Advocacy is resistance: Navigating anti-LGBTQI+ violence in post-war Guatemala

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Credit: Asociación Lambda

In 2023, Guatemala witnessed 33 murders of LGBTQI+ individuals. Our Guatemalan counterpart Asociación Lambda documented this surge in violence against the LGBTQI+ community, shedding light on an issue often overlooked.

Racial, colonial and gender hierarchies have deep roots in the country, reaching a high point during Guatemala’s civil war between 1960 and 1996. While widely underreported until recently, the armed conflict further endangered queer and trans people. Little progress has been made in ensuring justice for these crimes or addressing anti-LGBTQI+ violence in post-war Guatemala.

Since the 2010s, the LGBTQI+ movement has engaged in relentless activism to carve out spaces of acceptance for their diverse identities. But the government still resists these efforts, upholding the systemic discrimination and socio-political exclusion of the LGBTQI+ community. More recently, the 2023 electoral process saw right-wing candidates exploiting anti-LGBTQI+ sentiments for political gain, aggravating the violence.

Addressing today’s anti-LGBTQI+ violence requires confronting the past through an intersectional and systemic approach. Peace offers an opportunity to acknowledge past atrocities, but true reconciliation comes from addressing the underlying causes of poverty, violence and discrimination.

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With Inter Pares’ support, Asociación Lambda is at the forefront of the fight for LGBTQI+ justice. Their work takes an intersectional approach to memory building, advocacy and capacity training with LGBTQI+ groups in different regions. They reach beyond Guatemala City to engage rural and Indigenous communities, affirming queers and trans existence.

"Specific groups have specific needs," says Lambda's director Carlos Valdés.

Lambda views the results of the 2023 elections as a new opening for the LGBTQI+ movement to expand. Despite political tensions and violence, Lambda navigates the complex terrain of post-conflict Guatemala, adapting their programming to ensure participants’ safety.

The resilience of the LGBTQI+ community, bolstered by organizations like Lambda, fuels their efforts to create a just and inclusive post-conflict society for all.

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