Expanding access to justice for women, children, and indigenous peoples


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Photo: UN Women Guatemala

Since mid-2015 there have been a series of events that shook Guatemalan society. From that scenario arose, genuinely and spontaneously, social movements of protest against corruption, and social demand has grown for structural reforms pending since the signing of the agreements to establish legal frameworks not only for the fight against corruption but for the rule of law respectful of democracy, peace and guarantor of human rights. Despite the progress in generating reforms, many challenges remain in strengthening access to justice for women, adolescents, youth, children, and indigenous peoples.   

Twenty years after the signing of the peace accords, the fulfillment of commitments aimed at recognizing the legal system of indigenous peoples, an essential element for social regulation and, consequently, for maintaining peace, is still pending. Constitutional recognition of the legal system of indigenous peoples challenges the conceptions of a culturally homogeneous and legally monolithic state.   

At this juncture, a critical opportunity for coordination with the Judiciary, the Public Prosecutor's Office, and the Special Directorate of Criminal Investigation of the National Civil Police (DEIC) was marked. These agencies have adopted gender equality policies and have established common learning mechanisms to enhance efforts to deliver services from a human rights perspective for women with gender equality. 

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Photo: UN Women Guatemala


With funding from the Peacebuilding Fund (PBF), the project contributed to increased access to justice for women, girls, and indigenous peoples, reduced impunity for crimes against women and children, and the recognition and coordination between ancestral justice systems.  

One of the main results was the mutual recognition and collaboration between ordinary and ancestral justice systems for indigenous women's access to justice, guided by the women's own experience as central actors in the incorporation of a rights and gender equality perspective in the resolution of cases, a fundamental aspect in multicultural contexts such as that of the country. 



"It has been an opportunity for indigenous authorities from different municipalities to get to know and recognize each other, but also to get to know the authorities of the ordinary justice system and for them to get to know us, and above all it has been an opportunity for the indigenous justice system to be respected."

—Juan Zapeta, indigenous mayor of Santa Cruz del Quiché


Coordination between ombudswomen, indigenous authorities, judges, and magistrates has allowed both systems to address and respond to the discriminatory effects that may violate the rights of indigenous women in the administration of justice and represented a unique learning experience between the two systems that generated institutional ownership of the processes for the sustainability of the results.  

The human rights approach to women in the administration of justice was consolidated as a priority of the Judiciary. The integration of international norms and standards on women's human rights in 100% of convictions in cases of femicide and other forms of violence against women is a result and a significant change for women's access to justice and the protection of their human rights.  

At the same time, changes were generated in jurisdictional management, moving from a justice system focused on measuring processes to a people-centered justice system, which was institutionalized through an electronic system for registration and attention to victims.