaining about such lowlife attacks on their own community are not doing anything wrong.

    16. damon — on 9th August, 2009 at 12:01 pm  

      This situation of the rise of gangs in Latin America is in part due to the USA deporting criminals who don’t have proper US citenship.
      So LA gang members who came to the US as children as refugees from the wars there, (and never got properly naturalised), can be sent back to places like Guatemala.

      As for selling drugs at the pharmacy??

      Have you thought this through? Will they be open 24/7?
      Will there be a minimum age or an amount you can buy?
      Can you just go in and say, ”I’d like to buy a kilo of cocaine please”?
      Then you could go and take your kilo, cut it - and make it into two (or four) kilos. And then undercut the price it was being sold for legally.

      I don’t take drugs, but I might be tempted to try a 4.99 hit of herion all pure and safe and ready to use in a sterialised syringe, if I could just pop down to the shops and get one right now. It might be fun.

    17. Shatterface — on 9th August, 2009 at 1:54 pm  

      ‘Without meaning to sound flippant, you can’t see Tesco and Sainsbury have a shootout in Central America’

      Oh, I don’t know. Fruit and fizzy drinks companies have comitted murders of union activists, so legalisation won’t stop violence entirely - but it’s a start.

    18. Rumbold — on 9th August, 2009 at 2:29 pm  

      I don’t think that legalisation would solve all the problems with regards to violence against women, as there are deeper societal forces at work there. What it woudl do though would be to reduce the impunity with which some of these people act.

    19. Rumbold — on 9th August, 2009 at 2:58 pm  


      Like alcohol, drugs would be subjected to a minimum age requirement. As supermarkets would be able to mass produce them, it is unlikely that drug dealers could undercut them, or that it would be worth buying them from supermarkets and re-selling them.

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