Towards a Historical Materialist Analysis of Femicide in Post-Conflict Guatemala
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Despite nearly twenty years of official peace in Guatemala since the signing of the 1996 Peace Accords, violence continues to remain a grave problem throughout the country. In particular, extreme forms of gender-based violence have been reportedly problematic over the past two decades, with a conversation on femicide, the targeted killing of women by men based on their gender, emerging in recent years between activists, politicians and practitioners alike. To respond to the crisis around femicide, in 2008, the Law on Femicide and Other Forms of Violence Against Women was passed by Guatemala’s congress, mandating the creation of a specialized justice system to criminalize such acts. Guatemala’s legal innovations around femicidal violence is widely believed by many observers as a victory for human and women’s rights defenders in the country. However, despite these legal interventions, femicidal violence has continued unabatedly in Guatemala. In this thesis, I present a two-pronged argument. First, I will argue that the tensions inherent to neoliberalism in Guatemala create a landscape in which women are vulnerable to experiencing femicidal violence, beyond the scope explored by both the mainstream and critical literature, and moreover, beyond the scope of the Law on Femicide. Second, I posit that the Law on Femicide, which is inserted as a neutral, technical fix to the ongoing and pervasive issue of femicide and violence against women, depoliticizes femicide in Guatemala, removing it from neoliberal capitalist context and individualizing the responsibility of the crime to perpetrators, rather than the neoliberal state. Simultaneously, the rule of law as expressed through the Law on Femicide must be understood in the context of the neoliberal landscape in Guatemala, in particular, in the context of neoliberalism’s “crisis of social reproduction” (LeBaron and Roberts 2012, 26).