Suelen callar : the institutional perceptions and treatments of the sexuality and sexual abuse of people with intellectual and psychological disabilities in Guatemala

Serrano, Samantha Lynn
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The understandings and treatments of the sexual rights of people with intellectual and psychological disabilities vary in different societies. However, one issue that is common in most societies is that this group of people experiences the highest rates of sexual violence and is regularly a-sexualized. Much attention has been paid to the increasingly visible issues of sexual violence in Latin America in a gendered and racial context, however recent scholarship has neglected to look at sexual violence in the context of people with disabilities. In this text, I aim to uncover how the human rights, and more specifically, sexual rights, are understood and treated for this highly marginalized group of people in Guatemala, a country that has endured heavy amounts of violence and trauma both contemporarily and historically. Through ethnographic fieldwork conducted at institutions for disability services in urban Guatemala, I paint a picture of how the contemporary social and political climate involving violence, nearly complete impunity for crimes, culturally engrained patriarchal norms and neoliberal policies affect this group of people who are often depoliticized through patronizing portrayals in media and the public arena. Using in depth investigations of Guatemalan law and observational work and interviews conducted in public government-funded institutions, NGOs and non-profit organizations and human rights organizations, I seek to reveal the paradigms within the disparate types of institutions for understanding and treating people with disabilities. By questioning the institutional perceptions and treatments of the sexuality and sexual abuse of people with intellectual and psychological disabilities, I seek to examine the different ways cognitive disability has been socially constructed in Guatemala and the different reasons behind this group's social abandonment and high rates of sexual violence towards them. This work problematizes medical and charity models utilized for understanding disability that have been implemented through law, institutional and public policies, and societal misconceptions. This research also challenges Western disability policies and conceptions that have been imposed in developing countries like Guatemala, and questions the possibility to create spaces of local disability rights activism in spite of high risk factors for violence and neoliberal policies that limit political protest.