Guatemala, the “land of the forests” is an alive and ancestral country whose history dates from four thousand years ago when the Mayan civilization emerged. Its legacy is still evident in its extraordinary cultural richness, which is reflected in the colorful handicraft markets and regional costumes, its hospitality, and the beauty of the landscapes that frame the volcanoes, lakes, rivers, and mountains. Today 21 different ethnic groups of Mayan, Ladinos, Garifunas, and Xincas have all contributed to Guatemalan customs and traditions. The handicrafts are an expression of the Guatemalan culture: handmade, colorful textiles, carved wood, silver, jade jewelry, candles, pottery, blown glass, leather articles, and many more handicrafts that characterize the cultural diversity of this small, but wonderful country.
With a population of 15.08 million, Guatemala is one of the most unequal countries in the world, in which 53 percent of the population live in poverty, and 13 percent in extreme poverty. Guatemala ranks 133 out of 187 in the 2012 United Nations Human Development Index. Poverty is widespread and severe, affecting mostly groups indigenous women, girls and boys living in the highlands and the “dry corridor” (a semi-arid zone with periods of droughts, degraded soils and low agricultural yields). All of Guatemala's social indicators reflect this widespread poverty and severe inequality. For example, literacy rates are dismal, and gross school enrollment rates are low – 77 percent for primary school and dropping drastically thereafter. In health, the infant mortality rate is 55 per 1,000 live births and the maternal mortality rate is 110 per 100,000 live births.
HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION
As a country that has signed and ratified numerous human rights treaties, Guatemala has binding obligations under various domestic, regional and international law standards that require them to protect against gender-based violence. However, human rights abuses persist, including widespread institutional corruption, particularly in the police and judicial sectors; police and military involvement in serious crimes, including unlawful killings, kidnapping, drug trafficking, and extortion; violence against women; discrimination and abuse of persons with disabilities; sexual harassment and discrimination against women; child abuse, including commercial sexual exploitation of children; and trafficking in persons. Other problems included marginalization of indigenous communities and ineffective demarcation of their lands; discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity; and ineffective enforcement of labor and child labor laws; etc.
Guatemalan indigenous women and girls, women in prisons and women working in sweatshops face high rates of violence and discrimination. Although the Guatemalan labor code protects women workers from discrimination at work, the law is rarely enforced in the maquila sector. Meanwhile, women and girls working in private households do not have adequate legal protection, and are frequently subject to sexual assault and other abuses by their employers. Discrimination against indigenous women is intersectional – indigenous people as a whole face discrimination, and then again there are elements of society that specifically target women. More often than not, the perpetrators of these crimes walk free.