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Guatemala: Reject Bill Threatening Families

Discriminatory Bill Strips Rights of 40 Percent of Families

Guatemalan legislators should protect all families by voting against the “Integral Protection for Marriage and Family Act,” Human Rights Watch urged today in a letter to the Guatemalan Congress.

Human Rights Watch called on lawmakers to reject a bill that would bar single parents as well as same-sex couples from the definition of “family,” and threatens the legal status of children conceived through reproductive technologies. The bill would punish any Guatemalan officials who advocates, “in any national or international meeting,” for a different definition.

“No family will ever benefit from leaving others unprotected,” said Juliana Cano Nieto, researcher in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights program at Human Rights Watch. “The aim of this bill is to strip certain partners, parents, and children of rights and recognition all families deserve.”

The “Integral Protection for Marriage and Family Act” is currently scheduled for a final vote the week of October 1. The bill was initially proposed over two years ago, but Congress debated it for the first time in July 2007. On September 26, the debate over the bill was hastily reopened. Vice-president of the Congress Oliverio García Rodas, has stated that it was brought forward amid concern about the “celebration of same-sex marriages.”

The bill, however, would declare that the nearly 40 percent of Guatemalan families that are not nuclear – consisting of father, mother, and children – are not families at all. Crucial health services now provided for single parents, their children, and indigenous families under a 2001 law could be taken away.

“This bill takes aim at lesbian and gay couples, but it has almost half of Guatemalan children and parents in its sights,” said Cano Nieto. “Targeting children and their caregivers in the name of a political agenda is not only unjustifiable, it is morally reprehensible.”

International bodies such as the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees have recognized the need to respect different forms of the family. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Guatemala is a party, protects children from discrimination on the basis of their parents’ or caregivers’ status. Guatemala has also ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the UN Human Rights Committee has held to ban discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual orientation.

Growing international pressure condemns laws that discriminate against certain families. The “Yogyakarta Principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity,” developed by a group of experts in international law and released in 2007, call upon states to recognize and protect the existence of diverse forms of families, regardless of the sexual orientation or gender identity of family members.

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