Violence against Women: From Childhood to Adolescence
By: María Aguja Maulhardt
In Guatemala, as in the rest of the world, children and adolescents are still treated from a viewpoint in which adult opinions take precedence over child and adolescent perspectives. This circumstance contributes to their problems not being seen as such, but as an established social dynamic and they are the ones who must always remain silent. The ideological superstructure established by the country’s social imagination allows the creation and development of different kinds of violence in Guatemalans’ daily life. This situation affects all of society, especially women, who were once children and adolescents and are now mothers, aunts, grandmothers, neighbors and the great majority of whom have been insulted, harassed, raped, beaten, murdered, and/or exposed to malnutrition, denied formal education, and forced to be housewives, the typical role of women who live under patriarchal systems.
It’s not always easy to identify violence against women. In reference to this theme, the psychologist Arturo Torres states on the website Psychology and Mind, that violence is normalized and frequently people don’t notice it and don’t question it because of the idea that “that’s the way it should be.” Violence, adds Torres, “is the use of physical force or power against oneself or others in a way that causes physical or psychological harm or suffering. This behavioral or physical abuse of power includes self-inflicted, collective, physical, verbal, sexual, economic, religious and cultural violence, negligence, and cyberbullying.” All this conglomeration of violence is present in the Guatemalan context and arises even from the time a woman is pregnant, affecting the mother and baby, limiting their quality of life from the first days and restricting good development from childhood.
Although the adult-centric world is the norm, nowadays children and adolescents have been gaining prominence, asserting their rights through legal means. In 1990, Guatemala ratified the Convention of Children’s Rights (Convención de los Derechos del Niño – CDN), which contains an important element that gives children and adolescents the guarantee of ensuring what is best for their well-being; that is to say ensuring their primary interest. That category is known as “Observation number 11 of the CDN.” Nevertheless, progress is slow and the degree of abuse towards girls, especially within communities, remains brutal. The State has institutionalized, through its silence, abuses against the dignity of young and adolescent girls in the country; for example, alarming pregnancy rates are presented which violate their rights as minors.
At this time, many young and adolescent girls are exploited, offering them minimal amounts of money for their work, kidnapping and deceiving them in order to prostitute them or steal their organs. It is no accident that the situation is worsening; the State is responsible for laws, policies and programs that fight against violence, but has not made enough efforts to achieve it, so we are also dealing with a structural problem. The adult approach must change so that the dynamics also change, and in turn it’s important to educate young and adolescent girls about patriarchal limitations that reward all violence to the normalization of patterns that have existed for many years. Young and adolescent girls should grow up happy, they should be able to make their own decisions and contribute to the development of the country. As adult women, we must train in order to break systems and educate present and future generations to mold people (men and women) who recognize violence as a real problem that should be eradicated for the mental, emotional and physical well-being of society.