The situation for women during COVID-19 in Guatemala
Being a woman in Guatemala hinders access to some rights, and even more so if you are an indigenous woman. This group suffer double discrimination: ethnic and gender based. The coronavirus global emergency has magnified the various forms of violence faced by Guatemalan women.
Publisert: 03.03.2021 Redigert: 04.03.2021
According to the Women's Observatory (specialized statistical portal of the Public Prosecutor's Office), to date in 2020 (May) an average of 187 reports per day have been received related to crimes committed against women and children.
Of the total number of daily reports, 135 are related to violence against women, bringing the total number of victims to 22,265. Two are related to feminicides (women murdered because they are women), bringing the total to 187 victims, while 24 reports concern rape or sexual assault.
According to the statistics, San Agustín Acasaguastlán, El Progreso, is the third municipality in the country with the highest rate of cases of violence against women, i.e. 454 per 100,000. To date, the number of victims totals 211. This situation is worth noting since this is the area where Ixcanal is located, a village where a health cordon was established because of the number of COVID-19 infections.
Since the first case of COVID-19 was reported, the Public Prosecutor's Office has received more than 14,000 calls regarding violence against women, including more than 400 for rape. These figures emerge in a context in which many women have shared their difficulties to file reports, not only because of fear of stigma, but also because being confined with the offender limits their access to a phone.
In the midst of the pandemic and the exacerbation of violence, women face yet another challenge: access to sexual and reproductive health services. Women in rural areas do not have the necessary financial resources to access these services privately and they are therefore dependent on the Ministry of Public Health, which has been overrun by the epidemic and has neglected the delivery of other services.
In a survey conducted by Mujeres Transformando el Mundo among 1,894 women in the 22 departments (counties), 60.4% asserted that the pandemic has brought a change in their family dynamics which has affected several factors, from a decrease in income (for 47.7%) to an increase in the time spent on housework, educational support and care work (for 79.5%).
Although 74.3% of the respondents have a university degree, this has not prevented their work from being affected, since 30.1% consider that their labor rights have been violated.
Women's right to mental and emotional health has also been affected by the emergency, as this health service is mostly a paying service in Guatemala. In the mentioned survey, 35.3% of the respondents said they felt upset or tense. Meanwhile, 14.3% said they have thought of suicide.
With regard to violence, 58.8% of the women surveyed claim to have been victims of insults, humiliation and/or physical assault during their lifetime. While 31.6% have at one time been forced to have sex or perform sexual acts against their will.
In the midst of the harsh situation Guatemalan women face during the pandemic, there is also a threat of the institutions responsible for safeguarding their rights becoming weaker. The President has announced the closure of the Secretariat responsible for advocating for women, which jeopardizes the public policies, plans and projects aimed at meeting this sector's needs.
This text was originally published in the 1/2020 edition of our magazine iFokus. Read the magazine.