Rosa Franco, a Guatemalan mother in search of justice for the murder of her daughter, killed 20 years ago, has achieved with her indignation, perseverance and loving tenacity more advances in the attention of cases of disappearance of women, investigation of femicides and scientific support for judicial processes that successive groups of magistrates and legislatures in the same period. On March 1, he held up the portrait of his daughter, after a conviction of 30 years in prison was handed down against the perpetrator, 19 years after the crime.
In two decades, more than 12 thousand deaths of women have been reported, but less than 5% of crimes reach a trial and sentence process. When a case is brought to court, the process can take five years, on average. As if that were not enough, during this period the victims may be exposed to intimidation and threats. Time itself runs against it, because sometimes evidence disappears, witnesses die and evidence deteriorates or loses.
The painful crusade that Franco initiated that unfortunate December 16, 2001 influenced the creation of the Isabel-Claudina alert, the emergence of the National Institute of Forensic Sciences, and the creation of protocols for dealing with violence against women and girls. There were obstacles, malicious interference, a lot of indifference, but it also awakened wills, pushed for changes, made visible the tragedy of femicides on a continental level. He did not do it to gain prominence or for propaganda. He did it to dignify the memory of his daughter, and that is why Prensa Libre designates Rosa Franco as Person of the Year 2021.
Many improvements in security and justice are still lacking to reduce violent deaths and prosecute perpetrators. Until November, at least 585 women had been killed in various circumstances —144 cases more than in the period between January and November 2020—, a worrying increase of 32% that undoubtedly has a direct connection with the sense of impunity of criminals to cause of the slowness of investigations and parsimony of processes.
Rosa’s story is a ray of hope for relatives of victims, but also a resounding challenge for those who lead and work in the National Civil Police, Public Ministry, courts and magistrates. Yes, justice can be achieved, scientific evidence can be integrated to clarify disappearances, and biases such as machismo can be eradicated in favor of the dignity of women to whom the State failed to protect the most elementary right.
Franco lives up to his surname by stating, in an interview, regarding the search for justice for femicides: “You don’t need to be a victim, you just need empathy.” It is a phrase that calls for citizen solidarity, but also a lapidary axiom that puts evidence that certain political figures, officials or former bureaucrats use precautionary measures contained in the Femicide Law to evade accountability, try to discredit critics and circumvent criminal action, thereby stealing resources from the support of women in real danger of assault and even death.