There are no words, really.

Please note that this post makes reference to sexual violence.

Have you ever felt so disgusted you thought you were going to choke?

A group of 11 women from Guatemala have sued the Canadian company [HudBay] and its subsidiaries in an Ontario court. They are seeking $11 million in general damages and $44 million in punitive damages for the alleged gang rapes in 2007.

The suit alleges the women were attacked by security personnel from Compania Guatemalteca de Niquel, along with members of the police and military who were forcibly removing families from a community near a mine.

The Guatemalan subsidiary, CGN, and its corporate parents are accused of negligence in the supervision of the security personnel and in a request for the forced evictions of the Mayan community of Lote Ocho.

How unspeakably terrible.

That quote is from a CTV News article called HudBay defends against allegations in gang rape lawsuit. How curious that the headline centres the company; how curious that the CTV article I first saw, titled Women sue Canadian company for alleged gang rapes, is now down; how curious that it becomes not very much about these women or their communities at all.

15 comments for “There are no words, really.

  1. March 29, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    That is awful to hear! My thoughts are with the women who were not only affected, but violated.

  2. Alyson
    March 29, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    This is horrible. Thanks for the blog!

  3. Kristen J.
    March 29, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    Is there any info on how we might provide support? Perhaps for legal expenses?

  4. March 29, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    What’s especially disturbing to me is the decided shift to reinforcing rape culture in the coverage. It almost looks like someone started to tell the story with a focus on the women (I’m only gauging from the headline; the full story may have been much different) — but then had someone come along and go, “Oh, noes! But what will the rich companies think? CANCEL THAT TRUTH IMMEDIATELY!”

  5. Alison
    March 29, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    Ugh, this is so awful :( And agreed Tori – it’s like they were worried about hurting the poor company’s feelings or something. Because, you know…that’s way more important than the feelings and dignity and humanity of the women!

    So disheartening…

  6. March 29, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    What’s especially disturbing to me is the decided shift to reinforcing rape culture in the coverage. It almost looks like someone started to tell the story with a focus on the women(I’m only gauging from the headline; the full story may have been much different) — but then had someone come along and go, “Oh, noes! But what will the rich companies think? CANCEL THAT TRUTH IMMEDIATELY!”

    That’s not a completely out-there guess; this country has a serious willful blind spot where the behaviour of Canadian mining companies is in question. Barrick Gold comes to mind as but one example.

  7. March 29, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    It’s sad when corporations have more value than the respect and dignity of people, particularly women.

  8. March 29, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    I wonder if the switch has anything to do with SEO? If there is a print version of the story, there may be one headline for print and another for online, since perhaps the second title that includes the name of the company might get higher rankings on Google than the first. Regardless, playing with words to change the public’s perception of a story, especially this kind of story, for any reason, including search engine optimization, is uncool and journalistically unethical.

  9. Katie
    March 29, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    and it’s clear that the Guatemalan govt is colluding, from the mention of the police/military involvement…

  10. GallingGalla
    March 29, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    This leaves me sputtering and saddened. My heart goes out to the Guatemalan women. I hope they win their lawsuit a hundred times over.

  11. Anna
    March 30, 2011 at 6:15 am

    Sarah, CTV is a television station here, so there wouldn’t be a print version to compare it too, sadly. I don’t have t.v. or I would watch the station to get some idea of the coverage to report back with.

    I sadly do not know who to contact about this particular situation, but when Alexa McDonough was still involved in federal politics the issue of how Canadian mining companies behaved outside of the country was one that she was attempting to champion. It may be worth contacting one’s NDP candidate about these sorts of issues during the election campaign, although I think that it will mostly be a lost cause.

  12. Frowner
    March 30, 2011 at 8:49 am

    This seems like a particularly intersectional situation–it looks to me like this is another attack on indigenous people (in particular indigenous women) by the state, over resources. (“Near a mine” means, I assume, that they wish to expand or control mining operations and are shifting poor people, who are probably mostly indigenous, off the land).

    Since other people are speaking very specifically about the sexual assault part, I’ll just add a few things I know (for those who haven’t had the chance to read much about this):

    –Northern companies and Northern military partner with the state throughout South America to do this type of thing–to remove indigenous people from their land using sexual assault, assassination and other forms of violence. This is part of an ongoing history of dispossession of native people. (“Maya” in this instance almost certainly is being used to distinguish native people from the larger society.)

    –Although not all progressive/left/social democratic states do this, both the Sandinistas (in the 80s) and the current Guatemalan government (which is nominally social democratic) do. The current government of Mexico (which was supposed to be a less corrupt successor to the PRI) does this particularly.

    –These situations are often substantially about mining. I hypothesize that as native people were pushed off agricultural land, communities concentrated around rocky, mountainous territory–which is now desirable and being taken from them.

    –The other issue is often agricultural labor–the violent suppression of labor organizing among (frequently indigenous, poor and rural) the casual labor hired by big Northern corporations. Dole and Chiquita in particular have a long history of dodgy involvement with paramiliataries, contractors and so on.

    –Although I don’t know enough about this to say whether it’s true in Guatemala or not, in the case of Mexico, the “war on drugs” is used to funnel money and material to the security forces, which are then used (among other places) against indigenous people.

    There is simply this tremendous hatred, on the part of many of these states, for indigenous rights and indigenous organizing. Some of the crackdowns (not this one) have been precipitated by indigenous groups in different regions getting together to co-organize.

    Women organizers are often especially targeted for violence and assassination by the state–I imagine that this is the most visible direct expression of misogyny–not only are these women indigenous organizers, but they are female ones and so the target of racial, economic and gender hatred.

    It would be simply fantastic if these women could sue and win (also for the violent death of one of the women’s husbands, it looks like in the article) because it would help to shut down at least some of this everywhere. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to live under such constant physical threat.

  13. March 30, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    This is absolutely heartbreaking. Second the earlier question, is there anything we can do to help/support?

    • March 30, 2011 at 11:26 pm

      If you find out, let me know.

  14. Azalea
    April 1, 2011 at 11:40 am

    **Serious trigger warner all around very infuriating link to follow**

    I came across this on facebook when a friend shared the CNN link on the newsfeed. But this gives me shivers because it was illegal, happened anyway, and went without punishment. I’m glad it is getting exposed for the sake of being shamed but just read this if you can get through it for a minute to truly understand how devasting and cruel patriarchy is and can be to some women and girls.

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