A woman holds up a sign during a protest to mark International Women's Day in Guatemala City, Guatemala March 8, 2022. REUTERS/Sandra Sebastian

Guatemala’s Congress approved on Tuesday a law that punishes abortion with up to 25 years in prison and prohibits same-sex marriage and teaching about sexual diversity in schools.

Proposed by the conservative Viva Party, the law for the protection of life and the family was unexpectedly approved by a large majority of lawmakers including allies of President Alejandro Giammattei.

The legislation had been on ice since 2018 and still has to be published in the official gazette to come into force.

The penalty for an abortion was increased from between five to 10 years to 25 years – except when the life of the mother is in danger.

The law also prohibits teaching children and young adults about sexual diversity and gender ideology and stipulates that no orientations other than heterosexuality are “normal”, the draft text shows.

Activists and some politicians have criticized the law, which was passed on International Woman’s Day.

Guatemala’s human rights ombudsman, Jordan Rodas, said he would challenge it on human rights grounds.

“It violates human rights, it violates the international agreements ratified by Guatemala, it is a setback to freedoms,” Rodas told reporters outside Congress.

Some lawmakers argued that the law promotes hatred, homophobia and unfairly criminalizes women.

SOURCE: REUTERS

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