Hastings Journal on Gender and the Law


Katharine Ruhl


This Article is an update to the report entitled Getting Away With Murder: Guatemala's Failure to Protect Women and Rodi Alvarado's Quest for Safety, published by the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) in November 2005, and by the Hastings Women's Law Journal in its Summer 2006 issue. That report explored the root causes of why Guatemalan women are forced to seek asylum in order to escape violence in their home country, and offered recommendations to the Guatemalan government. In this Article, the author argues that the Guatemalan government has made only limited progress in addressing the problem of gender-based violence, including femicide, and offers updated recommendations. Parts I and II summarize the findings and recommendations made in the first report and explain how, despite the growing concern of the international community and the stated commitment of the Guatemalan government, the rampant killings of women continue with impunity. Part III explains that the danger to women's lives has continued unabated, as evidenced by the disproportionate increase in the rate of women killed as compared to men, as well as the misogynistic and brutal nature of the killings. Part IV explains that while the Guatemalan government has pledged its commitment to the eradication of femicide, it has failed the essential duty to investigate and prosecute the killings. Part V argues that this failure is the result of government-wide indifference and hostility towards both the victims and their families. The institutionalized practice of blaming the victim legitimates the inadequate and incompetent investigations. Part VI links the present impunity for violence against women to a continuing culture of impunity for state sponsored violence during Guatemala's civil war. The problem is more than symbolic, as evidence exists of a link between those responsible for past atrocities and those committing the murders of women today. Statements by government officials that reduce the problem to one of gang violence are inaccurate and ignore the role of persons linked to the government and the military. Part VII evaluates efforts to reform Guatemala's legal code in order to condemn, rather than sanction, gender based violence. In part VIII, the author offers updated recommendations to the Guatemalan government.