• Indigenous peoples in Guatemala

    Indigenous peoples in Guatemala

    Guatemala is home to 24 principal ethnic groups. Although the Government of Guatemala has adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the country’s indigenous peoples continue to face a number of challenges.
  • Peoples

    Indigenous people in Guatemala counts 6 million, belonging to 24 ethnic groups
  • Challenges

    21.8 percent of the indigenous population is affected by extreme poverty, compared to 7.4 per cent of the non-indigenous population.
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  • Guatemala: First trial for systematic violations of indigenous women

Guatemala: First trial for systematic violations of indigenous women

The case of the indigenous women of Sepur Zarco, who have suffered from sexual violence, finally comes to court next week. They will be testifying against impunity.

Guatemala's recent history bears the mark of a 36 year long, painful internal armed conflict, during which the State systematically violated the rights of the Mayan population.

According to the Report of the Commission for the Historical Clarification of Human Rights Violations in Guatemala, 83.3 percent of the human rights violations were committed against them. Indigenous women have particularly suffered from the conflict. They have been victims of rape, abuse and sexual slavery.
 
Women’s Alliance Against Impunity

Women's organizations have played an important role in spreading information on the legal actions and in collecting and documenting the testimonies of several of them, who are now over 50 and suffer from severe PTSD.

The Alianza Rompiendo el Silencio y la Impunidad (Alliance Breaking the Silence and Impunity), including organizations such as Mujeres Transformando el Mundo (Women Changing the World - MTM), the Equipo de Estudios Comunitarios y de Acción Psicosocial (Community Studies and Psychosocial Action Team - ECAP) and the Unión Nacional de Mujeres Guatemaltecas(National Union of Guatemalan Women -UNAMG) has been active since 2009 providing support to women and following up on the cases.

The three organizations play different roles in promoting public debate on the cases: MTM is in charge of the judicial strategy, ECAP offers psychosocial support to the victims and UNAMG works on the public stance of the plaintiffs.

Sepur Zarco: A case that may set a precedent

Sepur Zarco is a community located on the border between the departments of Alta Verapaz and Izabal, in northern Guatemala. Six military detachments settled in this region during the internal armed conflict for the purpose of extermination and torture.

In 1982, the army captured the men of the Mayan community and their widows underwent domestic slavery, sexual violence and sexual slavery.

The abuses were committed by the army of Guatemala for six consecutive months, during which women did shifts every 3 days to cook and clean and wash military uniforms, and were individually and collectively raped over and over again.

Some of them described how they were injected and forced to take birth control medicines to prevent pregnancies.

After setting up a Tribunal of Conscience Against Sexual Violence in 2010, indigenous women decided to take the case to the formal justice system and filed a lawsuit in 2011.

The case is the first to reach the Guatemalan national courts for crimes of international significance against women.

As for its typification and in accordance with the Historical Clarification Commission, rape during the internal armed conflict was used in a widespread, massive and systematic way as part of the counterinsurgency policy of the State.

Therefore, sexual violence is a crime against humanity, a war crime and a constituent element of genocide.

In the post-conflict phase, though, sexual violence as a crime against humanity is still invisible.
That is why it is expected that the evidence and the proceedings will arouse national and international interest and allow for a new phase of discussion and historical reparation for fierce racism in the country.

The public trial will be held in Guatemala City on February 1, 2016. Guatemalan women's organizations call on all stakeholders to make a positive contribution to the trial, to attend public hearings and duly oversee the proceedings.
 
Contacts:

 

To understand how the armed conflict affected indigenous women and the importance of their testimony today, we invite you to listen to Victoria Tubin Sotz, Maya Kaqchikel and survivor of the internal armed conflict (Interview in Spanish) : 

About IWGIA

IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights. Read more.

Indigenous World

IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for indigenous peoples worldwide. The Indigenous World 2019.

Contact IWGIA

Prinsessegade 29 B, 3rd floor
DK 1422 Copenhagen
Denmark
Phone: (+45) 53 73 28 30
E-mail: iwgia@iwgia.org
CVR: 81294410

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