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.

UNICEF and CICIG Join to Fight Crimes Against Children

The United Nations Fund for Children (UNICEF) and the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) signed today a cooperation agreement to "fight against impunity for crimes against Guatemalan children."

"Violence and impunity in Guatemala is a public health issue, and when this affects a child it becomes something intolerable by any standard, legal, ethical, or humane," said Andriana Gonzalez, Spanish representative of UNICEF in Guatemala during the signing of the agreement.

The agreement aims at mutual collaboration in the development of studies about the impact of impunity in children, support for legal reforms, and the development of proposals regarding the justice system and security.

According to UNICEF, an average of 46 children are killed every month in Guatemala. Most are victims of firearms. In January of this year, there were 58 cases of violent deaths of children and adolescents.

CICIG, which is led by the Spanish jurist Carlos Castresana is investigating the mafia and organized crime that have been embedded into the structures of the state in order to promote impunity, said last year that 98 percent of the violence occurring in Guatemala "will go unpunished."

"The impunity and with it the violence, is staining the lives of children throughout the country. The impunity surrounding a child's daily life. Impunity is generating trauma in Guatemalan children. The high rate of impunity in Guatemala sends a wrong message to children about the concepts of justice and responsibility," said Gonzalez.

Spanish judge Castresana said that "the unification of efforts of the two UN agencies is essential to achieving the objectives of the mandates of both organizations to protect the rights of children." He went on to say, "The phenomenon of violence in Guatemala is serious because the institutions responsible for fighting it are not yet prepared to give adequate responses. Violence against children is greater than all other unpunished violence because their vulnerability is greater."

6 Members of Car Theft Gang Beaten and Set Afire

The five men and one woman, who suffered severe burns, have been admitted to a hospital.

Officials said residents in San Martin Jilotepeque town hit the criminals with sticks and stones, before setting them ablaze.

The police said the six members of the car-theft gang were trying to escape the town in a stolen vehicle when the residents caught them.

The local residents have been patrolling the neighbourhood by themselves due to inadequate security.