According to the World Health Organization, one in every three women is a victim of gender violence.
A 2012 report by the Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM) indicates that in Latin America, many women are killed just because they are women, and that in some cases this issue is so serious that it reaches “close to pandemic levels".
Laws targeting offenders and combatting femicides have only just begun to be approved in a select number of countries, while others who already have laws in place have difficulty in putting them into practice.
Canada was one of the first countries to sign and ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which set international standards for the elimination of gender discrimination.
With this in mind, the Embassies to Costa Rica and Panama united to bring award-winning Colombian-Irish-American film director Kimberly Bautista to both countries to present her documentary Justice for my Sister.
Canada is committed to making a difference for women’s rights in Latin American countries and around the world.
The Panamanian Observatory against Gender Violence indicated that from 2009 until mid-2013, 290 women died in a violent way, of which 187 were considered femicide. The figure has already risen this year to an increase of 15 deaths over the same period in 2012.
In October of 2013, Panama passed a law which criminalizing violence against women; but it is too soon yet to measure its effectiveness.
In Costa Rica, authorities received on average 222 reports of domestic or gender violence each day of 2011. The number of femicides had increased consistently over the past three decades.
Although the Costa Rican government and local NGOs have a wide range of support and prevention programs for children, youth and women, prompt justice and protection for those who report abuse continues to be an issue.
Justice for my Sister won “Best Feature Film Documentary” in the 2013 Icaro Festival in Guatemala, and was also awarded “Best Documentary" at the International Latino Film Festival in Los Angeles and “Best Foreign Film" at the International Film Festival in Nevada.
Bautista’s documentary, narrated by famous Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, tells the true story of Guatemalan Adela, 27, who left home one day to work and never returned. Her ex-boyfriend beat her beyond physical recognition and left her lying at the side of a road.
This story is common in Guatemala, where 6000 women have been murdered in the last decade and only 2% of murderers were convicted. The story revolves around Adela’s older sister, Rebeca, who is determined to see that the murderer is identified and charged for his actions.
In Costa Rica, the Canadian Embassy partnered with the Dutch Embassy to put together the program, while Panama partnered with UNWomen and L’Alliance Francaise. The presentations coincided with Human Rights Day and Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women.
After each film screening, Bautista made herself available for questions and answers.
Bautista’s story captivated the audience, many of whom raised questions to the filmmaker regarding the challenges of the justice system in Central American countries. Others requested more details on the current reality of Adela’s family, and many took advantage of the space to discuss their own concerns with this issue in their communities.
Documentaries like Bautista’s and events like those hosted at the Canadian Embassies to Panama and Costa Rica provide opportunities for women and their advocates to come together to address shared challenges.