Guatemala congress votes to ban same-sex marriage and discussion of sexuality in schools and increases abortion penalty

Guatemala congress votes to ban same-sex marriage and discussion of sexuality in schools and increases abortion penalty
Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei outside the Culture Palace in Guatemala City on Mar. 9, 2022. Johan Ordonez / AFP via Getty Images
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The so-called Protection of Life and Family law was passed on International Women’s Day, 8 March, banning same-sex marriage, as well as teaching that anything other than heterosexuality is “normal” in schools, and increasing the abortion penalty for women. 

 

The legislation, proposed by the conservative Viva Party, had been put on hold since 2018 but late on Tuesday was passed by Guatemalan lawmakers by 101 votes in favour to just eight votes against. Fifty-one lawmakers were not present.

 

Along with banning same-sex marriage, the law also prohibits teaching children and young adults, be they in private or public school education, about sexual diversity and gender ideology and stipulates that no orientations other than heterosexuality are “normal”, the draft text shows.

 

The prison sentence for an abortion was also more than tripled from three to 10 years – unless the life of the mother is in danger. The congress imposed even heavier penalties for doctors and others who assist women in terminating pregnancies.

 

Lawmakers backing the legislation said the law was necessary because “minority groups in society propose ways of thinking and practices that are incongruous with Christian morality.”

 

Alejandro Giammattei, Guatemala’s conservative president, will have to give the law his signature, which he is expected to do, and have it published in Guatemala’s official gazette for it to come into force.

Giammattei said in a speech at the National Palace won Wednesday: “This event is an invitation to unite as Guatemalans to protect life from conception until natural death.”

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei outside the Culture Palace in Guatemala City on Mar. 9, 2022. Johan Ordonez / AFP via Getty Images

Activists and some politicians have criticized the law, saying that it targets the LGBTQ+ community, promotes hatred, homophobia and unfairly criminalizes women.

 

Guatemala’s human rights ombudsman, Jordan Rodas, said Guatemala was regressing by limiting women’s rights at a time the world was expanding them and told reporters outside Congress that he would challenge it on human rights grounds.

“It violates human rights, it violates the international agreements ratified by Guatemala, it is a setback to freedoms.”

 

Cristian González of Human Rights Watch added: “The approval of this dangerous initiative represents a threat to the rights of women and LGBT people in the country.”

Opposition lawmaker Samuel Pérez added that the law had been approved by men unaffected by the issue of abortion.

 

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