By Alba Trejo
Guatemala, February (SEMlac). - Many local children are taken to hospitals with broken bones and bruises, simply because their parents or other family members get mad at them.
They totaled 14,000 last year only. Most of them told caregivers how they had been sexually abused and threatened to death if they did not keep silent.
Forensic doctor Sergio Rodas indicated that most victims had been strangled, drowned or shot to death.
But, why are Guatemalan children more vulnerable than children in other countries of the region? Leonel Dubón, who works at a shelter, came up with a straightforward answer: Because the State thinks that children under 13 years of age simply do not exist.
"Boys and girls are not being given priority," he regretted.
Local prosecution services indicated that there were 14,000 reports of physical abuse and 7.000 reports of acts of sexual violence against children in 2016 alone.
Attorney-General Thelma Aldana found it necessary to establish an office for acts of violence against children only.
In fact, Nery Rodenas, representative of the Archbishopric Human Rights Office (ODHAG), announced that the Guatemalan State invests merely 3.1 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on children.
"Neighboring countries like El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama allocate around six per cent," she noted.
"Local children are being negatively affected by an authoritarian, male-chauvinistic, discriminatory culture," she added.
"We at ODHAG have been monitoring violence against our children since 1998," she announced.
Survivors Foundation director Claudia Hernández indicated that 80 per cent of local households have seen their children, women and older people abused.
Dubón deeply regrets that the Attorney's Office for Children, the Secretariat for Social Well-being and the National Commission on Children have no funds to operate.
Axel Romero, minister of the Interior, is seeking to raise awareness about children in marginalized areas.
On the other hand, Marco A. Garavito, a representative of the Mental Health League, is fully aware of the fact that abused children tend to adopt violent behaviors when they reach puberty.
"There are around 19,000 teenagers currently involved in criminal gangs, willing to extort and even kill for money," he concluded.
By Tamara Vidaurrázaga
Santiago de Chile, January (SEMlac). - Vicente (23) is in the process of changing his gender identity. He was born a girl and named Camila.
To this end, he has been forced to make long, cumbersome, disrespectful arrangements.
He did not like to wear dresses and skirts when he was only five. "I always asked my parents to buy me boy's toys," he told SEMlac.
He did not like it either when his body started to change at puberty. "I had to struggle against myself because I thought I had to be heterosexual and I was nonetheless attracted to women," he added.
At 21, a female friend told him that he may well be a trans person. He thought it through and decided to embark on his transition, although he feared rejection and abuse.
He has been seeking advice from the Legal Clinic at the University of Chile for over a year, and has undergone physical and psychological examinations at the Legal Medical Service to have his gender identity changed.
"The physical examination included asking me questions about my body and the psychological one, about potential child abuse. The professionals were all hostile, cold, distant," he recalled.
"You really get mad when you have to face so many hurdles to be who you want to be," he stressed.
Outright Action International's report entitled Mapping the rights of trans in Chile was supported by TranSítar Foundation and put together by Organizando Trans Diversidades (OTD-Chile) (https://www.
Civil court requirements for change of name and sexual reassignment include medical examinations and witness testimonies about the applicant's life as a man or a woman for at least five years.
There is a law against discrimination that covers sexual orientation and gender identity. It has made it possible to establish a legal mechanism for this purpose.
A gender identity law
The Yogyakarta Principles set forth that States should take all legislative and administrative measures necessary to ensure full respect for and legal recognition of the gender identity chosen by every individual.
These principles are not being observed in Chile, however. The above-mentioned report recommended passing a gender identity law to regulate cases like that of Vicente.
A bill along these lines was submitted to Congress in 2013. If it is finally passed into law, it will stipulate that gender identity is a human right and will help secure full equality for trans people before the law.
In 2015, the Human Rights Commission at the Senate adopted a final text on amendments of birth certificates and minimum age for Civil Registry proceedings.
TranSÍtar director Niki Raveau emphasized that trans people of all ages should have the right to legalize their identity without having to appear in court.
"This law will certainly be a step forward, but there will still be a need to address issues for trans people like health care, education, and access to the employment market. We must follow the examples of Malta and Argentina in this regard," she concluded.
By Mercedes Alonso
Santo Domingo, January (SEMlac). - The call to march to put an end to impunity has generated a lot of expectation in the local population.
Originally scheduled for January 22, the event has sought to fight corruption and impunity after a case that involved a Brazilian construction company (Ode Brecht) and State officials on the island.
A press release indicated that the march will soon be held on various locations.
A campaign entitled Four per cent for education was launched in 2010 to ask the government to enforce a law that had been passed in 1997 setting forth that four per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) should be allocated to education.
Representatives of over 200 organizations and millions of ordinary people mobilized on the fourth day of every month ever since and up to 2013, all wearing yellow.
By the end of 2012, the government announced that the demand would be met. It had always invested only two percent of the GDP on this critical sector, which was one of the lowest investments in the region. Thirteen per cent of the population over 15 years of age was illiterate, and most schools were understaffed and overcrowded at the time.
The so-called Educational Revolution under President Danilo Medina has trained more teachers and built hundreds of schools and day-care centers.
However, in 2016, a total of 78 women were murdered, and 70 boys, girls and adolescents became orphans as a result.
After two decades of struggle and mass mobilization, the problem of gender and family violence remains.
A total of 77 women were killed by their husbands or sexual partners in 2015 alone, and 967 lost their lives between 2007 and 2016.
Against this background, the Attorney General's Office and the Ministry of Women's Affairs decided to partner with social organizations, government institutions and cooperation agencies to raise awareness and seek to prevent and control violence.
Last January 1st, the local media announced that a man had killed his common-law wife with a stick and had committed suicide. Just a month before, a woman had been shot to death, leaving five children in orphanage, including a pregnant teenager.
Roberto Rodríguez, communication director in the central government, announced a permanent campaign to make women's rights visible.
Another initiative by the ministries of Labor and Women's Affairs and the Dominican Association of Free Zones had been undertaken in November 2012 to prevent and eradicate gender and family violence.
Among other campaigns are No aguanto más (Enough is enough); Si me quieres, no me dañes (If you love me, do not hit me); and El poder de tu voz (The power of your voice).
Nevertheless, the Dominican Republic continues to rank third on women's murders in the region, after Honduras and El Salvador, according to a report of the National Office of Statistics (ONE).
By Norma Loto
Buenos Aires, November (SEMlac Special). – The story of Alika Kinan (40) is
like an X-ray of white slave traffic linkage with State powers. She is not
the defendant, but the plaintiff at a judicial process to be undertaken in
Ushuaia (Argentina) on November 7.
“Being a prostitute was a source of pride because we were taken there to
sate gendarmes, military and police officers,” she wrote in a public letter
She was forced into prostitution for 20 years until October 2012, when there
was a police raid at the bar she was working in. She had never thought of
herself as a victim. Her fate had been written long before because her
mother, aunts and grandmothers had all been sexually exploited by her
Marcela d’Angelo, a member of the Campaign “No more women victims of
prostitution networks,” told SEMlac that Kinan is opening a door to demand
the State to take action against the violation of fundamental rights.
“I have survived white slave traffic and continue to be a victim of many
forms of violence: I was raped at 14. I am the daughter and niece of women
who were prostituted under the patriarchal system. My parents abandoned me
when I was 16 and I had to take care of my 10-year-old sister ever since,”
“I arrived in Ushuaia when I was 18 and had no identity document whatsoever.
I was considered to become a ´good prostitute´ because I had no criminal
record. And the local government issued a health booklet for me,” she
It was in this city where she met her former husband, a prostitution
consumer. They both settled down in Spain and formed a family. She became a
violence victim and decided to get back to Ushuaia with her daughters and
start working for traffickers.
Her trial involves another six victims, but she is the only plaintiff. The
defendants are Pedro Montoya and Ivana García (owners of the place), and
Lucy A. Campos (manager).
As she has often been threatened to death, such acts have merited unreserved
condemnation at #AlikaNoEstáSola (Alika is not alone).
D’Angelo told SEMlac that these threats are due to sensitive interests of
international sex trafficking networks.
She added that, in Argentina, there have been attempts at regulating
prostitution and using it to reduce unemployment among transvestites and
Against this background, the Attorney General’s Office on Human Trafficking
and Exploitation, which is led by Marcelo Colombo and Alejandra Mángano,
issued an official communiqué right after the trial began.
“We will defend not only Alika Kinan, but also over 1,000 victims who are
being exploited in silence,” it indicated.
“There is an urgent need for the State to provide victims with protection
and guarantee fundamental rights,” it concluded.
By Gabriela Ramírez
Mexico, October (SEMlac). – There is a critical need to strengthen
substantive, equal representation in the country, participants in a forum
held at the National Electoral Institute (INE) indicated.
Held last October 11-12, the event was organized by INE, the Electoral
Court, UN Women, the National Women’s Institute, and the Prosecutor’s
Participants agreed to adopt legal reforms for substantive equality and
horizontal/vertical parity, implement affirmative actions for women and
young people, and criminalize political violence.
They stressed that the political rights of women should not be limited to
vote and should include violence-free settings.
These new commitments were formally signed by Lorena Cruz, president of the
Women’s Institute; Lorenzo Córdoba, counselor at INE; María Alanís, judge of
the Electoral Court; Javier Bolaños, president of the Bureau of the House of
Representatives; Santiago Nieto, head of the Special Prosecutor’s Office;
and Ana Güezmes, UN Women representative in Mexico.
Cruz made a call not to tolerate political violence against women in the
She underscored the urgent need to increase the number of women at municipal
governments, workplaces, schools and communities.
Bolaños indicated that civilian organizations should be actively involved in
the struggle for parity.
Alanís found it necessary to turn parity into a reality for local women.
“Despite the progress made, there is still resistance to see women taking
public positions,” she commented.
Güezmes stressed that parity paves the way for equality.
Parity, a serious issue
“Parity helps promote women’s participation in political life and
democracy,” said Carmen Moreno, executive secretary of the Inter-American
Commission at the Organization of American States.
“There is a regional consensus about political equality being governed by
parity standards,” she remarked.
“Parity has made it possible for women to account for 42 per cent of members
of the House of Representatives,” she noted.
Nieto highlighted the need for authorities to see parity as an overriding
Constancio Carrasco, president of the Electoral Court, said that the
struggle for women’s rights has been hard and long.
Marcela Eternod, executive secretary of the Women’s Institute, concluded
that women’s talent should not be wasted.
By Mercedes Alonso
Santo Domingo, October (SEMlac). – The Dominican Republic ranks on top of
the list of Latin American countries exhibiting high pregnancy rates and
consensual unions that involve girls under 15 years of age, a report of the
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) indicated.
It added that 13 girls under 15 give birth every day after having been raped
or sexually abused.
UNICEF representative Rosa Elcarte has asked local citizens to report sexual
exploitation cases to the police.
She told SEMlac that 60 per cent of poor girls under 18 are either married
or living in consensual unions. “They have one or more children,” she
“It is alarming to see how tolerant the Dominican society is. There are
girls and boys under sexual exploitation at tourist resorts and other areas
of the country,” she regretted.
Last September, UNICEF launched the campaign “No excuse,” in coordination
with the Office of the Attorney-General.
“The campaign seeks to raise awareness about these issues,” Elcarte
“There are no reliable statistical data on a recurrent phenomenon that is
deeply rooted in male-chauvinistic traditions,” she stressed.
Interviews with 146 minors under 18 at tourist resorts showed that many
children are getting involved in sexual relations with adults in exchange
Over 30 per cent of private school children said they have at some point
been approached by adults interested in having sex with them.
DR, a destination for sex?
“Some people believe that girls can be used to bring money home. This is a
gross violation of their human rights,” Elcarte told Hoy newspaper.
“Girls under 18 are not physically and psychologically prepared to make
sound decisions about sex. These acts are punished under international
laws,” she recalled.
“Over 70 per cent of children to teenage mothers are not registered at birth
because they have no ID documents available,” she stressed.
She thinks that progress toward teenage pregnancy prevention has been made,
but highlights the importance of education.
“In this context, we failed to meet the Millennium Development Goals in the
past and we are not likely to meet the Sustainable Development Goals at
present,” she regretted.
Out of 13 babies being born every day, 10 die of preventable causes. UNICEF
is working together with the Ministry of health under the Baby-Friendly
Hospital Initiative to improve care quality and promote vaginal delivery,
breastfeeding, and other good practices.
“We hope to reduce this rate, which has for 20 years been one of the highest
in Latin America, within the next five years,” she concluded.
By Sylvia R. Torres
Managua, July (SEMlac Special). - The case of a 20-year-old girl, who died a few hours after some cosmetic surgery last July 18, has become viral on social networks.
"Control over women's bodies is a mainstay of patriarchy," said Eva Blanco, a member of a feminist group in León.
Many people have argued that social pressure makes women pursuit an ideal model of beauty and that all individuals should have the right to make decisions over their bodies.
Feminist Gracia Oro urged to respect these decisions.
Frank Hooker, a member of La Corriente feminist program, recalled that the patriarchal system promotes beauty stereotypes while branding young women who die as a result of cosmetic surgery as conceited.
Dr. David Páramo has been accused of malpractice and homicide. He became "famous" in 2011, when a young man had an implant made by him "for better sexual performance."
Urologist Jorge Saborío accused him of medical negligence, because he had performed a procedure he was not qualified to use, under inappropriate conditions.
His cosmetic surgery service costs used to range from 230 to 3.200 dollars.
Another of his victims is Allison Molina (26), whose breast implants led to a pulmonary complication in July 2014.
Armando Siú, director of the Association of Cosmetic Surgeons, told media representatives that Páramo will not be accepted back.
University professor Ana V. Portocarrero highlighted the need to address patriarchal and racial components in beauty stereotypes.
She urged to defend the right to accurate and comprehensive information about these procedures.
By Norma Loto
Buenos Aires, July (Especial de SEMlac). - Since 2007, a bill on legal, safe and free abortion has been systematically submitted to Congress. On this occasion, it is being supported by 34 MPs and over 350 social, political and professional organizations.
Government data show that around 500,000 abortions are performed every year in Argentina and that over 80,000 women need to be hospitalized due to related complications.
"We urge legislators to face this social problem and work to formulate and implement public policies on comprehensive health care for and autonomy of women," a communiqué of the National Campaign for Legal, Safe and Free Abortion indicated.
It also made reference to the Supreme Court ruling of April 2013: "Women should have the right to resort to abortion if they get pregnant as a result of rape, or if they face any life risk."
Libres del Sur MP Victoria Donda hopes that the new bill will be discussed by the Health Commission at the House of Deputies next September.
She recalled that abortion is considered a human right by the United Nations.
President Mauricio Macri recently said that he defends life from conception to death.
"We, in turn, defend the lives and dignity of women who are forced to resort to illegal abortion," she emphasized.
"Their deaths can be prevented by decriminalizing abortion," said Raquel Vivanco, national coordinator of Mujeres de la Matria Latinoamericana (MUMALA).
What has happened in the last nine years?
This question was addressed by Marta Alanis, an outstanding member of Catholics for the Right to Choose.
She told SEMlac that there has been no political will to move toward decriminalizing abortion.
Soledad Deza, the defense lawyer of Belén, a young woman in prison after miscarriage, told SEMlac that the ruling political class is very much aligned with the Catholic Church.
"The bill provides a new opportunity to meet a historic demand on reproductive justice, freedom and equality for all women," she concluded.
By Alba Trejo
Guatemala, June (SEMlac). - Adriana Portillo is one of the Guatemalan women
most seriously affected by the war. Her two daughters aged 10 and nine went
missing in 1981, when the army raided the house where the two girls were
being looked after by their grandfather. She has had no news of them ever
Portillo told SEMlac that she hopes they were adopted or are working as
According to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, over 50,000 people
went missing during the armed conflict in Guatemala, including children who
were enslaved, used as servants, adopted, or killed.
Why did you take the case of your daughters out of the country?
Six family members had been going missing. My brother had been killed. I was
What happened on that day?
My daughters had gone out with their father and his brother. We would all
meet again at a birthday party. They were probably killed there, I don’t
What were police and army forces looking for?
The house was the meeting place for members of the Revolutionary
Organization of the People in Arms (ORPA). My father was in charge of caring
for the wounded and for those trying to escape repression.
Did your girls and the rest of the family go missing on that very day?
Some eye witnesses say that a pickup broke into and came out of the house
garage completely covered. Some others say that two women and two girls were
taken out of the house by force and were crying for help.
What do you think about it?
My daughters were fully aware of the situation in the country and of what
the army was doing. So, they may have been killed, but my little sister may
have given in adoption. My father was beaten to death.
What do you expect to find every time you come back to Guatemala?
I have been looking for my daughters for 31 years. I don’t know if they were
killed or adopted.
How do you remember them?
It is very difficult for me to speak about them. Rosaura was shy, but was
always smiling, and loved dancing. Glenda was more extrovert and very
inquisitive. One day, she asked me: why are there poor and rich people? Why
do some children have so many toys and we don’t have any?
Do you still hope they are alive?
I spent three years looking for them in the streets. I just want to know
whether they were killed or adopted.
What have you done all these years?
What haven’t I done? I have been working as a human-rights activist since
1984. I have met with the United Nations Committee against Torture. I have
asked the U.S. government to provide me with information, but I was told it
was state secret.
I have found National Police declassified information; I have met with local
authorities; and I have been waiting for the prosecution services to advise
me of their actions, but so far nothing has come up.
How have you dealt with the absence of your daughters?
I have been on psychiatric treatment ever since. If I don’t take my pills, I
cannot sleep. I have even tried to commit suicide.
On the other hand, I think I am a privileged person because many families in
a similar situation have not been able to speak out at the forums I have. I
feel I am the voice of those who have not been able to do so.
By Norma Loto
Buenos Aires, June (SEMlac). – The streets of Argentina were taken by
#NiUnaMenos last June 3. The massively attended march included relatives and
friends of murdered women and girls.
Nine years have elapsed since the daughter of Gumersinda Giménez was killed
by a gendarme.
Judith (16) was at the time studying at La Banderita School in Buenos Aires.
“I am now being trained as a social worker. That was what she was planning
to become,” Giménez told SEMlac.
“My son Eduardo, who has given me two beautiful grandchildren, always tells
me that Judith is looking after us,” she added.
The situation in the country seems to get steadily worse. The Adriana M.
Zambrano Observatory recently announced that there have been 275 women
murders, including 171 in their houses, in the last 12 months.
Three 12-year-old girls have just been killed.
The father of Carolina Aló, a young girl who was stabbed to death in 1996,
participated in the demonstration to demand change.
Also on hand were family and friends of Chiara Paez, a 14-year-old girl who
was beaten to death by her boyfriend, and of Bárbara C. Toledo, who was 20,
had a daughter of two, and was pregnant again when her partner smothered her
There were no speakers at the march this time, but the organizers developed
a document that was widely circulated, highlighting the need to mainstream
the gender approach into public policies, further train relevant officials,
allocate adequate budgets, establish victim shelters, and adopt effective
prevention and control measures.
Emphasis was also made on fighting male-chauvinistic violence against
heterosexual women, lesbians, gays, transvestites, and transgender people.
The murders reported by the Observatory include a baby girl, 11 girls aged
two to 12, 29 adolescents aged 13 to 18, and nine older women.
A total of 66 were shot to death; 57 were stabbed; 40 were beaten to death;
21 were strangled; and 20 were burned.
Thirty-nine of these victims had submitted their cases to court.
The provinces with the highest number of women murders include Buenos Aires
(102), Santa Fe (23), Salta (21), Córdoba (20), City of Buenos Aires (13),
Santiago del Estero (11), and Mendoza (10).
Andrea Aramayo in #NiUnaMenos
Solidarity was also expressed with migrant women in Argentina, including
Claudia A. Aramayo, the daughter of Helen Álvarez, our colleague in
Claudia was killed on August 19, 2015. Lilia Camacho, a Bolivian reporter in
Argentina and a friend of Álvarez, decided to include Claudia’s name on
#NiUnaMenos and take her case to court.
She told me at the march that male-chauvinism knows no frontiers and that
justice should be done not only in Bolivia, but also in the entire region.
Helen’s feminist activism is now being developed at Mujeres Creando
(Creative Women) NGO.