Title of Paper: Multisided Violence and the State in the Lives of Guatemalan and Salvadoran Women

Friday, July 18, 2014: 8:30 AM
Room: 302
Oral Presentation
Cecilia MENJÍVAR , Arizona State University, AZ
This paper examines the root causes of violence in the lives of Guatemalan and Salvadoran women, who currently experience some of the worst levels of violence in the world in the form of feminicides (i.e., killings of women in which the state shares responsibility through omission or tolerance), as well as the state response to such crimes. Both countries have recently created governmental offices and enacted a battery of laws to combat these crimes and both countries have ratified the 1994 Convention of Belém do Pará, Brazil, yet, levels of crimes against women have continued undiminished. Impunity is rampant and only a small fraction of these crimes are ever prosecuted and an even smaller share result in convictions. And while a UN 2012 report places El Salvador’s feminicide rate as the worst in the world, this country also has enacted a total ban on abortions, under any circumstances, even when the mother’s life is in danger. Based on years of fieldwork in Guatemala and observations from El Salvador, I argue that these various forms of violence in the lives of women are deeply connected and have roots in multisided violence composed of structural, symbolic, political and everyday forms of violence. I move away from explanations that focus on individual acts of aggression against women (which for the countries I examine are often are couched in machismo) to focus on extrapersonal structures that create conditions that permit such acts. The persistence of multisided sided violence may not cause the horrific crimes of feminicide to occur but, I reason, the intertwined nature of these various forms of violence paves the way for these more visible forms of violence to take place and also sustains conditions of impunity on the part of the governments.