On International Women’s Day, March 8 2017, a fire was set at a safe home for girls Guatemala, immediately killing 19 girls. Since then, at least another 21 have died as a result of their injuries and many more continue to be hospitalized.
On the eve of the fire, 50 girls tried to escape from the centre and, after being recaptured, they were locked up and surveilled by hundreds of police officers. As a fire started and spread after protests on March 8, these same state agents prevented the evacuation of the girls in what is one of the most terrible tragedies in Guatemala recently.
This was a feminicide perpetrated by the forces of the state of Guatemala, the apex of a system that tolerates abuse, mistreatment and sexual exploitation of girls in institutions that should be shelters and support for the most vulnerable, but are instead cradles of corruption and lack the resources and political will necessary to ensure the appropriate care and help that these young people need.
It is a tragedy that clearly did not begin with the fire – which by the result of negligence and normalisation of violence towards these children was not controlled as would have been necessary to safeguard them – but had started long ago, as these girls and boys were unforgivably mistreated, verbally, physically and sexually abused.
In a punitive act against those who faced the abuse and said “enough”, the state agents in charge of the centre – who are part of a system that allows the abuse of the vulnerable – are responsible of ending the life of many of these young girls and endangering the rest of them by preventing the prompt evacuation and even hampering access to firefighters to extinguish the fire on time.
We demand that the government of Guatemala:
– Takes immediate action to protect survivors and that the Judicial Entity (Organismo Judicial) is required to treat them as protected witnesses;
– That the full rights of survivors are guaranteed, as well as the care and protection they require corresponding to the traumatic events that they suffered;
– That CICIG is part of the investigation, that immediate judicial action is taken to preserve forensic information from the scenes of the crime, and the preventive detention of those responsible for the tragedy under the charges of femicide.
WIDE+ and WIDE+ members joined the international outrage and wrote to Guatemalan embassies with these demands. WIDE+ wrote to the Guatemalan Embassy in Spain and Belgium, while WO=MEN, the Dutch Gender Platform, and members in the UK wrote to their respective embassies. In other European countries WIDE+ members joined with other initiatives taken by Civil Society.