Guatemala increases penalty for abortion and bans same-sex marriage

Guatemalan lawmakers have increased prison terms for women who have abortions, bucking a recent trend in Latin America to expand access to procedures.

While some of Latin America’s largest countries, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia, have expanded access to abortion in the past two years, there remain countries where conservative religious tendencies continue to dominate. .

On Tuesday night, the International Women’s Day Congress in Guatemala passed a Protection of Life and Family Law that also targeted the LGBTQ community.

On Wednesday, the day the Guatemalan Congress declared the Day of Life and Family, President Alejandro Giammattei said in a speech at the National Palace: This event is an invitation to unite as Guatemalans to protect the lives of conception until natural death.

Guatemalan women found guilty of terminating their pregnancies can now face sentences of up to 10 years, up from a maximum of three years previously. Congress has imposed even harsher penalties on doctors and others who help women terminate their pregnancies.

Abortions are legal only when the life of the mother is in danger.

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

Lawmaker Vicenta Gernimo, who voted against the legislation, said it violated human rights, especially of women in rural areas where there is no government health infrastructure.

The legislation passed with 101 votes in favor and 8 against. Fifty-one deputies were not present.

Jordan Rodas, elected human rights prosecutor in Guatemala, said Guatemala was regressing by limiting women’s rights at a time when the world was expanding them. He added that those who support sexual diversity do not seek privilege, but want to live free from stigma and discrimination.

The endorsement of this dangerous initiative poses a threat to the rights of women and LGBT people in the country, said Cristian Gonzlez of Human Rights Watch. He also said the legislation served to distract from President Giammattei’s systematic dismantling of the justice system.

Opposition lawmaker Samuel Prez said it was endorsed by men unconcerned with the issue of abortion.

Colombia expanded abortion access last month when the Constitutional Court voted to legalize the procedure up to the 24th week of pregnancy. Prior to the ruling, Colombia only allowed abortions when a woman’s life was in danger, a fetus was malformed or the pregnancy was the result of rape.

In September, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that abortion was not a crime, that it was unconstitutional to punish abortion.

And in January last year, a law came into force in Argentina allowing elective abortion up to the 14th week of pregnancy and beyond in cases of rape or risk to the woman’s health. This was all the more significant as Pope Francis is from Argentina.

Guatemalan law also explicitly forbade same-sex marriage which was already effectively illegal, and forbade schools from teaching anything that might misrepresent (a child’s) identity based on their birth sex.

Lawmaker Armando Castillo, an ally of Giammattei’s administration, defended the legislation, saying the only thing it does is protect heterosexual people who have no interest in diversity.

But opposition MP Lucrecia Hernndez has warned her colleagues that the law stigmatizes people, discriminates and foments intolerance and hate speech and crime.

(Only the title and image of this report may have been edited by Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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