Gender Justice in Post-Conflict Guatemala: The Sepur Zarco Sexual Violence and Sexual Slavery Trial

Citation:

Burt, Jo-Marie. 2019. "Gender Justice in Post-Conflict Guatemala: The Sepur Zarco Sexual Violence and Sexual Slavery Trial." Social Science Research Network. doi: 10.2139/ssrn.3444514.

Author: Jo-Marie Burt

Abstract:

Guatemala is breaking new ground with a series of high-impact war crimes prosecutions. The 2016 Sepur Zarco trial was one such landmark case: it was the first time that Guatemala prosecuted wartime sexual violence, and the first time that a domestic court prosecuted sexual slavery as a crime against humanity. This case also set important precedents in legal and evidentiary practice. Based on my direct observation of the Sepur Zarco case, this paper examines the legal practices that placed the womensurvivors, not the defendants, at the forefront of the proceedings, and which proved that the state of Guatemala systematically used sexual violence as a weapon of war against women and as a strategy to control the civilian population. It also examines the evidentiary practices in this case, which allowed not only for a conviction more than 30 years after the crimes, but for a broader understanding of the historical context, including land conflict, that led to the atrocities in Sepur Zarco. By piercing the veil of impunity surrounding wartime atrocities and making visible the faces of the victims —indigenous men and women who have historically been relegated to the margins of Guatemalan society— the Sepur Zarco trial is challenging entrenched narratives of denial that have sustained the power of military officials whose influence continues to shape present-day politics in the Central American nation.

Keywords: sexual violence, sexual slavery, Guatemala, human rights, war crimes

Topics: Conflict, Resource Conflict, Gender, International Law, International Criminal Law, Justice, Crimes against Humanity, War Crimes, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Rights, Human Rights, Sexual Violence, Sexual Slavery, SV against women Regions: Americas, Central America Countries: Guatemala

Year: 2019

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