Guatemala: Activists Fight to Retain Sexual Orientation Within New Children And Youth Law

Following is a letter supporting the enactment of the Código de la Niñez y la Juventud (Code on Childhood and Youth, approved in 1997) and in opposition to changes proposed to the same by conservative sectors of Guatemalan society. The letter was written by Rubén Mayorga, Executive Director of OASIS, Organización de Apoyo a una Sexualidad Integral frente al SIDA, (Organization for Support to an Integrated Sexuality against AIDS), and sent March 20th to Deputy Nineth Montenegro and to the Congress of the Guatemalan Republic, on behalf of the Board of Directors and the membership of OASIS. The Code on Childhood and Youth is the first attempt to codify the rights and responsibilities of children and youth in Guatemalan society and arises from the Guatemalan's government ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990.

The original text of Article 10 of the code reads as follows:

TITLE II FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS
CHAPTER I INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS
SECTION II RIGHT TO EQUALITY

Article 10. The rights described in this Law will be applicable to every child and youth without any discrimination for reasons of race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, economic position, physical, mental o sensory disability, sexual orientation, physical impediment, birth o any other condition of their or of their parents, family members, tutors or any responsible persons.

OASIS is opposed to conservative sectors' attempts to eliminate the term "sexual orientation," which is included in the original text of Article 10 of the Code as approved by the Guatemalan Congress. The Congress has been delaying implementation of the Code since its approval in April of 1997. Conservative sectors argue that the inclusion of the term will "promote homosexuality, " and they assure that this is contrary to Christian principles.

Youth and children who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or are questioning their sexual orientation can be the targets of discrimination on the part of all sectors of society with impunity until this code is implemented. The importance of protecting these children and youth from discrimination has been repeatedly demonstrated in studies which document higher suicide rates among gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth. These students are also likely to skip school because they feel unsafe and may drop out of school because of the harassment they face.

As of this time, OASIS is the only Guatemalan organization that has specifically requested that the term "sexual orientation" not be eliminated from this Article. Letters supporting Article 10 as approved can be sent to the following:

Honorable Deputy Nineth Montenegro
Commission on Women, Minors and the Family
Congreso de la República
9 Avenida 9-44 zona 1
Guatemala 01001 Guatemala
E-mail: nmontenegro@congreso.gob.gt
Congreso de la República de Guatemala
9 Avenida 9-44 zona 1
Guatemala 01001 Guatemala
E-mail: mvrodriguez@congreso.gob.gt

Please send a copy to OASIS at:

OASIS
Aptdo. Postal 1289
Guatemala 01901 GUATEMALA
E-mail: oasis@gua.gbm.net

Following is the letter sent by Rubén Mayorga:

Guatemala, March 20, 1998

Honorable Deputy Nineth Montenegro
Commission on Women, Minors and the Family
Congress of the Republic
Guatemala City

Honorable Deputy:

This is to inform you, that la Organización de Apoyo a una Sexualidad Integral frente al SIDA (Organization for Support to an Integrated Sexuality against AIDS- OASIS) wholeheartedly supports the approval of Código de la Niñez y de la Juventud (Code on Childhood and Youth), according to a resolution of our Board of Directors in its regular meeting on the 17th of March of the current year.

In particular, OASIS would like to request that Article 10 of the aforementioned Code is preserved intact, since it places emphasis on characteristics that are an integral part of each human being. In this way, the Article is in complete agreement with the background principles regarding respect of human diversity which are inherent in the Accords for a Firm and Lasting Peace signed in December of 1996.

We also specifically request that from the aforementioned description of a human being you not eliminate the term "sexual orientation" since being heterosexual, bisexual and homosexual are inherent to men and women including during childhood and adolescence. Terms such as" mental disorder or state" or other similar terms are inappropriate since heterosexuality has never been considered a mental disorder and scientifically and technically homosexuality is no longer considered a mental pathology by the internationally recognized Associations of Psychology and Psychiatry (such as the ones in the US and various European countries). The World Health Organization and the Pan-American Health Organization also do not consider it a mental pathology.

Deleting such terminology makes children and youths with different sexual orientation from the one that is socially accepted (heterosexuality) vulnerable to discriminations and humiliation at the hands of their parents, brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles, teachers, spiritual counselors, tutors, security forces, medical professionals, psychologists, to mention a few, and contributes to the climate of intolerance, authoritarianism, and violence and the need to be clandestine that impede their development as human beings and has caused so much pain and death in our country

Due to all that has been mentioned, we reiterate our unconditional support for the Código de la Niñez y la Juventud (Code on Childhood and Youth), and we are opposed to the reduction of the spectrum of human diversity contemplated in Article 10.

Sincerely,

Dr. Rubén Mayorga
Executive Director
OASIS