Links Between Land Grabs and Sexual Violence

Mendez, L. (2013). Study Finds Link Between Land Grabs and Sexual Violence Against Q’eqchis Women: Americas Program.

Mendez gives an in-depth look into the serious human rights violations that have occurred during, and after the Guatemalan Civil War. The Peace Accords in 1996 made room for political and civic participation in areas of strengthening the legal framework for human rights. The article discusses that in the recent years there has been a rise in criminal violence, specifically femicide.

During the civil war, the q’eqchis women were forced into sexual slavery and domestic servitude. Not only were these women raped in front of their children on multiple occasions, they were forced to prepare meals and wash the uniforms for the soldiers. The severe economic conditions during this time forced the women to supply their own corn for the use of soap and food for the soliders, leaving their children starving and impoverished.

Mendez also illustrates the graphic encounter of the Lote Ocho women on the date of January 17th, 2007. While their husbands were working in the fields, private security agents of the Guatemalan Nickel Company, Guatemalan Army, and the National Civil Police performed a violent eviction of the Lote Ocho community. The women were trapped in their homes and raped in front of their children multiple times and by up to ten men.  Though these incidents occurred thirty years apart they have the same pattern, showing changes are not being made nor are they lasting.

This article portrays how these women were victims of extreme human rights violations. These incidents have put ever-lasting physical and emotional scars on these women. Due to the social stigmatization of being “bad women,” they were silent for up to twenty-five years about their abuse. Their culture lays the blame of the rape upon the victims instead of the perpetrators.

Mendez also discusses the aspects of the rapes. Each rape occurred in order to gain the land of their villages. Rape is not about sex at all; it is completely about power and was a tool used as a weapon of war. This only serves as an example of the severe gender domination within Guatemalan culture.

These brave women have decided to speak up and fight the patriarchal system by seeking justice. They have begun organizing women’s groups to speak out against sexual violence, as well as construct alliances with human rights organizations at both national and international levels in search of social transformation.  Specifically, the women of Lote Ocho have turned to Canadian courts for compensation and justice for the crimes committed against them by Guatemalan Nickel Company, which happens to be a subsidiary of the Canadian HudBay Minerals company. This lawsuit is a huge mile marker in change, because it is the first time in legal history that a Canadian company will be tried for the manner of its conduct in another country.

These women are still facing a serious uphill battle, but these are valuable contributions to putting an end to sexual violence during armed conflicts. Mendez ends the article by stating, “in the long run what is sought is to build a just society, with respect for human rights and without violence of any kind.”

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