Julie Holt Pedersen Aalborg University Final Thesis Development and International Relations with a specialisation in Latin American studies Supervisor: Birte Siim December 2015

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Representations of femicide in post-conflict Guatemala


Julie Holt Pedersen

Aalborg University

Final Thesis

Development and International Relations with a specialisation in Latin American studies

Supervisor: Birte Siim

December 2015

143.900 characters


Guatemala is currently ranked third in the world when it comes to the estimated numbers of femicides, or the murder of women because they are women. Moreover, very little prior research has focused on the qualitative aspects of femicide in Guatemala. Therefore, this paper analyses contemporary representations of femicide in Guatemala on three levels of society: the government´s at the time of the passing of the Law Against Femicide and Other Forms of Violence Against Women in 2008 (LAF), the Guatemalan mainstream media representations of femicide and the representations by a range of civil society actors. The primary data for this thesis consists of the LAF from 2008, 6 newspaper articles from 3 mainstream newspapers. The bulk of the data for this paper includes 12 interviews mainly with women´s organisations who deal with femicide in Guatemala. In the analysis I use the theory/method by Carol Bacchi, the so-called “What´s the Problem Represented to Be?” approach (WPR) that seeks to identify and understand the underlying assumptions behind the problem representations of femicide in Guatemala as well as to come up with new ways of contesting harmful, dominant problem representations.

The main findings of this paper are as follows: First, according to women´s rights organizations, the LAF is considered a step forward for women´s rights in the country. However, it is insufficient in lowering the high rates of femicides. Moreover, the mainstream media tends to revictimise femicide victims and to be sensationalist in nature. These can be considered harmful representations of femicide. Furthermore, the contestation by women´s rights organisations provides important tools in the discursive struggle against the widespread phenomenon. These organisations work in different ways to support femicide survivors, to create awareness programs and are in many other ways seeking to lower the numbers of femicides. Lastly, these efforts are crucial in changing damaging gender stereotypes of machismo and marianismo and in offering alternatives to traditional perceptions of both men and women´s roles in contemporary Guatemalan society.


First of all, I would like to thank my supervisor, Birte Siim, for providing me with a wealth of constructive criticism and interesting perspectives. I also want to thank professor, Lise Rolandsen Agustín, for her huge amounts of support through my two years as a master student at Aalborg University.

I would also like to thank my friends Stefania Schepers and Anni Alexander for proofreading this paper and for giving me valuable ideas of how to make some meaningful changes to it. Your comments have been highly useful.

Lastly, I want to express my eternal gratitude to my boyfriend, Jack Grounds, and my son Balder Holt Nørregaard, for their huge amounts of patience during my thesis writing process.


ADEMI: Asociación de Mujeres Ixpiyakok

CEDAW: Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

CONAMGUA: Consejo Nacional de Mujeres de Guatemala

DEMI: Defonsoría de la Mujer Indígena

GAM: Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo

GBV: Gender based violence

GGM: Grupo Guatemalteco de Mujeres

INE: Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas

LAF: Law Against Femicide and Other Forms of Violence against Women

MSPAS: Unidad de Pueblos Indígenas e Interculturalidad

NGO: Non-Governmental Organisation

SEPREM: Presidential Secretariat for Women

VAW: Violence against Women

WPR: What´s the Problem Represented to be?


Abstract 2

Acknowledgements 2

Abbreviations 4

Introduction 5

Problem formulation 8

Literature review 9

Reasons behind writing about gender and race 9

Methodology 10

Epistemological and ontological considerations 10

Use of concepts related to femicide 10

Case selection 11

Data collection 13

Delimitations 17

Theoretical considerations 19

Gender theory and feminisms 19

Presentation of main theory/method 21

What’s the problem represented to be? 22

What presuppositions or assumptions underlie this representation of the problem? 23

How could this representation be questioned, disrupted and replaced? 25

Concluding theoretical reflections 25

Context 25

Main concepts related to femicide 26

Homicide and femicide 26

Machismo and marianismo 27

Women´s rights as human rights 28

Background 29

Historical context 29

Guatemala in the 20th century 30

The passing of the LAF in 2008 32

Analysis 33

What’s the problem of femicide represented to be in the LAF, in the mainstream media and in the interviews with women´s rights organisations? 33

What presuppositions or assumptions underlie the representation of the problem in the LAF, the mainstream media and the representation by women´s rights organisations? 40

How could the harmful aspects of these representations of femicide be questioned, disrupted and replaced by Guatemalan women´s rights organisations? 46

Conclusion 51

Global reflections 53

The potential of transnational feminism in ending femicides 53

The Central American “refugee crisis” 54

Racism and femicide 54

Hegemonic masculinity and machismo considerations 54

Primary data sources 55

The LAF 55

Newspaper articles 55

Answers from women´s organisations 55

Appendix A 55

Appendix B 57

Appendix C 58

Appendix D 59

Appendix E 62

Appendix F 65

Appendix G 69

Appendix H 71

Appendix I 72

Appendix J 75

Appendix K 76

Appendix L 78

Translations 79

Secondary data sources 97

Academic articles 97

Books 98

Websites 99

Other references 103

Statistics 104

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