Guatemala LGBTI Resources

(See Below for Case Law, Evidence of Public Attitudes, NGOs that Assist or Advocate on LGBTI issues, and Country of Origin LGBTI Specialists)



Same-sex acts are legal in Guatemala. However, a bill excluding single parents and same-sex couples from the definition of ‘family’ is pending vote by the Guatemalan legislature.



Martinez v Holder, Attorney General, No 04-72975, US Court of Appeals for the 9th Cir, 3 March 2009
The case did not cover the situation of LGBTI persons in Guatemala, as it dismissed the applicant’s claim for want of credibility on his sexual orientation. However, the dissenting judgment by Judge Pregerson implies that claims from Guatemala based on sexual orientation could have a basis for refugee status.

Grijalva v Gonzales, No 05-3520, US Court of Appeals for the 6th Cir, 8 January 2007
Although the court did not grant the applicant refugee status, it held that return to Guatemala would expose a homosexual man to treatment contrary to the UN Convention Against Torture.



LGBTI persons in Guatemala are at risk of violent attacks and often face abuse and extortion by police authorities to avoid imprisonment, according to the US State Department.

Four transgender persons were reportedly murdered between December 2005 and June 2006, according to the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board. Another transgender person was reportedly fatally shot on 24 February 2011, while a man dressed in women’s clothing was also found dead on 18 July 2011. Victims’ bodies are very often mutilated or burnt, according to the same report. Neither incidents were investigated by the police, according to the US State Department’s 2011 Human Rights Report.

Violent attacks against LGBTI persons continued in 2012, according to Freedom House. On 27 January 2012, police authorities arrested four transgender activists in Quetzaltenango, stripped off their clothing, cut their hair and left them outdoor overnight exposed to cold temperatures. Three transgender persons were killed in 2012.

Victims’ lack of trust in the Guatemalan judicial system accounts for the low number of filed complaints of violence against LGBTI persons, states the US State Department. The State systematically fails to prevent or investigate incidents of LGBTI-related violence, as per a detailed report commissioned in 2012 by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and other human rights groups.

Furthermore, the US State Department notes that LGBTI persons suffer general societal discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, education and health care. 

A number of UN bodies, including the Human Rights Committee, High Commissioner for Human Rights and Population Fund, have recently expressed deep concerns about discrimination and violence against LGBTI persons in Guatemala. During the 2012 Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review, Guatemala was urged to take further steps to protect LGBTI groups from violent attacks and widespread discrimination.



We do not currently list any NGOs working with LGBTI persons in Guatemala, but welcome suggestions.



Dr Harry E. Vanden


Dr Harry E. Vanden is Professor of Political Science and International Studies at the University of South Florida, Tamp. He holds a Ph.D., Political Science with a minor concentration in Latin American Studies from The New School for Social Research, New York and an M.A in Political Science and a graduate Certificate in Latin American Studies from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. He has written and researched extensively on Central America political conditions and Central American Gang Activity. He has also carried out election observation in Nicaragua, Venezuela and Mozambique. He has acted as an expert Witness on country conditions in U.S. Immigration, Federal and State Courts in the areas of general political and social conditions, gangs and gang victimization in Central America, status of homosexuals and domestic violence. His most recent published books include:

  • Social Movements and Leftists Governments in Latin America. London: Zed Press, 2012, Gary Prevost, Carlos Oliva and Harry E. Vanden, eds
  • José Carlos Mariátegui: An Anthology of His Writings. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2011, translated and edited by Harry E. Vanden and Marc Becker
  • Latin America: An Introduction. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011
  • Gary Prevost and Harry E. Vanden; Politics of Latin America: The Power Game. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 4th edition (further revised with additional new chapter on U.S.- Latin American Relations ), 2012, Harry E. Vanden and Gary Prevost
  • Latin American Social Movements in the Twenty-First Century, Resistance, Power, and Democracy, Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008, Richard Stahler-Sholk, Harry E. Vanden and Glen Kuecker, eds (Chosen as a Choice Outstanding Academic Book for 2009)
  • Inter-American Relations in an Era of Globalization. Beyond Unilaterialism? Whitby, Ontario: de Sitter Publications, 2007, Jorge Nef. and Harry E. Vanden, eds.


Researched by: Minos Mouzourakis