Bottom-Up Views on Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls: Insights from Guatemala

Guatemala is one of 17 countries in Latin America to have passed laws criminalizing femicide and physical, psychological, sexual, and economic violence against women and girls (VAWG). This law passed in 2008 in Guatemala due to pressure from feminist movements. The law does not cover trans women, LGBTQI+, and two spirit people. This paper examines the patchwork nature of this justice system and provides an experiential account of it from the bottom up both from those limited number of women who make it into court, and the vast majority who do not, and who turn to other forms of relief or simply decide to aguantar or live with violence because they have no alternative. Highlighting ethnography developed with an Indigenous research team linked to three community-based organizations in the departments of Quetzaltenango and Huehuetenango in Guatemala, our work reveals how most Indigenous women, men, and their families and communities do not turn to the formal specialized justice system because of histories of structural racism, and exclusion, alternative forms of authority, and a series of racialized, classed, and ethicized obstacles or tolls that affect different bodies and communities differently. This paper explores local Indigenous women’s collective knowledge of the obstacles to the formal justice system and their solutions for supporting women facing violence through a settler colonial lens. I also discuss the possibilities for local officials, othen men, to be potential and actual allies.

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