Abuse, Poverty and Trafficking in Guatemala Guatemala is primarily a poor country that is struggling in several areas; health and development, malnutrition, literacy, and contraceptive use. Guatemala has the highest population in Central America. It has the highest population growth rate in Latin America and is likely to continue because of its large reproductive-age population and high birth rate. Almost half of Guatemala’s population is under age 19, making it the youngest population in Latin America. Guatemala’s birth rate is approximately three children per woman and is higher among he rural and indigenous populations.
As a result of efforts to expand health services to underserved communities, the government has been able to decrease the maternal mortality ratio and increase institutional deliveries. The maternal mortality ratio remains relatively high at 88 deaths per 100,000 live births. In a report by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) only 66 percent of births had an attendant such as a nurse or doctor. Unsafe abortion continue to play in the country’s high maternal mortality ratio; legal abortion is tightly restricted except to save the life of the mother.
Guatemalan’s human rights abuses are widespread including institutional corruption, especially with the police and judicial sectors; especially involving serious crimes, such as kidnapping, drug trafficking, trafficking in persons, extortion and societal violence, which includes lethal violence against women. Other problems include arbitrary or unlawful killings, abuse and mistreatment by National Civil Police (PNC) members to name a few. There is the continued failure to protect judicial officials, witnesses, and civil society representatives from intimidation nd threats of theft of property, threats of violence, kidnapping and extortion.
There continues to be sexual harassment and discrimination against women; child abuse and sexual exploitation of children; discrimination and abuse of persons with disabilities; including of unaccompanied children. Other problems is the indigenous communities the ineffective mechanisms to address land conflicts; discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity; and ineffective enforcement of labor and child labor laws. Many men involved in land struggle would forcibly “disappeared”.
The women were enslaved, forced into unpaid labor at military bases and government run facilities. They were forced to cook and wash uniforms while suffering repeated systematic sexual violence by numerous soldiers often at gunpoint. The government took actions to investigate and prosecute cases of forced disappearances from the internal armed conflict period (1960-96). On August 22, 2016 the Attorney General’s Office presented new charges against retired army General Benedicto Lucas Garcia, who was also charged in the CREOMPAZ mass graves case.
On October 25, a high-risk ourt found sufficient evidence to charge Lucas Garcia with illegal detention, torture, and sexual violence, and it accepted new charges of aggravated sexual assault for the other four defendants. In June 2014 two former military commissioners were found guilty. One was sentence to 240 years in prison and $32,500 to per forced disappearance of 6 men. The second man was sentenced to 120 years and odered to pay $65,000 to 11 of the women he was charged abusing.
Conditions for male and female prisoners in Guatemala are generally comparable throughout the country. Though there are many reports that emale and juvenile inmates face physical and sexual abuse. Female inmates report of unnecessary body searches and verbal abuse by prison guards. Children below age four can live in prison with their mothers, though the system provides inadequate food for young children, and many are sick. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) rights groups alleged prisoners are often sexually assault LGBTI individuals.
The Guatemalan government takes little action to investigate and prosecute cases of sexual abuse. The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and sets penalties between five and 50 ears in prison. Also for physical, economic, and psychological violence committed against women because of their gender, but violence against women, including domestic violence, remain a serious problem. The law allows for the issuance of restraining orders against alleged aggressors and police protection for victims, and requires the PNC to intervene in violent situations in the home.
Police have little training to investigate sexual crimes or assist survivors and do not enforce effectively the laws. National Civil Police (PNC) and its Office of Professional Responsibility (ORP) along with The Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office (PDH) for Women claim that a full investigation and prosecution of domestic violence/rape cases take an average of two to three years. Rape survivors frequently do not report crimes due to lack of confidence in the justice system, social stigma, and fear.
Rape and other sexual offenses remain a serious problem. According to the Public Ministry, there were 11,399 reports of sexual or physical assault between January and August 2016. During the same period, there were 610 convictions for sexual or physical assault on women, an increase from the 527 convictions in the same period the revious year so there is little movement or progress. In 2007, the Guatemalan police and the nongovernmental organization The Casa Alianza discovered a prostitution network, holding trafficked women and minors captive.
It housed roughly 30 girls at any one time and had three bedrooms on the upper floor where paid sexual activity apparently took place. Twenty-five girls were found on site during the raid, including three foreign nationals, Nicaraguan, Mexican, and Honduran girls. At least 15,000 children under 18 are the victims of child sex trafficking networks in Guatemala, estimates Casa Alianza. Also in 2007, a Guatemalan trafficking ring smuggled several women, including girls under 18 and some as young as 13 years old, to the United States.
The victims were recruited in Guatemala for what they believed were legitimate jobs as babysitters, waitresses, and other positions, then smuggled across the border with the understanding that they would repay the people who had helped them get into the United States. Once in the U. S. , they were forced into prostitution to repay inflated smuggling debts. Incidents of child sex tourism have been reported in tourist destinations of Guatemala. Cities like Puerto Barrios, Izabal, Puerto San Jose, Escuintla, and Antigua cater to clients seeking sex holidays with children.
The Guatemalan government is beginning to take steps to fight femicide and violence against women. The PNC’s Special Unit for Sex Crimes, the Office of Attention to Victims, the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Women, and a special unit for trafficking in persons and illegal adoptions within the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Organized Crime deal with various aspects of violence against women. They now maintain a 24-hour court in Guatemala City and offer services related to violence directed toward women, including sexual assault, exploitation, and trafficking of women and children.
The Institute of Public Criminal Defense, a government institution, provides free legal, medical, and psychological assistance to survivors of domestic violence. Other civil society organization provides mediation and free legal services to low-income women. Although the law affords protection, including shelter, to victims of domestic violence, there are insufficient facilities for this purpose. The Ministry of Government operates eight shelters for survivors of buse in departments with the greatest incidence of domestic violence.
Due to continual budget uncertainties, the shelters’ operations are erratic. Several shelters funded by private donors or municipal governments operate in cities and the countryside. Many of the centers provided legal and psychological support and temporary accommodation. The legal age for marriage in Guatemala is 18. In 2015 Congress eliminated a provision that previously allowed girls to marry at 14 and boys at 16 with parental consent. There were reports of forced early marriages in some rural indigenous communities.
In an effort to identify cases of early and forced marriage, the government instituted nationwide training programs and protocols to encourage public employees to report pregnancies and childbirth among underage mothers. 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 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.
According to figures for 2016 released by the Public Ministry’s Office of Special Prosecutor for Children, authorities received 5,257 reports of sexual violence against minors and youth up to 19 years of age by mid-September. It received 47 reports of sexual exploitation involving minors and 141 reports of trafficking in persons. There are two women in the 14-member cabinet. Seven women serve on the 13-member Supreme Court, and five women serve on the 10-member Constitutional Court – the most women in either court’s history.
While the indigenous population constituted 39. percent of the opulation, according to the latest 2016 government statistics. There is one indigenous member in the cabinet, one on the Constitutional Court, and one on the Supreme Court. There are approximately 20 indigenous members of Congress. Indigenous individuals comprised a larger share of elected local government officials, filling 113 of the 333 mayoral seats elected in 2015. Volunteers are beginning to assist the citizens, especially the women are in areas of education, standard homes, repair and renovation of homes, smokeless stoves, water filters, sanitary latrines, and community gardens.