Hastings Journal on Gender and the Law


In Guatemala, impunity for the battering and killing of women is at such levels that perpetrators rightly feel confident that there is no price to pay for their unrestrained violence. Each year the number of women murdered rises precipitously, and there is general consensus that the impunity enjoyed by those responsible is a significant factor in the escalating numbers of killings in Guatemala. As a result, victims are fleeing persecution to the United States, seeking, with little success, asylum. One of the main factors contributing to the delay in deciding asylum cases is the government's fear of "opening the floodgates," i.e., the belief that violence against women, including domestic violence, is so prevalent around the world that if asylum were to be granted to one victim, it would cause a deluge of women fleeing such abuse to come to the United States. This report presents information on the current state of femicide in Guatemala. It examines the meaning of the term "femicide," the causes leading to escalated violence against women, and the Guatemalan government's response to the rise in violence against women. Finally, it details recommendations for action by the Guatemalan government and other relevant actors in response to this phenomenon.