Girls victims of sexual violence in Guatemala are “invisible” to the state

David Bull Escobar | Guatemala City – October 12, 2022

The absence of the Guatemalan state in matters of justice, education and health keeps thousands of girls ‘invisible’ and ‘disenfranchised’ and adolescents who are victims of sexual abuse and violence each year in the Central American country.

This is stated by Dr. Mirna Montenegro, director of the Observatory of Sexual and Reproductive Health (Osar), in an interview with Efe for the situation of women in Guatemala.

“If we talk about girls who are victims of sexual violence, they are invisible, unprotected, without hope and without rights”explains Montenegro, a doctor specializing in public and reproductive health and the leader of the NGO since 2008.

The aforementioned observatory, composed mainly of university medical faculties and health women, periodically makes visible the increase in births registered to girls and adolescents aged 10 to 19 years in the territory of Guatemala.

In the first eight months of 2022, the organization recorded 1,448 births or pregnancies to girls under 14 who were raped in Guatemalathat is, almost five a day.

According to Dr. Montenegro’s analysis, of these 1,448 abused girls, only c 3% the abuser will be prosecutedbut without certainty of conviction.

“The problem is that in Guatemala we have made progress on the issue of reporting, but not on justice, because 97% of complaints in the context of sexual violence remain unpunished,” explains Montenegro.

The doctor illustrates the delay of justice with the case of “Angelina”, a local girl who gave birth to twins as a result of rape in 2019 and the Guatemalan judiciary scheduled the case against the abuser until August 2025, six years later of the facts.

Girls victims of sexual violence in Guatemala

The majority of cases of pregnant girls and adolescents are concentrated in rural areas of Guatemala, such as the department (province) of Alta Verapaz, located in the north of the country, where 5,337 children under the age of 19 became mothers in 2022 .according to the observatory..

in this region. Many girls are raped by their immediate relatives or by the leaders of the farms where the Q’eqchi’ Mayan communities to which they belong are settled, as revealed by the fieldwork carried out by Dr. Montenegro.

“Alta Verapas looks like a system of feudal lords and slaves. Many families live on farms and foreman they think girls are part of them. We found houses in which there are 2-3 girls who are victims of sexual violence, who are also carrying a baby”, emphasizes the expert.

The consequences of rape and forced motherhood can destroy life projects victims to the point of thinking about suicide, warns the expert.

“In the lives of the girls, it has a total effect, even to the point of attempting suicide. In 2020, we have 5 suicides of pregnant adolescents under the age of 19,” says the health professional.

Low investment in education and health

In 2021, the Guatemalan Ministries of Education and Health signed the “prevent with education” letter, obliging them to ensure that in schools and health centers has staff trained in comprehensive sexuality education and violence prevention.

In February of this year, however, pro-government lawmakers promoted a bill that sought to ban sex education in schools in the Central American country.

According to Dr. Montenegro, the political agenda of the Guatemalan congressmen represents a “regression in human rights”.

In addition, the health specialist warns that the public budget that the government of Guatemala, presided over by Alejandro Jamatei, seeks to approve for 2023. it will negatively affect health projects preventive.

“The 2023 budget will cut 4 million quetzals ($500,000) from the human papillomavirus vaccination program, which is to prevent cervical cancer. The new budget will not be enough to vaccinate girls between 10 and 14 years old » warns Dr. Montenegro.

In addition to this context, currently the only state economic support for girls who are victims of sexual violence is the “life program”, bonus of 1500 quetzals per year ($190)administered by the Ministry of Social Development.

“In Guatemala, we have made progress in registering the victims but we have a long way to go to ensure girls’ rights and recognize sexual violence as a medical emergency,” concludes Montenegro.

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