Unfortunately, in Latin America the general rule in the prison systems is the structural weakness, overcrowding, and the undeniable presence of parallel powers. These factors, in the majority of cases, seem to be those who most influence when it comes to the respect of the rights of those who serve a sentence within these facilities.
In the case of the LGBT community, a population that faces major problems of discrimination in our society, it is also seriously affected within the penitentiary system in Guatemala. All of this together with widespread violence and large indifference on the part of the authorities.
Despite multiple efforts by civil society to mitigate and contain the effects of the system, the situation is becoming increasingly precarious. Therefore, in mid-2014 the process to generate the 1st diagnosis of the needs of LGBT people deprived of their liberty began.
The main findings include poor training and inexperience of officials and civil servants to manage, in a relevant way, situations related to LGBT people and the high rates of violence toward this community, notably sexual violence (including implications in the spread of STDs and HIV, but especially the effects on the mental health of the affected ones). The diagnosis allowed to discover variables such as ethnicity, levels of access to programming of penalties, the valuation of the conjugal visits as a ground for discrimination, and enabled, among other things, to explore the knowledge of the officials on the legal framework that protects LGBT communities.
It is necessary to point out the serious implications posed by the high rate of sexual violence to the response to HIV. Mass rape, exploitation and human trafficking are commonplace, especially for gay men and trans women. Identifying and pointing out the most squalid areas needs to promote a more strategic response and particularly progress in human rights and equality before the law for collective invisible and marginalized; in addition to combat impunity in these instances of the State.
We still need more to be done to achieve full respect for the rights of LGBT people in prisons, but in Guatemala important steps are being taken.