Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Law Against Sexual Violence, Exploitation Passed

Congress passed a law today against sexual violence, exploitation and human trafficking to change the perception that Guatemala is a paradise for such crimes. Guatemala's location makes it a hub for such trafficking and crimes. The new law provides severe penalties for those responsible for these crimes.

The law has been demanded by social organizations and recently by Barbara Fleck, with the U.S. Department of State's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

Statistics of NGOs concerned with children and adolescents indicate that some 15,000 children are sexually exploited in Guatemala.

Under the new standard, the crime of rape will now have sentences of between 6 and 12 years against those who abuse children under 14 years, and if there is physical or psychological violence the penalty is increased by five to eight years.

Any person causing physical or mental injury to a minor shall be punished with imprisonment of two to five years, and two to four more years if you have sexually transmitted diseases.

Sexual exhibition shall be punished with between three and six years' imprisonment. Pandering, which the law stipulates as the promotion, facilitation, or encouragement of prostitution, carries punishment from five to 10 years in prison. The production and marketing of child pornography will bring 6 to 10 years in prison.

Trafficking, which is the recruitment, transportation, harboring, or receipt of sexual exploitation victims, will be punished by imprisonment from 8 to 18 years and a fine Q1,000 to Q500,000. Aggravated charges apply if the victim is a minor, if they are a relative, if there is use of force or weapons, if commited by a public official, or the victim is drugged.

The law also criminalizes illegal adoption with punishment of three to five years in prison and a fine of Q20,000 to Q100,000. Public officials who authorize an irregular adoption with false or altered documents will go to jail for six to ten years and pay a fine of Q50,000 to Q100,000.

The new law requires that initiatives be developed at the national level to gather information on these subjects, create hotlines for assistance against sexual violence, and take steps to deal with domestic violence, child abuse, sexual violence and exploitation, to analyze the problem and the factors that produce it, provide comprehensive care to victims and their families and in all necessary languages.

One of the important factors in human trafficking is border controls so the new law calls for strengthened border control to prevent and detect by verifying that documents are real and to positively check the nature of the relationship between minors and their companions. The law also called for creation of more juvenile courts.

The law mandates rights of the victim's privacy and family identity, facilitation of communication in native languages.

The new law also creates a new Secretariat Against Sexual Violence, Exploitation, and Human Trafficking overseen by tghe Vice-President, the Supreme Court, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Interior, Labor, Education, Health, Attorney, Social Welfare Department, Attorney General's Office and the National Institute of Forensic Sciences.

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