During the 36-year-long Guatemalan civil war, indigenous women were systematically raped and enslaved by the military in a small community near the Sepur Zarco outpost. What happened to them then was not unique, but what happened next, changed history. From 2011 – 2016, 15 women survivors fought for justice at the highest court of Guatemala. The groundbreaking case resulted in the conviction of two former military officers of crimes against humanity and granted 18 reparation measures to the women survivors and their community.
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Violence against women
Sixteen Days of Activism against Gender Violence A 16-part blog series by UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka on the occasion of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign.
Globally, at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM). Sierra Leone has one of the highest rates of FGM in the world, with nine in every 10 women and girls cut, many as young as five years old.
“The soldiers broke my marriage,” a woman from Guatemala said. “They burned everything we had. We had nowhere to go. When we finished our shifts at the base, we were forced to provide food for the soldiers, to make tortillas and wash uniforms. For six years.”
The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, UN Women, strongly condemns the murder on 3 March of indigenous leader, environmentalist and defender of human rights, Berta Cáceres, who was shot in her home in the city of La Esperanza in western Honduras.
On 26 February, a Guatemalan court convicted two former military officers of crimes against humanity against 11 indigenous Q'eqchi' women who were subjected to sexual violence, sexual and domestic slavery, the forced disappearance of their husbands, as well as the murder and cruel treatment of a woman and her two small daughters.
"When I was 9 years old, my mother told me that three of her sisters died because her grandmother practiced female genital mutilation (FGM)," says Patricia Tobon Yagarí, an Emberá indigenous lawyer from Colombia. "Her mother managed to rescue her, and she told me that the practice had been eradicated in our Emberá community."