'Femicide' in Guatemala: Does the concept obscure more than it illuminates?
Guest blogger Mike Allison argues that when we talk about 'femicide' or the killing of women – a major concern in Guatemala – one should look beyond murder rates to victims' conditions.
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Finally, the 838 women killed last year is the maximum number of women killed because of femicide – they were killed because they were women or as a consequence of gender-based violence. Some of the women were killed in robberies, extortion attempts, and drive-by shootings of one kind or another. Not all were necessarily killed because they were women. So the 838 number is the maximum number of women who were intentionally killed because they were women.Skip to next paragraph
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My point isn't to say that life for women in Guatemala is easy or that one should be happy about any reduction or leveling off of the murder rate against women. I would say that when we talk about femicide or the killing of women in Guatemala and around the world, one can't just start and stop with the number killed.
The killing of women in Guatemala and elsewhere is particularly heinous because women are often killed by their spouses or other family members. Women are frequently the victim of long-term abuse that only ends in murder. Focusing solely on their deaths neglects the long-term suffering that they endured in life.
Finally, women are often sexually abused or tortured immediately before being killed. Their bodies are then left in a public place, for among other reasons, to instill fear in others. It's not just that women are murdered; it's the fact that they are so horribly victimized in death.
Those who use the term femicide would most likely agree that the term is not meant to characterize only the act of murder. However, I do wonder whether the increased use of the term obscures more than it illuminates.
--- Mike Allison is an associate professor in the Political Science Department and a member of the Latin American and Women's Studies Department at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. You can follow his Central American Politics blog here.
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