While statistics on the prevalence of child sexual abuse (CSA) in Guatemala are scarce, the country’s Secretariat against Sexual Violence, Exploitation, and Human Trafficking (SVET) registered over 8,000 cases of sexual violence against children and adolescents in 2021. Reportedly, just a quarter of such cases reach a court within the same year they are recorded. Among various legal protections, Guatemala’s most relevant law for countering CSA is the 2003 Act on the Comprehensive Protection of Children and Adolescents, which protects children and adolescents from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. It defines CSA as abuse “that occurs when a person in a position of power or trust involves a boy, girl, or adolescent in an activity of sexual content that leads to their victimization and by which the offender obtains satisfaction including through any form of sexual harassment.” The country also possesses laws against child pornography and has established a national registry for sex offenders, among other measures.
Numerous government entities play roles in protecting Guatemalan children from sexual abuse as a part of their missions. The government bodies that most explicitly address CSA include SVET, the Secretariat of Social Welfare, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Ministry of the Interior. While additional government bodies play a relevant role in combatting CSA—including the Public Ministry (PM), which is responsible for investigating and prosecuting cases involving CSA, and the Judicial System (OJ), which operates the country’s courts—their budgetary commitments relevant to addressing CSA are not always clear. To further respond to the challenge of CSA, the country initiated a flagship effort in 2019—the Comprehensive Care Model for Children and Adolescents (MAINA)—to provide an integrated, one-stop shop for CSA-related services, including support for victims, recovery and prevention services, and prosecution of offenders, which draws from eleven government ministries, offices, and departments. Finally, the Secretariat of Social Welfare published the Public Policy and Action Plan for the Comprehensive Protection of Childhood and Adolescence (2017-2032), which delineates the respective roles of government entities, outlines the rights of children in Guatemala, and puts forward policy goals to achieve those ends.
The budget allocations for most departments of the Guatemalan government can be found in the annual budget expenses documents published by the Ministry of Finance, where funding can be examined at the ministry-level. There is also a report on “products, sub-products, and goals by institution,” which allows for a further breakdown of how funding may be allocated at the sub-project level within each institution. Notably, however, large government entities such as the PM and OJ are not included in these main budget documents and instead publish their own budgets, which offer only limited detail on how money is allocated internally among different programmatic efforts.
SVET contains some of Guatemala’s most relevant programming for preventing and responding to CSA. Overall, SVET was allocated GTQ 22.0 million for FY 2023, which is broken down into activities such as direction and coordination; prevention, advice, and training; and care services for victims. (See Figure 1). Within the prevention category, which accounted for approximately 28.6 percent of SVET’s funding in FY 2023, CSA is most directly addressed through the categories “Training for boys, girls, and adolescents about sexual violence, exploitation, human trafficking, and their rights” (GTQ 2.6 million) and “Warning, training, information, and awareness for adults regarding sexual violence, exploitation, and human trafficking” (GTQ 1.9 million). Within the advice and training category, funding is also devoted to advising public and private entities regarding compliance with national and international commitments and training them on the prevention, prosecution, elimination, and punishment of related crimes. Notably, most of SVET’s budget is not explicitly focused on children, although many of the programs likely have services relevant to CSA. Less than 5 percent of SVET’s budget is devoted to services for victims, perhaps because other government bodies focus on victim services, such as the Secretariat of Social Welfare and the Office of the Attorney General.
Secretariats and Other Dependencies of the Executive — Protection Against Sexual Violence, Exploitation and Human Trafficking
The Secretariat of Social Welfare engages in a range of specialized support for child victims of abuse, alongside other services for children, such as support for children with disabilities or at risk of drug usage. In FY 2023, the secretariat’s budget totaled GTQ 37.1 million, with roughly GTQ 25.7 million devoted to support services with some relevance to CSA victims. (See Figure 2.) The two categories most relevant to CSA include emotional support and restitution of rights for victims of sexual violence (GTQ 2.5 million) and specialized care for victims of sexual violence, exploitation, and human trafficking (GTQ 7.6 million). There are also a range of spending categories that target social development and support for different age groups, such as support for young children up to age six whose rights have been violated; residential protection for children between the ages of seven and 18; and special support to children between 16 and 18 who are starting an independent life. Notably, while the secretariat’s Public Policy and Action Plan for the Comprehensive Protection of Childhood and Adolescence (2017-2032) provides the country with a framework for addressing CSA, it does not specify needed or projected spending to meet those goals.
Secretariats and Other Dependencies of the Executive — Protection and Residential Care for Children and Adolescents
A range of other government entities contribute additional resources to the prevention and prosecution of CSA cases. The budget for the Office of the Attorney General devotes funding specifically under the category of “Protection of family rights” to the “Representation, protection, and surveillance of the rights of boys, girls, and adolescents.” In FY 2023, this funding was projected to total more than GTQ 41.2 million, or 27.0 percent of the office’s overall budget of GTQ 152.3 million. (See Figure 3.) Though slightly less explicit to CSA, FY 2023 funding within the Ministry of the Interior is devoted to violence-prevention services for children (GTQ 17.7 million) and for domestic violence more generally (GTQ 0.3 million). (See Figure 4.) Combined, these two categories account for 0.2 percent of the ministry’s overall budget of GTQ 7.4 billion.
Office of the Attorney General — Protection of Family Rights
Ministry of the Interior — Violence and Crime Prevention
Data Source: Budget documents 2019, 2022, 2023.
*FY 2020 and FY 2021 figures are the same as FY 2019 because Guatemala’s congress failed to approve new budgets within the term provided by the constitution, thus reverting to the FY 2019 budget; **In FY 2018, this category was labeled “Youth violence prevention services.”
Budget documentation for other government departments that play roles in the prevention of CSA and the provision of care to victims—including the Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance and the Ministry of Social Development—does not contain specific funding allocations for CSA. More information on budgetary commitments within these government entities is important for capturing the breadth of child-protection efforts. For example, the Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance is responsible for the “Protocol for Comprehensive Health Care for Girls and Boys in Situations of Child Maltreatment,” but there is little clarity through national budgets of the resources the ministry commits to addressing CSA.
The Comprehensive Care Model for Children and Adolescents (MAINA) represents a key effort addressing CSA in Guatemala and is a program that “positions Guatemala in the vanguard of juvenile justice in Latin America,” according to the U.S. Agency for International Development, a partner in the initiative. The program supports a one-stop shop—a single all-encompassing facility in Guatemala City—for medical, psychological, social, and legal support to child victims of sexual crimes and abuse; recovery and protection services; and criminal prosecution. Eleven government entities reportedly play roles in the project. While the relevant budgets of many of these organizations have already been discussed—including the Secretariat on Social Welfare, the Office of the Attorney General, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance, and the Ministry of Social Development—others on the list stand out for a lack of clear information about funding related to MAINA or addressing CSA generally. For example, the Public Ministry (PM) and Judicial System (OJ) reportedly play important roles within MAINA, but budgetary commitments to this end are unclear, in part because neither is included within Guatemala’s primary budget documents published by the Ministry of Finance.
Within the PM—an auxiliary institution established to ensure compliance with laws in the country—the Office of the Prosecutor for Children and Adolescents is responsible for investigating and prosecuting cases that involve CSA. While the PM had an overall budget of GTQ 2.1 billion in FY 2021, specific allocations are only intermittently available through quarterly budgets; between January and April 2021, it is possible to see assigned funding for “legal processes for the protection and representation of the rights of children,” totaling GTQ 27.4 million, but this is the only such document available for 2021, with none made available for 2022 or 2023. CSA-relevant funding is also not clear within the OJ—the country’s system of courts—which runs a 24-hour court for handling crimes against children as a part of MAINA and separately publishes relevant resources such as a directory of protection and support organizations for victims. While the OJ appears to publish budget documentation more regularly than the PM, budgeting for purposes directly relevant to MAINA is not clear.
Guatemala’s main budget documents, published by the Ministry of Finance, offer a consistent and clear vision of funding, particularly through SVET and the Secretariat of Social Welfare. They specify numerous aspects of support services for victims as well as resources for prevention, training, and awareness regarding issues of sexual violence, exploitation, and human trafficking. It is hard to establish the extent to which these resources are CSA-specific, however, since there is often no further distinction made among these three issue areas. Other spending that could be relevant to CSA prevention and services for survivors is evident through the Ministry of the Interior and the Office of the Attorney General, though these categories do not reference CSA specifically. While there are notable individual resources and projects relevant to CSA in Guatemala—including Me Conecto Sin Clavos (a website advising safe use of the Internet), Tu Amig@ Svet (an online chat for reporting crime), and Línea 1572 (a public helpline)—their funding is not made clear in national-level budget documentation.
Guatemala has a well-organized budget portal with specific budgetary allocations for goals related to training, awareness, and care services within its Secretariat against Sexual Violence, Exploitation, and Trafficking.
While MAINA is tasked with coordination on issues relevant to CSA, available program documents do not include the scope of resources being spent across all government entities to meet its goals. This information is also not clear within the individual budgets for relevant entities. For example, it is possible to discern that the PM and OJ play integral roles in the implementation of MAINA, and therefore in combating CSA through the program, but the opaque nature of budget documentation for these entities makes it difficult to establish how much either entity is spending toward implementation. Even for the government institutions that have budget allocations designated for mitigating sexual violence and aiding victims such as children, there is no distinction between MAINA-related funding and general spending. In short, there is clear indication that Guatemala’s government is addressing CSA on several levels, including through innovative programs like MAINA, but budgetary contributions need to be made more transparent for better tracking and evaluation.