Ana Lanz is alarmed and fearful after the Guatemalan Congress approved a great package legislation that punishes abortion with more severe penalties, prohibits sex education in schools and puts a lock on any initiative that encourages same-sex marriage. This Guatemalan activist, president of Visibles —an organization that promotes the rights of the LGBTI community— describes the new legislation as dangerous, in a country where 28 hate crimes against sexually diverse people were recorded as of last October and continues to be one of the more violent for women. “It is an intentionally violent law, which is approved within the framework of International Women’s Day, which sends a clear message from the Government. It is a law of hate, of regression of human rights”, affirms, indignant, Lanz. President Alejandro Giammattei announced this Thursday afternoon that he will veto the law, which has filled the Christian churches with joy, strong promoters of the new legislative decree, and they have declared this Central American country as “Ibero-American Pro-Life Capital”.
These have been intense weeks for the organizations that defend human rights in Guatemala and try to stop the reactionary drift of the government led by the conservative Alejandro Giammattei. These civil organizations describe the new legislation as “Taliban”, because it violates the rights of women and erases with a stroke of the pen the State’s recognition of sexually diverse people, who from the legislative text are considered “minority groups incongruous with Christian morality”. The law also hits the secular state hard, by giving a huge loudspeaker to the message of the Pentecostal Christian religions, which have advanced like a tsunami with their conservative preaching in most Central American countries. Some of these movements demonize women, as happened in a rural community in Nicaragua, where a 26-year-old girl was burned at the stake after the village pastor claimed that she was “possessed by the devil.”
In the middle of the afternoon on Thursday, the president of Giammattei has responded to the local rejection and the international alarm that the decree has generated. Through a message posted on Twitter, the president has stated that he will veto the decree when he arrives at his office. “As a representative of national unity, I announce that if Law Initiative 5272, which gives rise to Decree 18-2022, comes to this office, it will be vetoed because it violates the Political Constitution of the Republic and international conventions of which Guatemala has been a signatory. ”, reported Giammatti, in an unexpected twist to his conservative and anti-abortion discourse.
As a representative of national unity, I announce that if Law Initiative 5272, which gives rise to Decree 18-2022, comes to this office, it will be vetoed because it violates the Political Constitution of the Republic and international conventions to which Guatemala has been a signatory.
– Alejandro Giammattei (@DrGiammattei) March 10, 2022
“From the community [LGBTI] We have seen how other countries in Latin America, such as Colombia and Chile, advance with legislation that promotes rights for women and same-sex couples. It is a mockery for our community that in the XXI century the Congress of Guatemala approves this legislative decree. It is an intentionally violent law, which denies us to recover the autonomy of our bodies, the right to live in freedom and incites hatred”, says Lanz.
The attack against the rights of women and the LGBTI community has found a firm driver in President Giammattei, who participated in a Christian congress organized at the Government headquarters, in which he stated that “he will do everything possible to respect life from its conception ”. The president said at the event that it was a “special day” for Guatemala. “What would happen if we joined together? Today this event is an invitation to unite in protecting life from conception to natural death in its five stages,” said the president. “While bombs are being dropped in other countries right now, here we say yes to life, stop the war, yes to peace,” he added, referring to the Russian offensive against Ukraine.
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Giammattei thus celebrated a legislative triumph that sealed his conservative policy. The law, which increases prison sentences for abortions to ten years, was approved by 102 votes, mainly from the ruling party, Vamos, and its allies. Currently, only therapeutic abortion is allowed in Guatemala – when the life of the mother is in danger. The fact that only eight congressmen voted against the legislative decree gives an idea of the setback suffered by this country, where human rights activists, prosecutors, and judges who face corruption and impunity are also persecuted, two of the cancers that eat away at Guatemala. . The Guatemalan Human Rights Ombudsman, Jordán Rodas, has urged the Government to veto the decree that it considers violates human rights and “contravenes the provisions of international laws and conventions approved by the State of Guatemala.”
For her part, the activist Lanz insists that the decree adds tension to the LGBTI community. “All the alarms have been activated and also the fears that we have because historically we have been rejected,” she says. “It is worrying that from the State we are labeled as a threat and danger to peace. These narratives promote violence and hate crimes towards us and mainly against trans women”, she adds.
The organizations that defend human rights in the Central American country are mobilized to try to stop the last step for the law to enter into force, which is the approval of the Constitutional Court. They have little hope, because they brand the judges as “corrupt” and for dancing to the tune played by the Presidency. “We are going to present an amparo and an initiative for unconstitutionality,” says Lanz, who also reports that mobilizations are organized from social networks to demonstrate against the legislation. If the legal process fails in Guatemala, these organizations will take the case to international bodies, such as the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR). “The fight does not end, here nobody gets tired,” says Lanz. “We cannot allow the State to legislate on our bodies and identities in the name of God and the traditional family. Diverse families exist, whether the Government wants to see them or not. We have always resisted, even though the State tries to make them invisible”, concludes the activist.
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