On This International Women’s Day . . . . All We Want Is To Be Allowed To Live Without Being Assaulted
During 2001 and 2005 two criminal acts took the life of Maria Isabel, 15 years old, and Claudina Velasquez; both were victims of sexual violence and assassination. These two cases led to the passage of the Immediate Search for Disappeared Women law, part of Decree 09-2019, also known as the Isabel-Claudina Alert. It was approved by the Guatemalan National Congress in 2016. This regulation was created to guarantee life , liberty, security, integrity and dignity for disappeared women.
Yet, according to the summary of activities by the Ministry for Public Affairs’ Women’s Oversight Section from August 6, 2018 through December 18, 2020 approximately four alerts were activated each day. If female children and adolescents were added in, the total would be more than seven disappearances daily. There are 4,203 disappeared alerts, the greatest numbers being in the departments of Guatemala (1,712); Quetzaltenango (255); Escuintla (237). In 2020 alone disappearances of women numbered 1,428. Three years after passage of the Isabel-Claudina Law sixty-one alerts of missing women have resulted in deaths.
Undoubtedly these figures are alarming. According to the Ministry of Public Affairs many women disappear because they suffer violence within the family. Out of fear they don’t let other family members know when they go out searching for work in order to make a better life for themselves economically. Many are victims of human trafficking. Little girls, adolescents and mothers have been victims of homicide. In many cases a family member has been the perpetrator.
Martha Carolina Rax, 33, was reported missing on the 15th of August 2020. Her husband activated an Isabel-Claudina alert. Martha had disappeared from her own family’s surroundings, nevertheless, her body was found in the patio of Ricardo Mucu, the father of her husband. Mucu was detained by the Ministry for Public Affairs and the National Civil Police because he didn’t notify authorities about the crime against his daughter-in-law. Her husband, who escaped, would be the presumed responsible party. Martha is one of 61 women found dead after the Isabel-Claudina alert was activated.
There ought to be an immediate response to accusations regarding disappearances. There must be a search for every woman. And there must not be even one more disappeared woman. Where are the institutions that implement mechanisms of protection for women and prevent any kind of violence against them? The work of prevention must be strengthened and must require more investigation and more intervention. The degree of impunity among such cases is alarming.
The government ought to implement policies to prevent all types of violence against women and provide protective spaces, physical places as well as legal measures, i.e. charges, quick legal action and a rapid legal process. We beg of society that it not stigmatize missing women by blaming them for their own disappearances. Behind every woman who has gone missing there is a back story that we do not know. No family wants its daughter, sister, wife, cousin, aunt or grandmother to go missing, and for that reason, we must demand and support social initiatives and laws that are protective of women.
On this date of the 8th of March our greatest gift is to remain healthy and alive.
Introductory Photo by Ddeser Queretaro via the web: libertaddepalabra.com