(In the Plaza de Niñas, families of the victims and survivors of the Hogar Virgen de la Asunción fire place flowers in the cardinal directions in preparation for a ceremony on the morning of International Women’s Day. Credits: Laura Robinson)

Around the world, March 8th, 2022, International Women’s Day, is a chance to both celebrate while demanding justice and better conditions for women. However, in Guatemala this year the day proved to be bittersweet.

International Women’s Day 2022 marked 5 years since the fire in the state-run home, the Hogar Virgen de la Asunción, which led to the death of 41 girls and injury to 15 others. This crime has been labelled as a state femicide; however, for the families of the victims and the 15 survivors, justice has been a slow and difficult process. Implicated in the crime are government officials from all levels. The hearings have been arduously slow and the process has revictimized the survivors and families.

(A public installation of the poem Calabozo written by Isabel de los Ángeles Ruano accompanied by 41 pairs of shoes and purple flowers to represent the girls killed by the state in the fire. Photo Credits: Laura Robinson)

On International Women’s Day, 8 Tijax, a Collective which supports the families affected by this tragedy, visited the Hogar Virgen de la Asunción to hold a commemoration. 8 Tijax also held ceremony and commemoration events based in art at the Plaza de Niñas (The Girls’ Plaza). BTS has supported this commemoration for the past 5 years.

To learn more about the state crime of the Hogar Virgin de Asunción fire, you can watch this recently released and subtitled documentary “Girls: We are the Fire,” which relays the story of 3 survivors of the fire.

(The sign reads “We are here for those who are not. In memory of the girls from Hogar Seguro Virgin de Asunción. We want them alive!”)

The Mesoamerican Institute for Permaculture (IMAP) was also present at the events in support of the Law for Women’s Economic Development to visibilize women’s role in the economy.

(IMAP’s table at the Rural and urban women’s Market. They sold amaranth, honey, peanut butter, coffee, and native seeds in addition to crafts, such as wooden carvings, weavings, and other crafts. Photo Credits: Ines Cuj)

However, as the sun set on such an emotional day, there were constant reminders that earlier in February, Congress had passed a law declaring the following day, March 9th as Day for Life and the Family.

Then, late in the evening on International Women’s Day, the Guatemalan Congress held their final reading and vote on Initiative 5272, the Law for the Protection of Life and the Family. This law criminalizes abortion, prohibits same-sex marriage and unions, prohibits sexual education on themes of sexual diversity and gender, and creates a definition of family to include only a father, mother, and children– removing the diversity of families that we know to exist. 

This law was passed with 101 votes in favour.

(On International Women’s Day a sign reading “No to the law 5275” is written across a Trans Pride Flag) 

This law is particularly concerning as it places a limit on many rights. This law discriminates based on sexual orientation and also creates a context in which members of the LGBTIQ+ community can be more easily targeted or acted against with prejudice. Thus far in 2022, there have been nine hate crimes reported against members of the LGBTIQ+ population in Guatemala. In the past two weeks, two members of the LGBTIQ+ community have been murdered.

In light of International Women’s Day and every day, Breaking the Silence stands in solidarity with victims of femicide and those seeking justice for these crimes. We also denounce the passing of Initiative 5272, the Law for the Protection of Life and the Family, for the harm and discrimination it will inevitably cause.