Guatemalan Women Arming Selves Because of Climate of Insecurity

Guatemalan Women Arming Selves Because of Climate of Insecurity

GUATEMALA CITY – The climate of insecurity in Guatemala is forcing women to arm themselves to protect themselves and their families, the official Diario de Centroamerica newspaper said Monday.

A report by the daily says that, regardless of their profession, more and more women are acquiring weapons and are registering them with the Digecam regulatory agency.

Some 9,200 weapons have been registered at that agency in the name of women, a figure that represents 4 percent of the total weapons registered.

Digecam assistant director Guillermo Mejia said that while it is not very common for women to approach the institution, each day they are showing more interest in carrying a firearm for self-defense.

What is motivating women to arm themselves, the official told the daily, is the need to feel more secure and protected, because many of the women own businesses and have been the victims of crime.

Many of the women have received professional training on how to fire their weapons and others have been shown how to do so by their husbands or sons, Mejia said.

Activist Rosario Escobedo, of the Sector de Mujeres group, said she feels that violence will not be done away with by arming oneself and it is the duty of the authorities to provide security for the public.

But women have been strongly affected in recent years by the climate of insecurity.

Between 2003 and 2008, the murders of women increased in Guatemala by 179 percent, according to a report prepared by the national ombudsman’s office.

During 2009, 720 women were murdered in Guatemala and another 899 were injured in acts of violence, according to the same report.

Meanwhile, last month 40 women were killed in violent acts.

Guatemalan authorities blame gangs and other organized-crime elements for much of the violence in this Central American country of roughly 13 million people, which recorded 6,475 homicides last year, an average of 18 murders per day.

By comparison, 7,724 people were slain last year in neighboring Mexico, a nation of more than 100 million where rival drug cartels are waging war with each other and the security forces.

All but 4 percent of Guatemalan murders go unpunished, according to the U.N.-sponsored International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala.

Appeared in Latin American Herald Tribune 2/2/10