Law 5272 Initiative: Fundamentalism Over Women’s Rights
Members of the Guatemalan congress have pulled the initiative to pass the “Protecting Life and Family” law (Decree 5272) out of the drawer. This law seeks to criminalize abortion in all of forms (including miscarriage) as well as same-sex marriage, and prohibit comprehensive sex education and any issues related to sexual diversity and “gender ideology” being promoted in public and private institutions. Furthermore, the law would require doctors to register miscarriages in the National Registry of Persons (RENAP), effectively turning them into a kind of police.
The initiative was presented and promoted in 2017 by the right-wing party Vision with Values (Visión con Valores – VIVA), and was supported by more than 30,000 citizen signatures, the amount required to present legislation in the country.
On May 1, 2019, the proposed legislation would have been debated again in the Congress of the Republic of Guatemala, and while it was on the legislative agenda, it was not discussed nor approved due to a lack of quorum. In the morning hours of that day, diverse organizations representing women, collectives, and individuals protested in front of Congress with the chant, “No to Law 5272!” demanding that the law that represented setbacks for the rights of girls, women and the LGBTIQ+ community not be approved.
In Guatemala, FCAM spoke with Kendra Avilés, member of Red IncideJoven (YouthImpact Network), which has fought for the complete nullification of this proposed legislation from the beginning.
“In reality, the Law 5272 initiative has not ceased to be active at any point. Evangelicals continue to work so that this initiative can be approved. What brought the issue back to life is that a law called “Law on the Child and Adolescent Protection System” was on the agenda. In conversations on this law, conservative lawmakers began to move on the issue of gender ideology and in the leadership committees last week they brought up Law 5272 for discussion. This is how they decided to place the third debate on the schedule for May 1st, but there was no quorum and less than 80 lawmakers arrived, so the initiative wasn’t presented,” explained Avilés.
According to Avilés, this initiative was promoted by Evangelical groups and by conservative lawmakers in Congress. “They brought Evangelical pastors to the leadership committee meeting on April 30th, where they presented and – according to them – introduced 50,000 signatures from the population demanding approval of the law, and the idea was that it would be approved on May 1, but since there was no quorum, they couldn’t pass it.”
Guatemala is in an electoral year and the upcoming elections are scheduled for June, which is why for many, it’s possible that this initiative is being used for electoral reasons. Kendra coincides, “yes, of course the idea is to gain votes. They use these issues to gain votes, mostly because members of Congress that present it or promote it are very conservative and are identified with corruption, so the only way they have to win and for people to vote for this law is with the discourse that they are defending life and the family. That is the clear intention of the Evangelicals and those are the votes that the parties are fighting for now. Even though for us, it’s not as much smoke and mirrors as they think, we know that this country is ultra-conservative.”
For Kendra, if this initiative becomes law, it would put the people that defend human rights at risk, such as LGBTIQ+ activists, “they could come after the organizations and people that work on these issues, because according to them we promote abortion. Even if this is unconstitutional, given how things are in the country, anything is possible,” the concerned young activist tells us.
One thing is incredibly important to highlight for Avilés, which is that the initiative mentions that the position of the State in international matters should be in favor of the law. “What they want to do is more firmly position their regressive agenda and oppose international agreements and treaties,” notes the member of IncideJoven.
Over the past several years, social networks have become the trenches in the struggle for women and organizations and today is no exception. “It’s important to use social networks so that other people can learn about the repercussions that this law could have for girls, adolescents and women. Mobilization began strong on social networks among organizations and we sent out announcements and warnings about the potential passage of Law 5272. This led us to mobilize yesterday outside of Congress with our signs and our voices to demand the nullification of this proposed legislation. We cannot allow this to happen, it would be a serious setback for what has been achieved in terms of comprehensive sexual education and LGBTIQ+ issues,” explained Kendra.
So, What Now?
The organizations and collectives cannot stand down during this pause in the third reading of the initiative to pass Law 5272, they are constantly reviewing and monitoring the Congress given that lawmakers can use their time to present any of the anti-rights laws on the agenda that attack girls, women and diversity.
Asking Avilés what comes next, she replies that they will continue to work with media and through legal avenues wherever possible. “One thing that will clear up the panorama for us is whether or not in the May 6thleadership committee they bring the initiative onto the agenda. What’s more, this isn’t the only law that has been moving forward, there is another called “National Day of Prayer” which is also promoted by the Evangelical church. It’s hard to get out of this, there is a package of regressive laws in Congress that they have wanted to approve since this government took office. To date, none have been approved, but the risk is there. Many lawmakers will be re-elected, and this will go on for a long time.”
We invite you to reach our interview with Kendra Avilés, member of Red IncideJoven of Guatemala, about the situation with this law in 2018: