LGBT rights in Guatemala

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LGBT rights in Guatemala
Guatemala (orthographic projection).svg
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1871[1]
Gender identity/expression
Military service Unknown
Family rights
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex couples
Adoption No

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Guatemala may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is legal in Guatemala.

Sexual orientation and gender identity are not expressly included in the country's non-discrimination laws and same-sex couples and households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for the same legal protections available to opposite-sex married couples.

Legality of same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Consensual, non-commercial, private homosexual sexual activity has been legal in Guatemala since 1871.[1] The age of consent for everyone, regardless of sex or sexual/gender identity is 18.[1]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

There is no legal recognition for same-sex couples in the form of same-sex marriage or in the more limited form of civil unions or domestic partnership arrangements. Former President Álvaro Colom supports civil unions for same-sex couples.[2] In December 2016, Deputy Sandra Morán along with various groups announced the introduction of a civil unions bill in the Congress of Guatemala. Morán acknowledged that her proposal will be strongly criticized by conservative groups, but argued that "society is not only made up of these people, but also people who think differently." Additionally, she urged the modernization of Guatemala on issues of recognition and support to all citizens.[3]

According to a July 2010 poll by Cid-Gallup, 85% of the country's population opposes same-sex marriage, while 12% supports it and 3% are unsure.[4]

Discrimination protections[edit]

LGBT flag map of Guatemala

Guatemala laws do not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in areas such as employment, education, housing, health care, banking or other public accommodations, such as cafes, restaurants, nightclubs and cinemas.[5] The only exception to this is the Código de la Niñez y la Juventud (Code on Childhood and Youth), approved in 1997, which protects children and youth from experiencing discrimination based on a variety of factors, including their own sexual orientation and that of their parents. [6]

Gender identity and expression[edit]

Since 2016, transgender persons in Guatemala can change their legal name so that it matches their gender identity. Surgeries are not required but a judicial permission is. However, transgender persons can not change their legal gender.[7][8]

Social conditions[edit]

Participants in a LGBT Pride walk in Guatemala City. June 23, 2012.

Despite homosexuality being legal since 1871, negative social attitudes have prevailed in Guatemalan society, and harassment, even targeted killings, of LGBT people have been known. For example, while a gay bar was allowed to open in 1976, it was the only gay bar allowed in Guatemala until the late 1990s.

Most Guatemalan residents are members of the Catholic, Fundamentalist Protestant, or Eastern Orthodox faiths, which all have traditionally upheld socially conservative attitudes and in particular tend to believe that homosexuality and cross-dressing are signs of immorality. These socially conservative Christian attitudes are also reflected in the dominant political parties in the nation. The National Unity of Hope is a Christian social democratic party, and the Patriotic Party is a conservative, if not right-wing, political party. Most of the other political parties, even the more liberal or left-wing parties, generally ignore the issue of LGBT rights.

Despite these challenges, the LGBT community has become more visible since the 1990s, and the nation's refocus on democratization, peace, and human rights has had some benefit for LGBT rights. In 1993, OASIS (Organization to Support an Integral Sexuality in the Face of AIDS) was allowed to be established as a non-profit group that would provide comprehensive HIV/AIDS education aimed at the LGBT community. The end of the civil war in 1996 and the subsequent advancement of democratization and human rights allowed OASIS to also work on LGBT rights.

Like many other countries, Guatemala's LGBT situation is evolving and new figures are emerging as pioneers. LGBT rights in Guatemala are no longer a forbidden topic. Younger generations are making a mark on Guatemala's society, challenging the prevailing views in the country.

In January 2016, Sandra Morán was elected to Congress, the country's first openly LGBT legislator. She is a member of Convergence, a left-leaning political party.[9]

Anti-LGBT violence[edit]

Bias motivated crimes (a.k.a. "hate crimes") on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity are reportedly tolerated by the Government, especially when the harassment or violence is directed at transgender people. The lack of civil rights protections and protections from hate crimes is attributed to the prevailing attitudes about sexual identity and gender roles.[10]

In the late 1990s, there were several reports by the United Nations and some NGOs that LGBT people in Guatemala were being systematically targeted for death as part of a "social cleansing campaign". One of the more prominent victims of this campaign was transgender AIDS activist Luis Palencia, who was gunned down in Guatemala City in 1997.

Public opinion[edit]

According to Pew Research Center survey, conducted between 10 November and 16 December 2013, 12% of respondents supported same-sex marriage, 82% were opposed.[11][12]

An ILGA poll carried out between 18 April and 20 June 2014 showed that 23% of the Guatemalan population supported same-sex marriage. 61% were opposed and 17% were undecided.[13]

In May 2015, PlanetRomeo, a LGBT social network, published its first Gay Happiness Index (GHI). Gay men from over 120 countries were asked about how they feel about society’s view on homosexuality, how do they experience the way they are treated by other people and how satisfied are they with their lives. Guatemala was ranked 69th with a GHI score of 40.[14]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1871)
Equal age of consent Yes (Since 1871)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only No
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriages No
Recognition of same-sex couples No (Proposed)
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
LGBT people allowed to serve openly in the military Emblem-question.svg
Right to change legal gender Yes/No (Since 2016, transgender persons can change their legal name but not their legal gender)
Access to IVF for lesbians Emblem-question.svg
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples Emblem-question.svg
MSMs allowed to donate blood Emblem-question.svg

See also[edit]


External links[edit]