Guatemala: Guatemala Congress approves law on femicide and violence against women

On 9 April, 2008 Congress finally approved the law on violence against women, meant to stop the killing and abuse of women and better prosecute the perpetrators.
The much discussed “Law Against Feminicide and Other Forms of Violence Against Women” was approved in Congress under loud applause from the public tribune, where representatives of political parties and women organisations had been awaiting the approval of the law.
The Law forms an important step in the defence of women rights in Guatemala. As in Mexico thousands of women in Guatemala have been abused, raped or killed during the past years. Most often the perpetrators were not prosectued. The new legislation will strengthen the work of public prosecutors, human rights organizations and the police.

NIMD lobby

The problem of violence against women has special attention in NIMD’s Democracy Programme in Guatemala and NIMD was closely involved in the preparation of this law. In 2007 NIMD and Radio Netherlands organised a nation-wide public awareness campaign with radio debates, seminars and other media activities.

In 2008, NIMD has continued to work within the political society for the law against women violence. In February 2008 the Dutch MP Kathleen Ferrier visited an NIMD seminar about this law. Her support addressing the organizations to continue their efforts to fight for women rights was very important. Political parties, civil society, state organizations, international NGOs and ambassadors from Latin American and European countries all made a special effort to formulate and negotiate the law.

Implementation in daily life

Many Congress members expressed their satisfaction about the approval of the law which was the result of joint action of civil society and parliamentarians, stating: “This shows that we are united in this fight and that we do not want anymore murdered, raped and abused women”.

However, the discussions previous to the approval made it clear that the dominant “macho culture” in Guatemala will make it difficult to implement the law. Taking this into consideration women politicians in Congress have made a commitment to explain the law to women organizations, just as they have already done to the judiciary, police, public health sector and army. They are the ones who will be primarily involved in the application of the law and should therefore understand it.

10 April 2008

Article by Doris Cruz, NIMD Programme Coordinator in Guatemala