GUATEMALA CITY — Human Rights organizations express our opposition to Initiative 5272, “For the protection of life and the family,” which was proposed on April 26, 2017, and is now being discussed in the Guatemalan Congress.
According to its preamble, the law seeks to introduce norms and reforms designed to “protect the right to life, the family, the institution of marriage between a man and a woman, freedom of conscience and expression and the right of parents to guide their children in the area of sexuality.”
Nevertheless, if the bill is approved, we will be on the brink of a serious setback in terms of the protection and guarantee of human rights for women, for children and adolescents and LGBTIQ people in Guatemala.
The proposal specifically extends the punishment for abortion, including for situations of spontaneous abortion or natural death of the fetus during any stage of pregnancy that even occurs during involuntary, emergency obstetric situations. This scenario would mean that Guatemala would approve a regressive regulation similar to that of countries like El Salvador, where abortion is completely prohibited and has resulted in the criminalization of women who are victims.
With that said, we remember that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the CEDAW Committee have already spoken about the negative impact of laws criminalizing all forms of abortion have on the right to life, personal integrity, health and the rights of women to live free of violence and discrimination.
At the same time, Initiative 5272 contains regulations that prohibit private and public educational institutions from implementing inclusive sexual education policies and programs in the name of parents’ rights to decide what type of education their children can receive. These regulations perpetuate discriminatory and violent practices against girls and adolescents in a country where the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has documented that 24,258 of the 52,288 registered births from January to September 2017 were to mothers under 18-years-old.
In this regard, the IACHR in 2017 urged the government to “implement public education policies with a comprehensive focus on children and adolescents, including sex and reproductive education for different age groups.”
The initiative also seeks to reform the Civil Code by expressly banning of marriage and civil unions between people of the same sex and limiting adoption to families that are only comprised of a man and a woman. At the same time, it also seeks to guarantee that “people are not obliged to accept as normal non-heterosexual conduct and practices,” increasing the risk of acts of violence, discrimination and hate crimes.
With that in mind, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has determined the aforementioned provision would violate the American Convention on Human Rights, which states “an inalienable right cannot be negated or restricted by anyone, and under no circumstances, because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”
In this sense, the norms contained within text are openly discriminatory, attempt to go against the full exercise of rights of LGBTIQ people and constitute incitement of discrimination and violence.
Initiative 5272 is only a flagrant attempt under the sovereignty of the Guatemalan government to go against agreed upon obligations and its approval would carry international responsibility. The undersigned organizations urge the Guatemalan government to abstain from approving this regulation and immediately adopt ways to dismantle practices and norms that continue perpetuating underlying discrimination against women, adolescents and the LGBTIQ community.