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Central America

The Unbearable Heaviness of Being: Reflections on Female Altruism in Cambodia, Philippines, The Gambia and Costa Rica


Chant, Sylvia. 2010. “The Unbearable Heaviness of Being: Reflections on Female Altruism in Cambodia, Philippines, The Gambia and Costa Rica.” Progress and Development Studies 10 (2): 145–59.

Author: Sylvia Chant


Reviewing existing scholarship and drawing on our own experience of microlevel qualitative research on gender in countries in three regions of the Global South (Cambodia, the Philippines, Costa Rica and The Gambia), this article examines patterns of women’s altruistic behaviour within poor family-based households. As a quality and practice labeled as ‘feminine’, the article illuminates the motives, dimensions and dynamics that characterise this apparently enduring female trait. It also makes some tentative suggestions as to how the links between women and altruism might be more systematically examined, problematized and addressed in development, and gender and development (GAD) analysis and policy.

Topics: Development, Economies, Gender, Women, Gender Roles, Households, Political Economies, Post-Conflict Regions: Africa, West Africa, Americas, Central America, Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia, Costa Rica, Gambia, Philippines

Year: 2010

Mayan Women Survivors Speak: The Gendered Relations of Truth Telling in Postwar Guatemala


Crosby, Alison, and M. Brinton Lykes. 2011. “Mayan Women Survivors Speak: The Gendered Relations of Truth Telling in Postwar Guatemala.” International Journal of Transitional Justice 5 (3): 456–76. doi:10.1093/ijtj/ijr017.


Truth telling in response to massive violations of human rights is a gendered sociopolitical and cultural construction. It is also inherently relational and necessitates multidimensional engagement between state and civil society. Drawing on two years of feminist participatory action research, this article explores the significance of civil society-initiated truth-telling processes in Guatemala, in particular the 2010 Tribunal of Conscience for Women Survivors of Sexual Violence during the Armed Conflict. It seeks to clarify how local, national and transnational webs of relationships, and the speech acts and silences they simultaneously engender, inform processes of transformation from victim to survivor, or reinforce or reify victimization. The article examines the conditions under which indigenous women whose identities are deeply situated within local Mayan communities can narrate truth outside of those contexts, how the multiple spectators who are on the receiving end of those processes relate to ‘the pain of others’ and implications for future truth-telling processes.

Topics: Civil Society, Gender, Women, Justice, International Tribunals & Special Courts, Transitional Justice, Post-Conflict, Sexual Violence, SV against women Regions: Americas, Central America Countries: Guatemala

Year: 2011

Political Violence, Impunity, and Emotional Climate in Maya Communities


Lykes, M. Brinton, Carlos Martín Beristain, and Maria Luisa Cabrera Pérez-Armiñan. 2007. “Political Violence, Impunity, and Emotional Climate in Maya Communities.” Journal of Social Issues 63 (2): 369–85.

Authors: M. Brinton Lykes, Carlos Martín Beristain, Maria Luisa Cabrera Pérez-Armiñan


This article explores the effects of political violence and impunity on the emotional climate of Guatemalan Maya communities and the processes that may be drawn upon to improve such climates as revealed by three studies conducted in the 1990s. The first investigated Guatemalan peasants’ emotional responses to political and military repression during an ongoing conflict; the second, the effects of partic- ipation in judicial processes among a Guatemalan community recovering from a massacre as peace was being negotiated; and the third, the emotional impact of responding to extreme human rights violations among rural Maya women who also critically examined their gendered location in war and peacemaking. Taken collectively, the findings of these studies suggest several resources that have been deployed by survivors of human rights violations in Guatemala as tools for im- proving emotional climate and for moving forward in ongoing struggles for truth and justice, even in contexts of persistent violence and impunity.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Women, Justice, Impunity, Rights, Human Rights Regions: Americas, Central America Countries: Guatemala

Year: 2007

The Gender-Specific Terror of El Salvador and Guatemala: Post-traumatic Stress Disorder in Central American Refugee Women


Aron, Adrianne, Shawn Corne, Anthea Fursland, and Barbara Zelwer. 1991. “The Gender-Specific Terror of El Salvador and Guatemala: Post-traumatic Stress Disorder in Central American Refugee Women.” Women’s Studies International Forum 14 (1): 37–47. doi:10.1016/0277-5395(91)90082-S.

Authors: Adrianne Aron, Shawn Corne, Anthea Fursland, Barbara Zelwer


A taxonomy of three broad categories describes the forms of sexual abuse commonly found in El Salvador and Guatemala, where gender-specific political repression traumatizes people and gives rise to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD). If the psychological problems of Central American women refugees are to be addressed meaningfully, we must attend not only to the special characteristics of the assaults they have endured, but also to features of the pre-trauma environment in which they lived, and the post-trauma experience of exile. Of particular importance is the distinction between institutionalized and noninstitutionalized sexual assault; that is, assault sanctioned by the government as a normative act of social control versus assault which is considered deviant, criminal, and punishable by law. A case study of a Central American refugee woman suffering from PSTD is presented, to illustrate the psychological symptoms attendant to trauma and the use of sexual abuse as a form of political repression.

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Refugees, Gender, Women, Health, PTSD, Sexual Violence, SV against women Regions: Americas, Central America Countries: El Salvador, Guatemala

Year: 1991

Reparations for Sexual and Reproductive Violence: Prospects for Achieving Gender Justice in Guatemala and Peru


Duggan, Colleen, Claudia Paz y Paz Bailey, and Julie Guillerot. 2008. “Reparations for Sexual and Reproductive Violence: Prospects for Achieving Gender Justice in Guatemala and Peru.” International Journal of Transitional Justice 2 (2): 192–213. doi:10.1093/ijtj/ijn013.

Authors: Colleen Duggan, Claudia Paz y Paz Bailey, Julie Guillerot


Sexual and reproductive violence (SRV) perpetrated against women during war or under authoritarian regimes is one of the most severe manifestations of gender-based violence. The authors ask how governments in new or reforming democracies hope to repair SRV and how state programs for reparation might be conceptualized and delivered. By examining the cases of Guatemala and Peru, they explore the problematic of repairing damage caused by SRV and comment on prospects for redress to victims in each country.

Topics: Gender-Based Violence, Justice, Reparations, Post-Conflict, Sexual Violence Regions: Americas, Central America, South America Countries: Guatemala, Peru

Year: 2008

Depoliticised Speech and Sexed Visibility: Women, Gender and Sexual Violence in the Guatemalan Comisión para el Esclarecimiento Histórico Report


Rosser, Emily. 2007. “Depoliticised Speech and Sexed Visibility: Women, Gender and Sexual Violence in the 1999 Guatemalan Comisión Para El Esclarecimiento Histórico Report.” International Journal of Transitional Justice 1 (3): 391–410. doi:10.1093/ijtj/ijm032.

Author: Emily Rosser


This paper analyses how concepts of gender, sexual violence and women functioned within the 1999 Guatemalan Commission for Historical Clarification (CEH). Through a discourse analysis of the text of the CEH report, I argue that because the Commission presents data about sexual violence without a more broadly integrated gender analysis, it fails to recognise indigenous women, or their claims, as political and thus reinforces their marginality. I situate this report in the context of universalising discourses of human rights and democratisation, in which women's participation is held up as evidence of gender correctness while what they say is often of less concern. Amidst calls for gender mainstreaming and ‘women's rights as human rights,’ truth commissions and human rights bodies must work harder at the conceptual level to interrogate how gender, ‘race,’ class, nation and other intersecting oppressions are at work, both during a genocide and afterwards, in the construction of truths and the reconstruction of societies.

Topics: Gender, Women, Justice, TRCs, Post-Conflict, Race, Rights, Indigenous Rights, Sexual Violence Regions: Americas, Central America Countries: Guatemala

Year: 2007

Gender and Sustainability: Lessons from Asia and Latin America


Luz Cruz-Torres, María, and Pamela McElwee. eds. 2012. Gender and Sustainability: Lessons from Asia and Latin America. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press.

Authors: María Luz Cruz-Torres, Pamela McElwee


This is one of the first books to address how gender plays a role in helping to achieve the sustainable use of natural resources. The contributions collected here deal with the struggles of women and men to negotiate such forces as global environmental change, economic development pressures, discrimination and stereotyping about the roles of women and men, and diminishing access to natural resources—not in the abstract but in everyday life. Contributors are concerned with the lived complexities of the relationship between gender and sustainability.
Bringing together case studies from Asia and Latin America, this valuable collection adds new knowledge to our understanding of the interplay between local and global processes. Organized broadly by three major issues—forests, water, and fisheries—the scholarship ranges widely: the gender dimensions of the illegal trade in wildlife in Vietnam; women and development issues along the Ganges River; the role of gender in sustainable fishing in the Philippines; women's inclusion in community forestry in India; gender-based confrontations and resistance in Mexican fisheries; environmentalism and gender in Ecuador; and women's roles in managing water scarcity in Bolivia and addressing sustainability in shrimp farming in the Mekong Delta. 
Together these chapters show why gender issues are important for understanding how communities and populations deal daily with the challenges of globalization and environmental change. Through their rich ethnographic research, the contributors demonstrate that gender analysis offers useful insights into how a more sustainable world can be negotiated—one household and one community at a time.
(University of Arizona Press)

Keywords: women's studies

Topics: Development, Economies, Environment, Climate Change, Environmental Disasters, Extractive Industries, Gender, Women, Gender Roles, Gender Analysis, Livelihoods, Political Economies, Security, Human Security Regions: Americas, Central America, Asia

Year: 2012

Enduring Violence: Ladina Women’s Lives in Guatemala


Menjívar, Cecilia. 2011. Enduring Violence: Ladina Women’s Lives in Guatemala. Oakland: University of California Press.

Author: Cecilia Menjívar


Drawing on revealing, in-depth interviews, Cecilia Menjívar investigates the role that violence plays in the lives of Ladina women in eastern Guatemala, a little-visited and little-studied region. While much has been written on the subject of political violence in Guatemala, Menjívar turns to a different form of suffering—the violence embedded in institutions and in everyday life so familiar and routine that it is often not recognized as such. Rather than painting Guatemala (or even Latin America) as having a cultural propensity for normalizing and accepting violence, Menjívar aims to develop an approach to examining structures of violence—profound inequality, exploitation and poverty, and gender ideologies that position women in vulnerable situations— grounded in women’s experiences. In this way, her study provides a glimpse into the root causes of the increasing wave of feminicide in Guatemala, as well as in other Latin American countries, and offers observations relevant for understanding violence against women around the world today.

(University of California Press)

Keywords: sociology, gender studies

Topics: Gender, Women, Gender-Based Violence, Gendered Power Relations, UNSCR 1960, Rape, Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, SV against women, Violence Regions: Americas, Central America Countries: Guatemala

Year: 2011

"Singers" in the Band

"David Goodman has worked for nearly 30 years to document the very challenging subject of prostitution and global sex trafficking in and around U.S. Military bases abroad. “ ‘Singers’ in the Band” exposes an incredibly elaborate and insidious scam that involves three nations, global sex traffickers, bar/club/hotel owners and the U.S. military all as links in a chain that entraps innocent victims.

'When Does the End Begin?’ Addressing Gender-Based Violence in Post-Conflict Societies: Case Studies from Zimbabwe and El Salvador


Ramisetty, Alivelu, and Muthoni Muriu. 2013. “‘When Does the End Begin?’ Addressing Gender-Based Violence in Post-Conflict Societies: Case Studies from Zimbabwe and El Salvador.” Gender & Development 21 (3): 489–503.

Authors: Alivelu Ramisetty, Muthoni Muriu


This article analyses gender-based violence in the country contexts of Zimbabwe and El Salvador, where distinct periods of conflict and turbulence led to nominal peace, but no recognisable reduction or improvement in the status of women. Women in these two societies continued to experience high levels of gender-based violence. We outline the experience and strategies of Oxfam America along with national partners in addressing gender-based violence in these post-conflict societies. The article draws from Oxfam America's experiences in El Salvador and Zimbabwe, where a campaign and advocacy approach promoted new policy responses and legislation as a result of changes in societal and political attitudes to gender-based violence. It outlines the strategies and partnerships used by the Zimbabwe and El Salvador campaigns, including community outreach, mass mobilisation, and legislative lobbying, to achieve a positive shift in national policies and practices, to prevent gender-based violence.

Keywords: gender-based violence, conflict, Zimbabwe, El Salvador, civil society, campaigning, community outreach, advocacy

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Society, Gender, Women, Gender-Based Violence Regions: Africa, Southern Africa, Americas, Central America Countries: El Salvador, Zimbabwe

Year: 2013


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