Upholding the rights of indigenous women

Around 40 per cent of the Guatemalan population is indigenous – mainly Mayan. They suffered most of the 200,000 killings in the 1980s civil war.

In 2013, the ACT Guatemala Forum, made up of eight members, commissioned a study about violence against indigenous women, to raise awareness both socially and politically.

The study found that indigenous women were the particular target of human rights violations and that they are still institutionally victimised today. Such violence and discrimination, it reported, is normalised and often invisible. It is not measured – statistics are structured to avoid finding or showing it – and not discussed.

The forum circulated the document among state institutions and civil society groups, and trained indigenous female leaders in how to deal with violence in personal and institutional settings.

It also organised a public meeting in which representatives of 125 government departments took part, including the Guatemala Human Rights Commission and ombudsman, and civil society groups.

The meeting considered the findings of the study and discussed the strategic interventions recommended for changing the structural marginalisation of indigenous women.

The study data was collected across the country. It illustrated how indigenous women are more vulnerable to violence, hunger, disease and even death. It also showed a disturbing trend of racism, sexism and violence built into social norms and institutional attitudes.