Juana Mendez will be remembered in Guatemala as the first woman who succeeded in achieving a conviction against a serving police officer for mistreating her in custody.
During her detention at the police station in Nebaj she was raped and sexually assaulted by several officers, one of whom was finally brought to justice. The Institute of Comparative Studies in Penal Sciences, ICCPG from its initials in Spanish, and Project Counselling Services, have made a film about the case which you can see here, in three parts:
It is a considerable triumph that an indigenous woman who speaks only Quiche and had never previously left her village managed to make a breach in the usual wall of impunity confronting anyone who is brave enough to take on a state institution that violates their rights. According to the ICCPG it is routine for women in custody to be abused, and though this is also often reported to the authorities it is rarely pursued. The outcome of this case is therefore also an important step to changing this culture that women supposedly in the care of the authorities are in some way “fair game” for the male officers looking after them. It is unfortunate that the joy at this small victory has to be tempered. After the case concluded the convicted policeman launched an appeal against his sentence which was then reduced from 20 years to 10.