IACHR welcomes announcement of presidential veto to the bill "Protection of Life and Family" in Guatemala

March 15, 2022

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) observed with concern the passage of the bill "Protection of Life and Family" by the Congress of Guatemala on March 8, 2022, International Women's Day and welcomes the veto announcement made by the President of the Republic.

In this regard, Guatemala informed the IACHR that the President of the Republic indicated that, should he receive the enrolled bill in his office, it would be vetoed due to its possible incompatibility with the Constitution and the State's international obligations. Likewise, the State informed that the President of Congress announced the interest of Congress to archive the bill.

Since 2017, the Commission has warned about the discriminatory nature and effects of the bill "Protection of Life and Family". In particular, because it increases the penalties against women who decide to interrupt their pregnancies, as well as against medical personnel who assist them and all other individuals who provide related support. Additionally, the bill requires medical personnel to report miscarriages, which creates the risk of criminalizing obstetric emergencies.

The bill also disregards the principles of equality and non-discrimination, essential to international human rights law, which include the obligation to recognize the right to marriage equality and the recognition of diverse families. The Inter-American Court has guaranteed this right in the case of Atala Riffo and daughters v. Chile and in Advisory Opinion 24/17. However, the bill explicitly prohibits marriage equality.

The bill would also impede the access of children and adolescents to comprehensive sexuality education as well as prohibiting public or private education that is accepting of diversity. The bill also indicates that freedom of thought and expression implies "not being obligated to accept as normal non-heterosexual conducts and practices," thereby legitimizing discrimination against LGBTI persons.

This bill advanced as part of a broader regional context of setbacks related to the rights of women, children, adolescents, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, non-binary, gender-diverse and intersex persons (LGBTI), which include restrictions on the access to comprehensive sexuality education and information. IACHR and its Special Rapporteurship on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights (REDESCA) have stated that comprehensive sexuality education is essential for the construction of more inclusive societies and for the elimination of discriminatory practices against women and LGBTI persons. Lack of access to comprehensive sexuality education negatively affects society in general. In this regard, in its response, the State reported that there are national policies aimed at guaranteeing the education and human development of women.

In any case, IACHR recalls that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights established, in the decision "Paola Guzmán Albarracín v. Ecuador", that education must ensure that children have an adequate understanding of the implications of sexual and emotional relationships, particularly in terms of consenting to such relationships and exercising their sexual and reproductive rights.

The absolute criminalization of the termination of pregnancies, including in cases in which there is a risk to the life of the pregnant person, the fetus is non-viable, or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, places a disproportionate burden on the exercise of rights, especially the rights of women. IACHR highlighted this in its reports, including the report on Violence and Discrimination against Women and Girls.

In this context, the IACHR highlights the importance of States refraining from adopting measures that would have a negative impact or cause setbacks with respect to international human rights law and standards, including the obligations arising from international treaties such as the American Convention on Human Rights, which has been ratified by the State of Guatemala. The IACHR also calls on the State of Guatemala to continue to adopt specific measures to eradicate the discriminatory treatment of women and LGBTI persons that is based in wrongful gender stereotypes.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 052/22

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