From the streets of San Salvador to the murders of women in Juárez, Mexico, and domestic violence in the US, violence against women cuts across the hemisphere. But Guatemala's history, its male-dominated culture, the growth of gangs battling for territory and the climbing level of violence have made its problem more complex.
"Of all the banana republics, it's the most repressive," says Roselyn Costantino, a Pennsylvania State University professor who studies violence against women in the region. "The country is out of control right now with [drug] trafficking and violence, and women are often the innocent ones caught in between."
While drugs and violence are common throughout Latin America, Guatemala's broken judicial system largely allows gangs to rape and kill with impunity. Only 2 percent of crimes are brought to trial, according to the United Nations.
Violence against women also has deep roots in Guatemalan society. Throughout the conservative society, women have little protection. Under the domestic abuse law, for example, charges can only be brought if a woman's bruises are visible 10 days after the incident.
"Women have never been equal partners in this society," Costantino said. They have always been looked on as property, he added. "This is a culture that has never wanted to confront its legacy of violence against women."