Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape, and sets penalties between five and 50 years in prison. The law establishes penalties for femicide at 25 to 50 years in prison without the possibility of reducing the sentence; however, femicide remained a significant problem.
Police had minimal training and capacity to investigate sexual crimes or assist survivors of such crimes, and the government did not enforce the law effectively. Rape, other sexual offenses, and gender-based violence remained widespread and serious problems.
The government took steps to combat femicide and gender-based violence. The judiciary operated a 24-hour court in Guatemala City to offer services related to gender-based violence including sexual assault, exploitation, and trafficking of women and children. The judiciary operated specialized courts for gender-based violence throughout the country, but not in every department. The Public Ministry maintained a 24-hour victim service center to provide medical, psychosocial, and legal support to survivors, including issuing restraining orders for their immediate protection. The ministry also maintained a national alert system for finding disappeared women.
The Public Ministry maintained a public website titled “the Women’s Observatory,” with statistics regarding crimes against women and children. According to that website, 31 percent of criminal complaints as of October were filed for crimes against women and children, and 44 percent of those complaints resulted in investigation and successful resolution of the complaint.
Gender-based violence, including sexual and domestic violence, remained widespread and serious. The law establishes penalties of five to eight years in prison for gender-based violence, including physical, economic, and psychological violence.
On January 24, a High-Risk Court Tribunal of three judges sentenced five former militia members to 30 years in prison each for crimes against humanity for involvement in the sexual assaults of 36 Indigenous Achi women in 1981-85 during the internal armed conflict. The court also mandated that the government provide monetary reparations and other conciliatory measures. The National Prosecutor General, the cabinet-level federal government office that acted as the legal representative of the government, filed an appeal to prevent the payout of these reparations, and as of year’s end, the appeal was not resolved.
Women with disabilities and members of the LGBTQI+ community with disabilities remained at greater risk of being victims of continued sexual violence. Most persons with disabilities, especially women, did not report situations of violence and abuse because the reporting processes were complex and discriminated against them.
Sexual Harassment: Although several laws refer to sexual harassment, no single law, including laws against sexual violence, addresses sexual harassment directly. The law does not prohibit sexual harassment in the private sector workplace. Human rights organizations reported sexual harassment was widespread.
Reproductive Rights: Forced sterilization was purportedly common for persons with disabilities but reporting on these abuses was rare, according to an international human rights organization that tracks disability rights. There were no official reports during the year of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
Cultural, geographic, and linguistic barriers hampered access to reproductive health care, including contraceptives, particularly for Indigenous women in rural areas, where contraceptives were also least likely to be available locally. The prevalence of modern contraceptive use remained low among Indigenous women compared with all other women, and a lack of culturally sensitive reproductive and maternal health-care service providers deterred some Indigenous women from accessing reproductive health-care services.
The government provided medical services through the Ministry of Health for survivors of sexual violence. The services provided victims with access to emergency contraceptives and antiviral medicines to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy resulting from rape. The ministry also provided some justice services. Many survivors did not seek medical care due to cultural and geographic barriers. Authorities within the justice system commented that on occasion some hospital clinics did not have the required medication in stock to protect rape victims against sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy.
According to a 2020 report by the Ministry of Health, the maternal mortality rate among Indigenous communities was 156 per 100,000 live births, compared with the national average of 108 per 100,000 live births.
One-half of all the maternal deaths occurred in four departments in the northwest of the country (Huehuetenango, San Marcos, Quiche, and Alta Verapaz), most of them in rural and dispersed areas with high rates of malnutrition, poverty, and concentrated populations of Indigenous persons. From January to May, the Ministry of Health reported that areas with high concentrations of Indigenous peoples had the highest proportion, nearly half, of maternal deaths nationwide. Factors such as the lack of medical services available in their native language for speakers of Indigenous languages and the lack of providers and equipment in remote areas played a role in these deaths.
According to World Bank data in 2020, the fertility rate for adolescents ages 15 to 19 was 64 births per 1,000 women.
A lack of access to menstrual products and the lack of separate boys’ and girls’ bathrooms in some rural schools continued to negatively affect adolescent girls’ access to education in rural areas of the country.
In March the congress approved Decree 22-2022, a law that declares May 19 as the National Day of the Guatemalan Midwife Iyom and Rati’t Ak’al in celebration of a prominent Indigenous midwife. The decree also establishes an annual incentive (not a salary) for Indigenous midwives registered with the Ministry of Health. This incentive aims at acknowledging the work of Indigenous midwives and dignifying their work to ensure access to health care for Indigenous women.
Discrimination: The constitution establishes the principle of gender equality, stating that all individuals are equal and have the same rights, and that men and women enjoy the same opportunities and responsibilities. Despite this, women, and particularly Indigenous women in rural areas, faced discrimination and were less likely to hold management positions. The law establishes equal pay for women and men in government offices by prohibiting differences in pay based on “personal identity,” but the law does not prohibit discrimination based on gender in the private sector. There are laws that restrict women from working in certain sectors, including in jobs deemed morally inappropriate. The law does not prohibit gender discrimination in access to credit. The government did little to enforce gender equality laws effectively.
The law provides for equality between men and women during and after divorce with respect to childcare and financial and housing assistance to the children’s caretakers, who are often women. The PDH reported that fairness between men and women in divorce proceedings had improved in the last 20 years.
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
There are no laws, policies, or state programs that specifically contribute to the reduction of racism, according to international human rights organizations. The constitution provides for protections against discrimination based on race or ethnic group, and the law provides for a penalty of one to three years’ imprisonment and a fine for acts of discrimination. Other efforts to combat discrimination included litigation instructions from the Public Ministry for discrimination crimes.
The government generally did not effectively enforce laws against discrimination.
The executive branch lacked a coordinated approach to address poverty and unemployment concentrated mainly in Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities, although there were some government programs directed at the needs of these populations.
The government’s National Institute of Statistics estimated Indigenous persons from 24 ethnic groups made up 44 percent of the population. The law provides for equal rights for Indigenous persons and obliges the government to recognize, respect, and promote the lifestyles, customs, traditions, social organizations, and manner of dress of Indigenous persons. The government does not, however, recognize particular Indigenous groups as having a special legal status provided by national law. The law stipulates that the government must consult with Indigenous groups prior to implementing large infrastructure projects in Indigenous territories. Observers indicated the government did not always consult with all affected parties and Indigenous leaders, and activists regularly reported being harassed and threatened for their work.
Indigenous lands were not effectively demarcated, making the legal recognition of titles to the land problematic. Indigenous representatives claimed business and other actors in several regional development projects failed to consult meaningfully with local communities. In some cases, Indigenous communities were not able to participate in decisions affecting the exploitation of resources in their communities, including energy, minerals, timber, rivers, or other natural resources. They also lacked effective mechanisms for dialogue with the state to resolve conflicts.
According to the OHCHR, there was a significant increase in attacks and incidents of defamation and intimidation against Indigenous defenders of Indigenous land, territory rights, and natural resources.
One Indigenous community consultation process over the operation of a silver mine in San Rafael, Santa Rosa, between the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Xinka community continued, with the Xinka Parliament representing their community. On July 20, representatives of the Xinka community, the Xinka Parliament, and the Ministry of Energy and Mines completed the preconsultation phase of court-ordered consultations in San Rafael, Santa Rosa, with a planned end date of February 2023. The Xinka Parliament initially characterized the process as “workable” but reported in December that the process was stalled due to an impasse over government funding of international environmental studies experts.
Discrimination against Indigenous cultures and customs existed in the health-care system. Civil society organizations of Indigenous midwives in rural areas reported that their services were not recognized by government health-care institutions under the Ministry of Public Health.
In December 2021 the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that the government violated its commitments on Indigenous peoples’ rights by shutting down four Indigenous community radio stations. The court ruled that the government should provide several reparation measures. The court ruled that the government had six months to publish the decision in its official government registry, giving it legal effect; however, as of September the government had not done this.
Indigenous communities were underrepresented in national politics and remained largely outside the political, economic, social, and cultural mainstream. This was mainly due to limited educational opportunities (contrary to law), limited communication regarding Indigenous rights, and pervasive discrimination. Government agencies dedicated to supporting Indigenous rights lacked political support. These factors contributed to disproportionate poverty and malnutrition among most Indigenous populations.
Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship by birth within the country or from their parents. Birth registrations were low and discriminated against rural populations where there were few government registry offices or modern health-care facilities. UNICEF described low birth registration as a “serious problem,” and UNHCR reported problems in registering births were especially acute in Indigenous communities due to inadequate government registration and documentation systems. Lack of registration restricted children’s access to some public services and created conditions that could lead to statelessness.
Education: While primary education is free and compulsory through age 15, access was limited in many rural areas. Education through the secondary level is not obligatory. International observers noted that in rural communities, boys were prioritized for high school education due to the problems of traveling long distances to school and the perceived value of girls in the home.
Child Abuse: Child abuse remained a serious problem. A unit under the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Children and Adolescents handled child abuse cases. The Public Ministry has an integrated 24-hour care model providing medical, psychosocial, and legal support to children and adolescent victims of violence.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 18.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides sentences ranging from 13 to 24 years in prison, depending on the victim’s age, for engaging in sex with a minor. The minimum age of consensual sex is 18. The law defines sexual relations with a minor under age 14 as rape.
The law prohibits child pornography and establishes penalties of six to 10 years in prison for producing, promoting, and selling child pornography, and two to four years’ imprisonment for possessing it. The commercial sexual exploitation of children, including child sex tourism, remained a problem, including in privately run orphanages.
Displaced Children: There were numerous children living on the street or in slums. Criminals and gangs often recruited street children, many of them victims of domestic abuse, for purposes of theft, extortion, commercial sexual exploitation, transporting contraband, and conducting illegal drug activities.
Institutionalized Children: More than 800 children and adolescents lived in shelters operated by the Secretariat for Social Welfare. The government lacked clear policies for children with disabilities in residential institutions, leaving accommodations in these cases up to the individual institutions.
Former secretariat Secretary Carlos Rodas and former Deputy Secretary for Protection and Shelter Services Anahi Keller faced criminal charges for murder, abuse of authority, breach of duty, and abuse against minors following the deaths of 41 girls in the 2017 fire at the Hogar Seguro orphanage, which was under the authority of the secretariat. Both were allowed to await their trial under house arrest. Public arguments in the case were suspended for the sixth time; as of September 23, the new date for public arguments had not been scheduled.
The Jewish population was approximately 1,500 persons. Jewish community representatives reported no antisemitic incidents as of November.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity or Expression, or Sex Characteristics
Criminalization: There are no laws or de facto discrimination against consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults.
Violence against LGBTQI+ Persons: Violence against LGBTQI+ persons remained a persistent issue. According to an annual report from the Lambda Association, there were 21 killings of LGBTQI+ persons from January to September in which the violence could plausibly be linked to the victims’ sexual orientation or gender identity. The Lambda Association also reported that most homicides and general crimes of prejudice against LGBTQI+ persons occurred either in the capital, Guatemala City, or in Izabal.
According to LGBTQI+ activists, gay and transgender individuals often experienced police abuse. LGBTQI+ human rights groups stated, for example, that police regularly engaged in extortion and harassed male and transgender individuals whom they alleged to be sex workers.
Lambda and other LGBTQI+ organizations reported a lack of will on the part of police to fully investigate hate crimes and violence against LGBTQI+ persons.
On July 2, an assailant shot and killed Nancy Suc, an Indigenous transgender woman who was a member of the Transgender Women Sexual Workers Collective of Trebol. The assailant was trying to extort Suc, according to press reports and a criminal complaint that Suc filed days before the attack. Suc’s alleged killer was arrested and was awaiting trial, but fellow sex workers continued to be threatened and extorted and claimed Suc’s criminal complaint to the Public Ministry reporting the death threats against her was not taken seriously.
Openly gay and HIV-positive congressman Aldo Davila reported that other members of congress yelled homophobic comments at him when he attempted to speak during sessions of congress and directed homophobic slurs at him in the halls of congress.
Discrimination: The constitution declares all persons equal under the law and prohibits discrimination by state and nonstate actors based on gender, marital status, or political opinion. The law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender expression, or sex characteristics and does not recognize LGBTQI+ individuals, couples, or their families.
The government does not provide or measure sexual diversity or gender identity statistics in its census and does not break down health, education, and other statistics by sexual diversity or gender identity. Local experts who worked on sexual diversity issues stated the lack of demographic data hampered NGO efforts to analyze and provide effective solutions to problems in the LGBTQI+ community, such as poverty stemming from lack of job opportunities. Those same experts noted positively that in 2021 the Public Ministry started collecting data on the sexual orientation and gender identity of victims of crime who filed police reports.
LGBTQI+ advocates pointed to structural problems, such as gender identity document requirements and general societal discrimination, that created internal displacement, discrimination, sexual exploitation, and child abuse among members of the LGBTQI+ community.
There was general societal discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons in access to education, health care, employment, and housing. The government made minimal efforts to address this discrimination. Local experts on sexual diversity issues said the government did not publish official medical guidance or standards on hormone therapy for gender transition therapies. Hence, these therapies were unregulated in the private sector and posed risks for transgender persons considering physiological transition therapies. There were also no publicly provided gender transition therapies in government medical facilities, so individuals had to pay personally for any of these therapies.
Availability of Legal Gender Recognition: Individuals cannot self-identify gender for official documents. Their gender assigned at birth and showing on their birth certificate is their gender on their official documents. Government-issued national identification cards that are used to access basic services and education resources do not allow transgender persons to receive identification cards with their chosen names or gender identification. Without identification that reflected the name and gender under which they lived, transgender persons were denied many government services.
Involuntary or Coercive Medical or Psychological Practices Specifically Targeting LGBTQI+ Individuals: LGBTQI+ activists and investigative journalists reported there was an active network of “conversion therapy” centers, mostly located in the interior of the country in rural areas but organized and funded in conjunction with evangelical churches in the capital. Reports mentioned electroshock therapy for gay men, “corrective” rape for lesbian women, and coerced sex acts for transgender women.
LGBTQI+ groups also claimed lesbian, bisexual, and queer women experienced forced marriages and “corrective” rape intended to cause pregnancy, although these incidents were rarely, if ever, reported to authorities.
Gente Positiva, a HIV-positive advocacy and awareness group, reported that when lesbian women who were victims of “corrective” rape tried to file a legal complaint, the Public Ministry officials receiving the complaint often refused to record the incident if the woman reporting the rape knew the attackers or had drunk alcohol the same day as the rape. Gente Positiva also reported that the government did not recognize “corrective” rape of lesbian women as an aggravated version of sexual assault or a hate crime; the government considers it the same as rape.
Restrictions of Freedom of Expression, Association, or Peaceful Assembly: There were no confirmed or reported restrictions on those speaking out on LGBTQI+ issues.
Persons with Disabilities
Persons with disabilities were unable to access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. No law requires such access, nor does the law mandate that persons with disabilities have access to information or communications.
Discrimination against persons with disabilities continued to be a problem, with such persons experiencing discrimination based on their specific disability, gender, age, place of residency, and sexual orientation, among other factors.
Persons with disabilities experienced violence, harassment, intimidation, and abuse, including incidents incited, perpetrated, or condoned by attendants and staff at institutions. Persons with disabilities, especially women and underrepresented groups, experienced high levels of violence and abuse, including sexual assault.
International human rights organizations pointed to the institutionalization of persons with disabilities as a source of harassment and abuse. They stated that because there is no national strategy for deinstitutionalizing children with disabilities from publicly supported residences and facilities, these children would most likely remain institutionalized. Children with disabilities with high support requirements were essentially forced to live in institutions due to the lack of policies or funding that would enable them to live in a family household.
Children with disabilities attended school at all levels at a significantly lower rate than other children; most did not attend school at all. Nongovernmental organizations that advocated for persons with disabilities reported the government violated the right to education for students with disabilities, especially those with intellectual disabilities. Reports indicated that online learning resources made available to students with disabilities were focused on visually and auditorily impaired students and that few solutions were provided for students with other disabilities.
A report by the NGO Women Enabled International described multiple discriminations faced by Indigenous persons with disabilities. Discriminatory cultural norms against persons with disabilities, were intensified against Indigenous women with disabilities, increasing the possibility that they would be separated from their children or be forcibly sterilized.
Observers noted little progress was made in access to voting for persons with disabilities. Voting mechanisms for persons with intellectual disabilities did not exist. Voting in braille existed, but it did not guarantee secret voting.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
On several occasions, vigilante mobs attacked and killed persons suspected of crimes such as rape, kidnapping, theft, or extortion. The NGO Mutual Support Group reported five persons were killed and 62 injured by vigilante groups from January through August. The NGO stated these attacks took place mostly in interior departments of the country with weak law enforcement.
Several international human rights organizations reported the continued problem of extralegal forced removal of local Indigenous groups from land and the lack of proper government involvement to ensure that removals were conducted legally. Removals were sometimes conducted by security guards hired by private landowners and sometimes by groups of other local individuals that wanted to take over land.
One such forced removal occurred in La Pilas, Cahabon, Alta Verapaz, on April 5. A group of dozens of residents attempted to remove approximately 15 families in the community of Las Pilas by threatening them with being shot, beatings, and by burning the shelters they live in. According to a local official of the Human Rights Ombudsman’s office, the violence generated by this conflict made police hesitant to respond due to fear for their own safety, as the police were far outnumbered by the assailants. Members of the displaced community stated that as of September the threats against them continued and the conflict over the land had not ended.
There was conflict in the interior of the country between Indigenous evangelical groups and Indigenous adherents of Mayan spiritual groups. This friction resulted in violence in one incident on May 16, in Chichipate, Izabal. Members of the local community government authority illegally detained Mayan spiritual guide Adela Choc Cruz and her adult child, Sandra Tec Choc, and threatened to burn Choc Cruz alive for committing acts of witchcraft against the child of a local evangelical leader. Community members burned Choc Cruz’s house and warded off police that attempted to intervene. As of September, the Public Ministry had not brought charges against, nor had the police arrested, those accused of the threats against Choc Cruz.
The law prohibits discrimination based on HIV or AIDS status. Social discrimination and stigma around AIDS and HIV continued to be problematic and contributed to not only the spread of the disease but also mortality rates. Some government authorities required citizens to reveal HIV and AIDS test results to receive certain public benefits, and some employers required similar disclosure to be hired.
Discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons with HIV or AIDS was particularly common and affected access to HIV-prevention programs, especially for transgender individuals.