Security Training for LGBTIQ Human Rights Activists in Guatemala: Assesses and Confronts Risks

OutRight has developed security training as part of its core mission to support LGBTIQ activists as they build a growing movement for dignity, equality and justice.

For three days during the first week in March, OutRight experts Kevin Schumacher and María Mercedes Gómez will bring together 21 LGBTIQ activists in Guatemala for three days of comprehensive security training. The group will explore a range of security issues covering:

  • digital,
  • political,
  • societal and
  • personal.

Their goal will be to emerge with an understanding of:

  • security needs,
  • create security plans for the nine organizations they represent,
  • and identify the tools and resources they need to put the plans into action.

“We will support each individual activist by helping them understand how to assess their risks, what security precautions they need to take, and how to manage them,” said Schumacher, who previously led a security training for activists in Tunisia and is planning an upcoming training in Turkey.

This is the first training OutRight has conducted in Guatemala, where activists have experienced violence, robberies in their offices and other crimes.

LGBTI people are subjected to hostile, oppressive and unconscionable laws in countries spanning five continents that make it difficult or impossible for them to live safely and openly in their communities. This oppression ranges from imprisonment to violence and, in some cases, death. In too many places, authorities commit these atrocities themselves and victims have no recourse.

In the weeks leading to the Guatemala training, participating activists responded to a questionnaire about the specific threats they face and the security precautions they want to put in place. Schumacher and Gómez will work with each group to create recommendations designed to meet their needs and help implement them.

“Our goal is to be sensitive to and analyze activists’ needs and to help them design security plans that are relevant to their needs.” ~ Schumacher

Schumacher, who coordinates the organization’s Middle East and North Africa work, and Gómez, its Latin America and Carribbean work, want to help activists understand security as a broad concept. As they tackle topics from digital security to violence and threats to individuals, they also will look at the political environment in which they operate, and help assess layers of protection, from individuals and their organizations to intra-organizational and societal dealings.

Gómez noted that violence against women in particular remains high in Guatemala, despite an overall reduction in violence there. Between January and October of last year, more than 56,000 cases of violent crimes against women were recorded by the Ministry of Justice.

Homophobia and transphobia are the connective link to violence against LGBTI people, she said.

“We cannot transform the situation overall in the country. We cannot bring about change overnight. But we can start the conversation and give them tools to confront violence. It’s more about giving them the support they need to build their own resources.” ~ Gómez

OutRight has invited Gabriela Tuch and Catalina Lleras to lead a session in the training. Tuch, a Guatemalan lawyer is the ombudsperson for sexual diversity in Guatemala, and Catalina Lleras is the Human Rights Officer at the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Guatemala City.