It hardly matters where in the world you look. The struggles to end violence against women have found brave voices, but remedies remain maddeningly out of reach. The violence against women rages on. In some places homicides of women are increasing at such a frightening pace that the terror they engender threatens to crush women's advances on all fronts. In Guatemala, for example, murders of women increased from 60 in the year 2000 to 624 women murdered last year, 2005. In other places, like Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, a decade of local and international efforts to stop the homicides of women has exposed some disturbing consequences. (Chamberlain, 2007, 12)
We need new strategies; new ways that those of us who work to end violence against women can join forces across borders, new ways of leveraging off new technology and changing political trends, new ways of listening. In short, it seems like a good time for some New Year's brainstorming. We offer a couple of our thoughts. And we'd like to hear yours. When we do, we'll put your ideas on our web site on the Brainstorm Billboard.
Guatemala and Juarez at a Glance
In the year 2005, there were 624 women murdered in Guatemala, a country the size of Tennessee. This marked a dramatic increase of femicides over the year before when 527 women were murdered, which was a dramatic increase over the year before that when 383 women were murdered. Daunting as these numbers are, there is an even more staggering statistic. Of the more than 2200 homicides of Guatemalan women over the last five years, Guatemalan justice officials have succeeded in obtaining only one conviction. (Chamberlain, 2007, 45(
This drastic situation for women in Guatemala, and the utter failure of officials to respond, has been spotlighted over the last couple years by Guatemalan women's groups and international human rights groups. (See Juarez and Beyond Links.) One significant result has been Guatemala's creation of specialized police and prosecution units for investigating homicides of women. But the police unit, according to a June 2005 Amnesty International report, had only one cell phone and one computer. The investigations, for the most part, are thoroughly inept, And today, there is still only one conviction in the homicides of the more than 2200 Guatemalan women.
In Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, where there has now been more than a decade of international pressure on Mexican officials to remedy a similar record of impunity for homicides of women, the results are far from encouraging. There is a continuing toll of murdered women, and the alarming emergence of what local critics have called 'a second cycle of injustice'. A September 26, 2005 New York Times article sums up what local activists have been saying for years. In response to the local and international pressure, Mexican law enforcement has simply embarked on years of wholesale fabrication of cases; rounding up innocent men, falsifying evidence, ...