Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Women gain legal weapon against abuse

As the number of women being murdered and abused has skyrocketed, Guatemala has begun prosecuting cases under a law that is unique in Central America.

BY SUMMER HARLOW

Special to The Miami Herald

Erica Jacinto Vicente finally has begun to get justice for her dead daughter.

A year ago, Maria de Jesus Velasquez Jacinto's boyfriend allegedly shot her in the chest after years of beatings. Until a new law targeting abuse and murder of women was passed last year, Edgar Benjamin Quiñonez may not have been prosecuted, according to human rights officials.

But this month, Quiñonez's prosecution on murder charges began, making it only the second to go to trial among 722 cases of women murdered last year. ''The law shows that the Guatemalan government recognizes femicide is a real problem that exists,'' said Amanda Martin, director of the Guatemala Human Rights Commission in Washington, D.C.

More than 4,000 women have been murdered here since 2000, and nearly 80,000 cases of violence were documented in the past two years, giving this small Central American nation one of the world's highest rates of violence against women.

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