Monday, March 9, 2009

Thousands March in Streets of Guatemala City

Thousands of women marched yesterday in the streets of Guatemala City to demand the cessation of violence against women, which so far this year has killed at least 72 women.

Activists, students, professionals, feminists, working women, and housewives, were involved in a massive demonstration on International Women's Day. They marched from the Plaza Italia in the City Civic Center to the Plaza de la Constitution.

"No more violence", "No more femicide," "Equality, justice and peace" read the slogans on the banners carried by the protesters.

Gabriela Hernandez, a student of political science at a private university, said that "the terror I feel every day as a result of violence" was the main reason I participate in this march. "It used to be believed that women were murdered because they were involved in something bad but I do not believe these arguments. All women of all ages and social strata are vulnerable. So we must protest and demand a stop to all violence against the Guatemalans, but especially against women and children," said the 23 year old student.

Sandra Moran, leader of the Women's Sector, a coalition that brings together a dozen organizations working for the rights of women, said that "the State has become the principal accomplice of the murderers of women" by not prosecuting the perpetrators and bringing them to justice.

The macho culture that prevails in Guatemalan society, according to experts, is the main source of male violence towards women.

In February of last year, Congress passed the Law Against Femicide and other Forms of Violence against Women, which provides for heavy penalties against those found guilty of violence.

Over the past five years the number of women murdered in Guatemala has steadily increased, totaling more than 7 thousand cases.

Although most of these crimes are attributed to the "violence", the authorities also claim that many of these cases are caused by organized crime gangs, local gangs, and drug trafficking.

Just in the last week, according to reports compiled by the National Civil Police (PNC), a dozen women were killed, four of them with signs of extreme violence including torture and dismemberment of their bodies.

The impunity in Guatemala and the increasing rate of attacks against women has placed this country as one of the most violent against women worldwide.

The demonstrators also demanded that the state institute policies to end discrimination and inequality, and to promote greater development opportunities for women.

For the rest of the week, women's, social organizations, and the government have planned activities to continue the commemoration of International Women's Day.

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