Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape and aggravated rape, and sets penalties between five and 50 years in prison. The law also establishes penalties for physical, economic, and psychological violence committed against women because of their gender. However, the government did not enforce the law effectively.
Rape and other sexual offenses remained serious problems. According to the Public Ministry, 3,922 cases of rape were reported during the year. At year’s end 10,526 additional cases of sexual abuse and other forms of physical violence were reported, according to the judiciary, PNC, and Institute of Public Defense.
Police had minimal training or capacity to investigate sexual crimes or assist victims of such crimes. The government maintained the PNC’s Special Unit for Sex Crimes, Office of Attention to Victims, Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Women, and a special unit for trafficking in persons and illegal adoptions within the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Organized Crime. Rape victims frequently did not report crimes due to lack of confidence in the justice system and fear of reprisals.
Violence against women, including domestic violence, remained a serious problem. The law prohibits domestic abuse, provides for the issuance of restraining orders against alleged aggressors and police protection for victims, and requires the PNC to intervene in violent situations in the home. In practice the PNC often failed to respond to requests for assistance related to domestic violence. Women’s groups commented that few officers were trained to deal with domestic violence or assist victims.
The Institute of Public Criminal Defense continued to provide free legal, medical, and psychological assistance to victims of domestic violence. At year’s end the project had attended to 12,956 cases of domestic violence.
The government’s Program for Prevention and Eradication of Intrafamily Violence, under the Secretariat of Social Work, reportedly received on average five calls daily from battered women and children via its three emergency hotlines. At year’s end the Public Ministry reported that it received more than 15,171 complaints of violence against women and children, including domestic violence and economic violence. Of the 14,448 complaints of sexual crimes, the government reported 477 convictions at year’s end.
Justices of the peace issued an unspecified number of restraining orders against domestic violence aggressors and ordered police protection for victims. Full investigation and prosecution of domestic violence and rape cases took an average of one year. Although the law affords protection, including shelter, to victims of domestic violence, in practice there were insufficient facilities for this purpose.
The Office of the Ombudsman for Indigenous Women within COPREDEH provided social services for victims of domestic or social violence, as well as mediation, conflict resolution, and legal services for indigenous women. The office also coordinated and promoted action by government institutions and NGOs to prevent violence and discrimination against indigenous women but lacked human resources and logistical capacity to perform its functions on a national level. The office does not maintain statistics on the cases it handles.
Femicide affected both women and girls and continued to be a serious concern. In most killings, sexual assault, torture, and mutilation were evident. The PNC reported 632 killings of women during the year. There were few convictions for such cases, and NGOs noted that the severity of sentences was not always appropriate to the crime.
The Ministry of Government continued to operate eight shelters for victims of abuse in departments with the greatest incidence of domestic violence. The centers provided legal and psychological support and temporary accommodation. The Institute of Public Criminal Defense hotline to assist female victims of physical violence received 59,613 calls during the year.
A Guatemala City women’s shelter for victims of violence continued to operate with capacity to house 20 victims and their families for six months at a time. There were also two other shelters for women and their children, with a capacity to house 40 persons each, in Guatemala City and Quetzaltenango. The government and foreign donors provided funding for these three shelters. An unknown number of smaller private shelters operated in the countryside.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not prohibit sexual harassment, and there were no accurate estimates of its incidence. Human rights organizations reported, however, that sexual harassment was widespread, especially in industries in which the workforce was primarily female, such as the textile and apparel sectors. Sexual harassment was also a problem in the police force.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of children, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. The government provided access to family planning information and sex education through the public health system. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) reported that 34 percent of women used modern contraceptives.
Cultural, geographic, and linguistic barriers existed in access to reproductive health care, particularly for indigenous women in rural areas. Discriminatory attitudes among health-care providers and a lack of culturally sensitive maternal health services also deterred many indigenous women from accessing these services. The UNFPA estimated that the maternal mortality rate was 110 deaths per 100,000 live births. The principal causes of maternal mortality included limited access to skilled health-care attendants and, in some instances, poor prenatal and postnatal care. The National Survey on Infant and Maternal Health reported that between 2008 and 2009, among women who received prenatal care, 63 percent of rural women used services at home or from a traditional midwife, and 76 percent of urban women went to clinics or hospitals. The UNFPA estimated that only 41 percent of births during the year were attended by skilled personnel. Women and men had equal access to diagnosis and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.
Discrimination: While the law establishes the principle of gender equality, in practice women faced job discrimination and were less likely to hold management positions. Women were employed primarily in low-wage jobs in agriculture, retail businesses, the service sector, the textile and apparel industries, and the government. Women were more likely than men to be employed in the informal sector, where pay and benefits generally were lower. Women may legally own, manage, and inherit property on an equal basis with men, including in situations involving divorce.
The government’s Secretariat for Women’s Affairs advises the president on interagency coordination of policies affecting women and their development. The secretariat’s activities included seminars, outreach, and providing information on discrimination against women.