September 28, 2016

End “War on Women” in Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala: Nobel Laureates

HollywoodNews.com: An independent fact-finding delegation to Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala, led by Nobel Peace Laureates Jody Williams and Rigoberta Menchú Tum, found that violence against women?including murder, rape and forced disappearances?has reached a crisis point in the region. The Nobel Peace Laureates are calling for concerted and immediate action to protect women?including those women doing frontline human rights work?and prosecute those committing crimes against women.

“The war on drugs and increased militarization in Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala is becoming a war on women,” said Jody Williams, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her work to ban landmines. “The governments’ efforts to improve ‘security’ in the region have direct resulted in insecurity for civilian populations?and most especially, for women.”

The delegation, which visited the three countries January 21 to January 31, heard testimony from over 200 women directly affected by the crisis. During the 10-day visit, the delegation met with women working on women’s and indigenous rights, as well as those involved in environmental, labour and land rights. The delegation also gathered evidence from international and regional human rights bodies, and from government representatives and diplomats. This included meetings with President Porfirio Lobo of Honduras, President Otto Perez Molina of Guatemala, and Mexico’s Attorney General Marisela Morales and Supreme Court Justice, Olga Sanchez Cordero.

Officials in Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala openly recognized the problem of rampant violence against women. All three countries have specialized government agencies to deal with violence against women. However the delegation found evidence of a pervasive lack of political will in all three countries to effectively implement existing public safety and justice systems?including special mechanisms to protect women.

“The dysfunctional and corrupt justice system in all three countries is literally creating a breeding ground for sexual violence and other gender-based violence,” said Lisa VeneKlasen, Executive Director for Just Associates (JASS). “In countries where more than 90% of crimes are never prosecuted, one can imagine how unwilling officials are to go after those committing violent crimes against women and women activists. The lack of prosecution is like giving a blank cheque to criminals.”

The delegation found that there has been a significant rise in the targeted killing of women in all three countries, and that violence against women and women human rights defenders nearly always includes some form of sexual violence or gender-specific aspect. The group also heard evidence that indigenous women, particularly those directly confronting mining and other large-scale projects in their communities, are especially targeted for violent attacks and political persecution.

The delegation found that in Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala the police?and increasingly, soldiers sent out to cities and communities under the ‘drug war’?not only fail to guarantee public safety, but are also the perpetrators of many crimes committed against women. Private security firms hired by multi-national companies are another unchecked source of violence and insecurity for women, particularly indigenous and rural women.

“Indigenous women are often on the frontlines of communities that are trying to peacefully express their opposition to large-scale projects that threaten the health and land of indigenous peoples,” said Rigoberta Menchú Tum, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for her work to defend the rights of indigenous peoples in Guatemala. “But instead of supporting these women’s democratic rights, governments and multinational companies are too often supporting brutal violence to crack down on these women and their communities.”

The delegation found that the “criminalization” of women human rights defenders is a major problem in the region. In Guatemala, legal proceedings against women for defending their rights and the rights of their communities have become a common response of governments?and a threat to basic freedoms and human rights. Similarly, violent assaults on peaceful citizen protests by police and increased repression against journalists in Mexico and Honduras has made the defense of human rights and freedom of speech dangerous.

The violence against women in the region is part of a general trend of greater violence. Since 2006, the war on drugs has resulted in the murder of more than 50,000 people, and women represent the majority of those who file complaints in the search for justice for victims and their families. The 2009 coup d’état in Honduras and the subsequent crackdown on women opposing the illegitimate change of government has also greatly fueled a climate of increasing violence against women.

The delegation, which was organized by the Nobel Women’s Initiative in collaboration with Just Associates (JASS)?included journalists, women’s rights experts and women from the corporate sector as well as women working in the performing arts. A final report on the delegation, which will include recommendations aimed at the governments of Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala, will be issued in the spring.

To read more go to View highlights from the delegation here.

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Vitale Morum is our political and causes correspondent and reporter. He will be covering both national and international stories.

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