Call for action after tear gas attack on gay event in Guatemala

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A gay human rights group has demanded action after recent attacks on gay events in Guatemala.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission said that two incidents where tear gas was used need to be properly investigated by the Guatemalan authorities.

IGLHRC said that on October 18th an HIV prevention event in Samayac Suchitepéquez, a town located 158km from Guatemala City, was granted and then refused permission to use the municipal hall after the mayor was questioned by church groups.

The event ultimately took place in a rental space.

“Although the police provided some protection at the start of the event, their presence was transient,” according to the human rights group.

“After they abandoned the event, someone threw a tear gas bomb into the room where the event was being held.

“While no one was seriously injured, people fainted, children became excessively tearful, and everyone was affected by the fumes.”

IGLHRC said a similar attack took place last year at an LGBTI festival in La Blanca, Ocos San Marcos, a small town 300km from Guatemala City.

LGTBI activists have subsequently been unable to meet in that town.

“In line with this apparent policy of persecuting sexual rights activists, just one month ago police in Flores Costa Cuca Quetzaltenango City arrested representatives of Amigos contra el Sida who were distributing condoms,” said IGLHRC.

“The police claimed they were kidnappers. They were ultimately released after considerable pressure was placed on the authorities.

“Despite the fact that complaints have been made to the authorities, there has been no response.”

ILGHRC is asking people to write to the Guatemalan authorities and demand action – click here for more information.

“We ask that you publicly condemn the attack on the Our Gay Beauty event on October 18th, making it clear that crimes committed on account of peoples’ sexual orientation or gender identity will not be tolerated in Guatemalan society,” said Paula Ettelbrick, ILGHRC’s executive director, in a letter to Guatemala’s Human Rights Associate Procurator.

“We also ask that you ensure that authorities make a full and fair investigation into the crime, and guarantee that once the perpetrators have been identified, they will be punished to the full extent of the law.

“We also request your assurance that adequate police protection will be provided for such events in the future.”

Last year Amnesty International produced a report cataloguing the abuse of gay rights activists in Guatemala and Honduras.

Although homosexuality is legal in both countries, Amnesty said abuse is widespread and shows no signs of improvement.

Activists representing a range of marginalised civil society groups, from indigenous peoples to members of the LGBT community and women’s groups, are targeted by police and the security services in Honduras and Guatemala.

Amnesty documented attacks and threats against human rights defenders working to promote and protect a wide range of rights.