WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

Talking Points for Senate Resolution 178

Use these talking points in your outreach efforts in support of S.Res. 178

Talking Points
Violence against Women in Guatemala

Since 2001, nearly 3,000 women have been brutally murdered in Guatemala:

  • According to police statistics, the number of women slain has risen steadily from 383 in 2003, to 531 in 2004, to 665 in 2005. While there is debate over the final numbers for 2006, estimates place the number around 589.
  • So far this year, more than 250 cases have been reported.
  • The majority of the victims were young, poor women under the age of 40.
  • Many were students, housewives, factory workers, domestic employees, or workers in the informal sector; some of the victims were professionals.
  • In many cases, the victims were raped, strangled, decapitated or otherwise mutilated.

The majority of these gruesome killings have remained unresolved and unpunished:

  • Investigations of the killings of women have been fraught with numerous shortcomings including insufficient efforts by police to locate women who have been reported missing and the inability of police to preserve crime scenes, collect and preserve evidence, and interrogate witnesses.
  • In Guatemala, only about 2 percent of all homicides end in conviction. In the case of the murders of women, of the thousands of cases being investigated by the Public Prosecutor's Office, less than 30 cases have received a conviction.
  • The authorities frequently blame the victims for their murders.

Guatemala will respond to U.S. and international pressure:

  • As a result of international pressure, the Guatemalan government has established special police and prosecutorial units to investigate the murders.
  • Most recently, the Guatemalan government established the National Institute of Forensic Sciences, which will replace and bring together under one modern, scientific laboratory the three existing forensic services. If implemented properly, the Institute could help overcome some of the investigative shortcomings.

International pressure must continue to ensure that the Guatemalan government brings the perpetrators of these heinous crimes to justice:

  • The Guatemalan government has taken some positive steps to prevent violence against women, these steps, however, have fallen short of addressing the magnitude of the problem. International pressure can help ensure that the Guatemalan government place the necessary focus on strengthening and improving the investigate capabilities of local authorities.

Senate Resolution 178 will send a clear signal that the United States is concerned about these murders and willing to assist in the investigations:

  • The resolution recognizes the courageous struggle of the victims’ families in seeking justice for their loved ones.  It also recommends specific actions on the part of the U.S. government to encourage Guatemala to properly investigate, resolve, and prevent these crimes.

Click here for background information about the unsolved murders in Guatemala.

Click here to learn more about some of the cases.

For more information, contact Adriana Beltrán at [email protected]  or 202-797-2171.