Hastings Journal on Gender and the Law


A decade after the 1996 Peace Accords that marked the end of the 36-year internal armed conflict, Guatemala fails to provide basic protection of women's human rights. The plight of asylumseeker Rodi Alvarado and the spiked increase in the murders of Guatemalan women ("femicides") highlight the scope of Guatemala's lack of protection for women. After suffering ten years of brutal domestic violence, with the authorities ignoring her pleas for protection, Rodi fled Guatemala, seeking asylum in the United States. She is not alone in her suffering. Since 2001, over 1,500 women have been murdered in Guatemala, with the perpetrators enjoying widespread impunity for their crimes. Grants of asylum to women who suffer gender-based persecution remain controversial, with opponents citing the "floodgates" argument. They contend that in offering refugee protection to women fleeing gender-based harms such as domestic violence, the United States will be overwhelmed, an argument that has proven to be without merit. Rather than fearing the opening of the floodgates, the United States should turn its attention to the root causes of violence which result in the flow of refugees and craft responses addressing these root causes. In this particular case, the United States should use its considerable influence to pressure the Guatemalan government to offer real protection of women's human rights, ending the rampant impunity for crimes against women.