“We are experiencing a women’s revolution”
Even the theft of a hen was more important than violence against women, says Thelma Aldana. She received the Right Livelihood Award in 2018 for her anti-corruption efforts in Guatemala, but is also a prominent champion of women’s rights and has played an important role reforming the Guatemalan court system to end impunity.
“The ordinary criminal courts try all kinds of crimes: drug trafficking, organized crime, murder, and kidnapping. Even the theft of a chicken was more important than violence against women. Violence against women was seen by ordinary criminal courts as a trivial crime and dismissed with the stereotypes we all know: “she was asking for it” or “she is to blame and that is why the husband hits her”, says Thelma Aldana, former chief prosecutor in Guatemala.
Guatemala has the third highest femicide rate in the world. On average, two women are murdered every day. Ending impunity for sexual violence is important to advance women’s rights in the country and Aldana has played a key role in the creation of a specialised court for femicide and violence against women, the first of its kind in the world.
“Through this new criminal court, specialised judges focus specifically on cases of violence against women, which can be physical violence, sexual violence, economic violence and femicide. These courts are designed to make female victims of violence feel welcomed into a justice system that understands them and gives them specialised attention, both from the courts and from the Public Ministry”, Aldana says.
Eleven districts now have these kinds of specialised courts. Since this change in the justice system, femicide and other forms of violence against women have become the most reported crimes in Guatemala, with an average of 56,000 reports a year.
“We are experiencing a women’s revolution. It is a peaceful revolution, but the steps we have walked are firm. It is essential that the government and society itself understand that violence against women is not normal and that, therefore, it should not be tolerated”, Aldana says.
Globally, 1 in 3 women has experienced physical/sexual violence at some point in their lives. Aldana ends by saying:
“It is not about reducing violence, it is about eradicating violence”.
Thelma Aldana received the 2018 Honorary Right Livelihood Award together with Iván Velásquez “for their innovative work in exposing abuse of power and prosecuting corruption, thus rebuilding people’s trust in public institutions.”
For the Spanish version of this article, click here.