Murders Reveal Pattern of Femicides in Guatemala

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The burned bodies of three women were found dumped by a road outside Guatemala’s capital Wednesday. The country has one of the highest rates of female homicides in Latin America, registering over 5,000 cases in the past decade.

The bodies were found in Mixco, which, along with the municipalities of Villa Nueva and Jutiapa, sees some of the country’s highest rates of femicides. According to a presidential commission on violence against women, most of the female murders in Mixco are linked to extortion, while Jutiapa sees more “crimes of passion,” according to La Prensa Libre.

According to Guatemala’s forensic science institute, 608 women were murdered in 2010, reports EFE. But statistics gathered by other organizations differ: a presidential commission on violence against women recorded 754 female homicides between January and November 2010. A United Nations comission, meanwhile, registered over 800 deaths last year.

Guatemala passed a law formally recognizing femicide as a crime within its own right in March 2008, but very few cases have gone to trial. Last year, there were 127 convictions in cases involving female violence, despite 46,000 complaints that were filed, says Guatemalan non-profit Fundacion Sobrevivientes.

“Femicides” is a term typically used to describe brutal sex crimes against women who are often targeted primarily because of their gender. The cases often involve a woman being tortured, mutilated, raped, killed, and then abandoned in a public place.

This pattern of unsolved, brutal sex killings have been observed in other countries across the hemisphere, most notably in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. But the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Honduras have also seen rising rates of female killings over the past decade. The Centro de Reina Sofia, a Spanish organization that studies violence against women, says in El Salvador, 129 women out of every 1 million are killed in femicide-type crimes; compared with 93 in Guatemala and 45 in Honduras. 

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