UC Law Journal of Race and Economic Justice


Stacy Kowalski


This Note examines Guatemala’s Ley de Protección Integral de la Niñez y Adolescencia (Law for the Comprehensive Protection of Children and Adolescents, or Ley PINA) and analyzes why this law has not effectively protected the rights of children and adolescents, within the context of historical and structural violence, which contribute to a lack of prioritization of youth in Guatemala. In 2014, the United States experienced a large influx of unaccompanied minors fleeing primarily from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. A delegate of attorneys and law students traveled to Guatemala to interview child advocates, including government officials, and representatives of non-governmental organizations and the United Nations, to understand why Guatemala’s legislative and policy efforts have largely failed to protect its children and

adolescents against grave levels of physical, sexual, psychological, and family violence. This Note draws on these primary sources, as well as publications from secondary sources. These sources confirm that the violence in Guatemala today is shaped by the thirty-six-year civil war and Mayan genocide, foreign political influence, and deep socioeconomic inequality. Traditional patriarchal values have contributed to a practice of treating children as property, not as individuals with rights. Child advocates in Guatemala agree that the State does not properly prioritize the protection of children’s rights. Although the State passed a progressive law, it did not allocate the necessary budget to actually implement the law, rendering it ineffectual. The combination of these conditions results in an ineffective law that is largely not implemented and therefore does not adequately protect Guatemalan youth.

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