Sources of Homophobia in Latin America
by Daniel Soto
Many countries in Latin America have to deal with numerous social and economic problems. Like most societies, they seek ways to explain their difficulties, and they look for things that will make them seem, at least to themselves, superior to other societies. So they build their army, to prove that they are strong and powerful and will defend their country to the end. This brings with it hostility toward all "the others", those who are not like us. If you are boasting that you are stronger, smarter and more "macho" than anyone else, sooner or later you have to prove it. So they say, " Hey, in our army we are so macho and strong, that any "JOTO" won’t survive." They go drinking and carousing and whoring and looking for fags to bash, just to prove how macho they are.
A second problem in Latin America is the Roman Catholic Church. It says we must love the homosexual but hate the sin of homosexuality (i.e., gay sex). So, the only way a person can be gay in the eyes of the Church is if they don’t have sex, a most unreasonable expectation, by most recognized psychological standards. The message is quite clear: If you are Catholic and macho then you can not be gay. If you are not gay, then what do you do when you encounter a gay person? The answer is equally clear: You must verbally and physically abuse him to further demonstrate that you are not like him. Oh, but there’s one other thing. Before you beat him up you should have sex with him, just for kicks, of course.
This situation afterwards brings with it great panic on the part of these true homophobes. They have experienced sexual attraction to members of their own sex. This terrifies them, so they feel that by beating up this person, with whom only a moment ago they were so physically intimate, somehow the act of brutality will cleanse them of what they fear is their own homosexuality. They are not feminine, no! They are big macho guys, because they use the faggots for pleasure and then beat them up afterwards.
And so, the circle continues, from father to son, from brother to brother the message is handed down by society. "Gays and lesbians are not human like we are. They are deserving of only our contempt." (I refer more to males because in Latin America men are more actively homophobic than are women because male homosexuality is seen as a great affront to machismo.
Some Latin Americans (not all, by any means) feel so strongly that they are better than everybody else that when they encounter an openly gay Latino they feel that person brings shame to their culture. Why is this? It is because it is what the society teaches them, and it is what the Church teaches them as well. You may observe that this is very similar to the USA, and I have to admit that homophobia is everywhere much the same variety of malicious stupidity and prejudice based upon ignorance. What we end up with are societies that tacitly allow repressed social frustrations to be vented on a despised minority through the use of officially, or unofficially, sanctioned violence. This is how we get five, six, seven or more very macho "straight" guys beating a "faggot" to death in Mexico City, or Chicago, or Buenos Aires, or Rome, or Moscow, or where ever.
This is the truth, my friend. Homophobia any where in Latin America is the same. It is based upon and almost enforced by ignorance and stupidity. And why does it seem to happen more often in Latin America? Why do so many human rights abuses happen so often in Latin America? It is because of the long history and tradition of brutal repression by the military, which has so often usurped civilian authority.
And, to be honest and place responsibility where it belongs, by far the largest amount of "aid" from the United States that Latin America receives has been for the benefit of these repressive military establishments. Furthermore, in Central America, Senator Jesse Helms even held legitimate humanitarian aid hostage to his demand that Nicaragua pass a stiff, anti-homosexual "sodomy law" which punishes homosexual acts with 5 years in prison for men and 2 years for women. I’m sure that most Americans are not aware of these facts, but these are the ways in which the United States has helped to encourage homophobia in Latin America.
I do not say that Latin America is innocent, or that homophobia wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the USA or even for our generals. But I do say that because the rest of the world ignores human rights abuses in Latin America, because gay-bashing is not reported in the news, as it is often not reported everywhere, the growth of such crimes will continue unabated. The so-called civilized world would protest the abuse, torture and murder of South African blacks, so why do we not protest as well the abuse, torture and murder of gay men in Brazil? By the way, South Africa is the only country in the world that has a constitution proclaiming the equality of gay people with straights. Wonder why?
In Chiapas, Mexico, at a political luncheon the governor made a flat statement that all homosexuals should be killed. During a period of less than two years twelve gay men were brutally murdered in Chiapas State. People in this region protested to the Mexican government, but, as usual, nothing was done. Until one day the people of Chiapas decided to take charge and said, among other things, "No more killing of homosexuals. Those people are our brothers!".
Of course there were many, many other abuses in Chiapas, such as the government of Mexico allowing non-indigenous people to move in and take over the land that belongs, by right of treaty, to the Indians. This is what created a situation in Mexico where the people came to feel that they had no recourse but to fight. Now the question is what the USA and the rest of the world did, before and after? Not very much, I’m afraid, except to lend support to a corrupt and repressive government in Mexico City. This is what is meant by the negative influence of the United States in Latin America that encourages homophobia and other human rights abuses.
In Chile, the legislature is trying to repeal the nation’s anti-sodomy laws, but great political pressure, from the radical religious conservatives, is being exerted to keep these repressive statutes in force. Last year in Santiago, off-duty military personnel set fire to a gay bar with some 400 gay men and lesbians inside. To this day not a single arrest has been made in the case. Chile, Ecuador and Nicaragua are the only three countries with specifically anti-homosexual laws on their books.
In El Salvador, however, a gay rights activist, who is also a vocal advocate for people with AIDS, was beaten almost to death by members of a neo-Fascist paramilitary group. Now that communists have been virtually eliminated as their enemy, such ultra conservative organizations increasingly turn their brutal attention toward gays and lesbians.
In Brazil, the country in Latin America with by far the highest rate of HIV infection, a gay man was severely beaten last year by the police simply because he was distributing free condoms on the streets of Rio de Janeiro. It should also be pointed out that in Brazil the position of women is so tenuous and male machismo so pervasive men regularly get away with murdering their wives by employing no more substantial defense than to say that the women had been unfaithful.
All these instances of abuse are born largely of a near-maniacal, hetero-male obsession with strictly enforced social conformity. Acts, which can only be described as pure terrorism, are perpetrated against gay people so they won’t dare to come out of the closet, thereby preserving at least a patina of social uniformity. In these societies, dominated, as they are, by a grotesquely over-inflated vision of machismo, one can only be even marginally tolerated as a gay person if he is perhaps a transvestite or a drag queen who hides his male identity in women’s clothes.
These types are not considered to be any threat to masculinity, but only ridiculous and funny, perhaps slightly crazy, creatures of no consequence. But if you speak up and want recognition simply as a lesbian or a gay man, the system will not tolerate you. You must be silenced through intimidation, harassment, beating or even death. In countries like Costa Rica, Argentina and Uruguay the struggle of GLB people is not over by any means, but things have improved somewhat. This improvement has come in Costa Rica, for example, as a result of the fact that the country no longer has a standing army.
Over a period of nearly fifty years this removal of the strong influence of the military has helped to eliminated much of the former super-macho mentality from Costa Rican society in general. Argentina and Uruguay have both gone through very repressive times in recent years when the army was in control for long periods, but they are now emerging from those dark times into the light of liberal democracies that respect the rights of individual human beings. There is a saying that goes: My freedom ends where your freedom begins. If we can only learn to respect each other as human beings, we will have learned the secret of the truly good and happy life.
We must strengthen our ties with our gay brothers and sisters in Latin America. As members of the International GLB family, we must stick together. On Arenal, the Internet e-mail list for Spanish speaking people, there are often postings of appalling stories about the abuse of gay people in places such as Venezuela, Spain, Argentina, Chile and even Costa Rica. We must continue to write letters to those governments and universities that tolerate, or even lend their tacit support to such atrocities so they will know that the world is indeed watching.
13 January 2009 – unaids.org
HIV prevention hampered by homophobia
Every two or three days a person is killed in Brazil in violence connected with his or her sexuality, according to Brazil’s oldest gay rights association, Grupo Gay da Bahia (GGB). In Mexico, the reported figure is nearly two a week. Most of the victims are men who have sex with other men (MSM) – whether they are gays or bisexuals – or transgender people. But if Brazil and Mexico top the table of violence against men who have sex with men in Latin America, this may be because rights groups there monitor the situation more closely than elsewhere in Latin America. Much violence simply goes unreported elsewhere, gay activist organizations say.
“Brazil and Mexico are the only countries which have a register, which keep track of the murders. That does not mean necessarily that there is more violence there,” says Arturo Díaz Betancourt of the Mexican National Council for the Prevention of Discrimination. It is notable that when the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Killings made an official mission to Guatemala in 2006 his attention was drawn to a series of murders of gay and transgender people, and his subsequent report to the Human Rights Council stated “There has been impunity for murders motivated by hatred towards persons identifying as gay, lesbian, transgender, and transsexual. Credible information suggests that there were at least 35 such murders between 1996 and 2006. Given the lack of official statistics and the likely reticence if not ignorance of victims’ family members, there is reason to believe that the actual numbers are significantly higher.”
Many Latin American countries boast socially advanced legislation when it comes to defending sexual freedom and orientation. With law reform in Nicaragua and Panama over the past 12 months, there are now no states in Latin America which criminalize homosexual relations, for example. Yet perhaps influenced by a lingering “machismo”, prejudice and discrimination continue to flourish, whatever the laws say. Latin America is widely regarded as having a long way to go to successfully counter homophobia, or “fear or hatred of homosexuals.”
“There is a real contrast between reality and theory. This is the developing region of the world with the highest number of laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation,” says Dr. Ruben Mayorga, UNAIDS Country Coordinator for Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. Aside from the individual pain homophobic attitudes inflict, the continuing stigma attached to same-sex relations is complicating hugely the task of slowing the spread of HIV in a region where sex between men is a leading mode of HIV transmission, health experts say. Stigma and homophobia increase the isolation of gays, bisexuals and transgender people making them more reluctant to come forward, be identified and get advice.
“Homophobia represents a threat to public heath in Latin America,” the Pan American Health Organization affirmed in a report. “This form of stigma and discrimination based on sexual orientation does not just affect the mental and physical health of the homosexual community, but contributes to the spread of the HIV epidemic.”
UNAIDS has long campaigned against discrimination whether against those infected by the HIV virus or against a person for his or her sexual orientation.
Main source of new HIV infections
The urgency in Latin America is underlined by official reports on the state of the HIV epidemic in Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru where sex between men is acknowledged as being the main source of new HIV infections. HIV prevalence is far higher than in the general population with rates of between 10% and 20% in many Latin America’s main cities.
In its 2008 report to the UN General Assembly (UNGASS) on the state of the HIV epidemic, Brazil stated that MSM are 11 times more likely to be HIV positive than the population as a whole. In parts of Central America, where there is major political and social resistance to recognising the rights of gays, lesbians and transgender people, HIV incidence rates amongst MSM are particularly high. And the impacts of these high rates of HIV extend beyond men who have sex with men themselves. In Peru, for example, most women who get infected by the virus get it from men who have had sex with other men, according to a Health Ministry study, thus prevention among MSM is crucial for effective prevention of HIV transmission to women.
Prevention fails to keep pace
Spending on HIV prevention amongst MSM in Latin America is well below what is called for by the extent of the epidemic within that group. On average, less than 10% of the money spent on prevention goes into campaigns aimed specifically at MSM, according to UNAIDS. In Bolivia, it was estimated in 2005 that fewer than 3% of MSM had access to prevention services, compared with 30% coverage for sex workers.
“All these years, prevention has not been carried out where it needs to be, which is where the epidemic lies,” said Díaz. “They have not worked with gays, with trans (gender people), on the contrary there is rejection and deep discrimination,” he said, referring to the situation across the region. The explanation lies in a mix of political, cultural and even religious factors, rights activists and health officials say. “Politically, MSM is not something to make a lot of noise about. In most countries and by many institutions it is not sees as a political gain,” says Mayorga.
Religious groups, whether Roman Catholic or evangelical, which regard sexual relations between people of the same sex as “sinful” have often strenuously opposed attempts to pay special attention to MSM. “Governments are highly influenced by religious sectors that mobilise against policies that benefit gays, bisexuals or trans,” says Orlando Montoya, who works in Ecuador with ASICAL, an organization promoting the health of gays, other MSM and lesbians in Latin America.
However, it is hard to generalize. Some churches have been at the forefront of outreach to men who have sex with men and many local religious organizations in Latin America have responded to HIV with tolerance and compassion, including among the most marginalized populations.
But it is not just a question of country governments not paying due attention to MSM. Latin America has not attracted the level of international investment in stemming HIV epidemics that has been seen in other parts of the world — in Asia and in Africa. To some extent, the region has been victim of the three “nots” when it comes to receiving international financing for its HIV efforts, Mayorga says. It is ‘not’ very populated, it is ‘not’ very poor and it is ‘not’ a very big epidemic.
Rules covering assistance by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the principal international financing arm against the diseases, have worked against the region because they have tended to exclude middle and upper middle income countries, such as Argentina and Chile. However, the Fund has recently agreed to study proposals for assistance for programmes in better-off countries facing concentrated epidemics with HIV prevalence rates of over 5 % in groups at risk, such as MSM, drug users, transgendered people or sex workers.
Renewing the focus
In the face of the persistent evidence of neglect, there are some positive signs in the region that MSM epidemics will be responded to with more adequate measures and policies. In the past four or five years, Brazil and Mexico, and to a more limited extent Argentina and Colombia, have run campaigns against homophobia. These countries, together with others, have also sought to incorporate special MSM action into programmes to contain the spread of HIV.
The official programme “Brazil without Homophobia” was launched in 2004, with the aim of improving the service given to gays, other MSM and transgender people within state health institutions. It will also scale up coverage and the response to the HIV epidemic within these groups. Peru has launched a national plan giving priority to prevention programmes for what are defined as “most-affected” groups – which include MSM, sex workers and prisoners. With financing from the Global Fund, the plan aims to extend prevention coverage to at least 25% of MSM and 50 percent of sex workers.
Similarly, Bolivia has drawn up a national plan to cut HIV infection rates by half by 2015, which includes campaigns to strengthen rights of MSM and transgender people and to combat discrimination and stigma. Despite these promising developments, Latin America is still a long way from getting its MSM epidemics under control and homophobia and stigma remain significant stumbling blocks to achieving it.
June 11, 2009 – Human Rights Watch
LGBT Rights Movement: Progress and Visibility Breed Backlash
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Rights Defenders Need Resources, Broader Support
(New York) – Activists working for the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in many countries are still under-resourced, unnecessarily isolated, and vulnerable to violent backlash even after four decades of struggle, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The 44-page report, "Together, Apart: Organizing around Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Worldwide," demonstrates that many groups defending LGBT rights – especially throughout the global South – still have limited access to funding, and courageously face sometimes-murderous attacks without adequate support from a broader human rights community.
"Dozens of countries have repealed sodomy laws or enshrined equality measures, and that’s the good news as activists celebrate their successes during Gay Pride month," said Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch and the principal author of the report. "But visibility breeds violence, and there is a pressing need for new support and protection."
The report is based on written surveys and in-depth interviews with more than 100 activists working for LGBT rights in five regions: sub-Saharan Africa; the Middle East and North Africa; Eastern Europe and Central Asia; the Asia and Pacific region; and Latin America and the Caribbean. In each region, the report outlines prevailing patterns of abuse and rights violations; the political and social challenges, and opportunities that activists see ahead; and key strategies these movements are using to achieve social change.
The report shows widely disparate rights situations in different regions. In Latin America, for instance, decades of coalition work between LGBT activists and other social movements – including women’s and mainstream human rights groups – have led to sweeping legal changes, with most sodomy laws in the region repealed and new anti-discrimination protections being debated. Yet repressive laws and pervasive violence based on gender identity and expression often remain unremedied. In much of sub-Saharan Africa, the report found, waves of backlash regularly greet the efforts of LGBT activists to make their voices heard, often silencing them with brutal violence. Extremist religious groups – some with support from kindred denominations in North America – actively promote prejudice and hatred.
Key findings of the report include:
* Organizations working on sexual orientation and gender identity still lack resources, as well as adequate support from other human rights movements. Increasing funding for these rights defenders, and building their political alliances, is crucial.
* Defenders of LGBT people’s rights, and of sexual rights in general, routinely face extraordinary levels of violence. In Jamaica, an angry crowd surrounded a church where a gay man’s funeral was being held and beat the mourners. In Kenya, one group told Human Rights Watch matter-of-factly that its members were "attacked by an angry mob who wanted to lynch them and they had to be evacuated under tight security."
* Sexuality has become a dangerous cultural and religious battleground. Increasingly, both politicians and conservative religious leaders manipulate issues of gender and sexuality to win influence or preserve power. They characterize LGBT people as alien to their communities, outsiders whose rights and lives do not matter.
* The need to change laws is still a central issue – but in many different contexts. More than 80 countries still have "sodomy laws" that criminalize consensual, adult same-sex sexual relations. Yet even in countries that have scrapped these provisions, laws on "public scandals," "indecency," "wearing the clothing of the opposite sex," and sex work are still in place, allowing widespread police harassment of transgender people and others. Enshrining equality for lesbian and gay people in South Africa’s constitution produced an example of global importance, for instance. Yet South Africa’s government is still not fully committed to equality at all levels, or capable of curtailing sexual violence.
The report also details creative strategies that activists have used to combat prejudice and promote equality. In India, activists have combined a legal challenge to the sodomy law with a wide-ranging public campaign to change public attitudes. In Brazil, transgender groups have fostered visibility and countered discrimination through simple monthly excursions to public spaces such as shopping malls or beaches. Activists told Human Rights Watch this helps trans people "feel strong in a group and face those spaces they believe are ‘off limits’ for them. And it is also meant to educate the public to see transgender people as citizens …with whom they can share a movie or a game and the beach."
This year is the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City, the historic and galvanizing clashes between LGBT people and the police that many see as marking the beginning of the modern US gay rights movement. Yet the US still has fewer protections for LGBT people’s equality than countries such as Brazil or South Africa.
"As the United States prepares to commemorate the 40th anniversary of its own gay rights movement, this report points to lessons of struggles and successes in other countries that everyone can learn from," said Long. The research and publication of "Together, Apart" were supported by the generosity of the Arcus Foundation, a US-based philanthropic foundation whose mission embraces achieving social justice that is inclusive of sexual orientation, gender identity, and race.
November 28, 2009 – On Top Magazine
Report: Inequalities Fueling AIDS Pandemic In Latin America
by On Top Magazine Staff
A new report released ahead of World AIDS Day says social and economic inequalities are fueling the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Latin America and the Caribbean. The International Red Cross released its findings Friday in Bogota, Columbia.
“Despite efforts to reduce the impact of HIV in the region, many of these factors have not been adequately addressed,” says the report. “Most countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are affected by social and economic inequality which creates a growing gap in health conditions between those who can afford medical services and have access to higher education and those who live in precarious conditions with little or no medical services and limited access to education and prevention information.”
Haiti continues to lead the region with the highest rate of infection, while Chile has the lowest. New infections for Latin American in 2007, the latest estimates available, totaled 140,000, bringing up to 1.7 million the number of people living with HIV in the region. About three-quarters of the estimated 230,000 people living with HIV in the Caribbean are from Haiti and the Dominican Republic. In total, 77,000 people died of AIDS in 2007, the report said.
Sex between men is the primary mode of transmission in Latin America, while unprotected heterosexual intercourse is driving the Caribbean’s epidemic. Sex between men also plays a significant factor in the epidemics of several Caribbean nations. Epidemics in Latin America and the Caribbean remain largely confined to members of at-risk groups: men who have sex with men, prisoners, sex workers and injecting drug users. One example cited was in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina and its largest city, where HIV infection among bisexual and gay men is between 7 and 15 percent, but the nation has an overall low infection rate, just .06 percent of adults.
The report concludes that the region’s most vulnerable populations and minorities are bearing the brunt of the pandemic; social and economic inequalities widen the gap.
“Understanding the local specificities of the HIV pandemic is key to success in reducing the scale of HIV transmission. It is vital to work directly with most at risk populations to try to prevent further infections, employing a range of approaches such as peer education and behaviour change communication,” Julie Hoare, the IFRC’s health and social services coordinator for the Americas, said in a statement. “Addressing vulnerability by advocating on behalf of the most vulnerable communities confronted with the threat of HIV, improving access to services and reducing stigma and discrimination are equally important.”
June 2010 – MSMGF.org
The Coalition Of LGBTTTI Organizations From 17 Latin American And Caribbean Countries Working Within The OAS Supports The Approval Of The Third Resolution On Human Rights, Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity
The Organization of American States (OAS), convened in its 40th General Assembly in Lima, Peru, approved today a resolution on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity in the countries of the Americas. This resolution is the result of the advocacy and coordination activities realized in the past four years by more than 20 LGBTTTI groups of 17 countries forming a Coalition of Latin America and the Caribbean, that meets every year before the General Assembly to coordinate its advocacy work within the OAS.
As usual, the coalition held a parallel event in preparation to the General Assembly to discuss strategies of involvement and advocacy within the OAS and more specifically during the 40th General Assembly. Guest participants at the event included Ambassador Santiago Canton, Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights who expressed the commitment of the body in monitoring human rights violations on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity and offered an overview of the remedies available for the LGBTTTI communities in the region; Dante Negro, director of the Department of International Law of the OAS, who offered a detailed legal analysis of the draft resolution “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” and highlighted the achievement obtained within the OAS on the issue; Irene Klinger, director of the Department of International Relations of the OAS, who highlighted the importance of the involvement of LGBTTTI civil society in all processes of the Organization, and particularly in its 40th General Assembly. A delegation of UNAIDS Peru also attended the meeting.
During the informal dialogue between the Secretary General of the OAS and the civil society in Lima, three delegates from the LGBTTTI coalition questioned Secretary General José Miguel Insulza on some of the most relevant human rights violations occurring in the hemisphere, such as: the existence of legislation criminalizing same sex conducts in the English-speaking Caribbean and the related human rights abuses; human rights violations committed against the travesti, transsexual and transgender communities, as well as the lack of legal recognition of gender identity, by most of the member states; the restrictive trend that Peru is taking on the issue, specifically by having repealed reference to sexual orientation and gender identity from antidiscrimination clauses of several pieces of legislation. Mr. Insulza, recently re-elected for a second mandate to lead the Organization, confirmed and reiterated his commitment and the commitment of the Organization to keep engaging with the aim of combating discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The day after, in the context of the dialogue between the heads of delegations of member states and the civil society, Sherlina Nageer, Guyanese activist and representative of the Society against Sexual Orientation Discrimination, read a statement as spokesperson of the coalition in which activists from Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Dominican Republic, Paraguay, Brazil, Ecuador, Haiti, Guyana, Jamaica, and Belize reiterated to the ministers of foreign affairs the concerns already discussed on the previous day, additionally requesting member states to amend their domestic violence legislation to include the issue of violence experienced by lesbian and trans women within their families.
The Ambassador of Brazil to the Organization of the American States focused his intervention on the fight against homophobia reminding of the initiative that president Lula of Brazil recently undertook by officially establishing May 17th as national day against homophobia.
Brazil also reminded of their sponsorship of the draft resolution “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity”. During the Assembly, the delegates from the LGBTTTI coalition had a chance to have a formal meeting with Felipe Gonzalez, current Chairperson of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to discuss human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the hemisphere.
On June 8th, during the last plenary session, the Annual Report of the Permanent Council (2009-2010), which contains the resolutions approved by the Permanent Council itself was presented. Among those, the resolution AG/RES. 2600 (XL-O/10) “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” was adopted. Its text ratifies what was established in the previous years by the resolutions AG/RES.2435 (XXXVIII-O/08) and AG/RES. 2504 (XXXIXO/ 09) entitled “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity”.
The new resolution, presented by Brazil and co-sponsored by Bolivia, not only condemns acts of violence and human rights violations perpetrated against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, and expresses its concern for violence against human rights defenders that work on related violations, but calls on member states to take all necessary measure to combat violations on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, ensuring full access to justice to the victims, and request the Inter-
American Commission on Human Rights to consider the possibility of conducting a thematic study. For the first time, the resolution includes the notion of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, inviting the states to adopt measures against it. As a Coalition, we celebrate the approval of this third resolution that we consider one of the tangible results of the advocacy work started in 2006 by Global Rights, Mulabi – Espacio Latinoamericano de Sexualidades y Derechos and IGLHRC – LAC, by coordinating the creation of this coalition that initially focused its work on the advocacy for the inclusion of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression in the draft Inter-American Convention against Racism and all Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance.
We thank Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and Global Rights for their support to make sure our participation to this General Assembly.
November 14, 2010 – The Barbados Advocate
Commentary: Stop discrimination against Blacks and gays
by Sir Ronald Sanders
Michael Kirby, a former Justice of the High Court of Australia, drew a recent report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to my attention. It confirms what Caribbean countries had always heard about the way people of African descent are treated in some Latin American and Caribbean countries, and it also flags-up the legal intolerance and criminalisation of homosexuals and lesbians in the countries of the English-Speaking Caribbean because of their sexual preferences.
According to the report, during its 140th period of sessions from October 20 to November 5, 2010, the Commission held 52 hearings and 28 working meetings and concluded that “structural human rights problems still persist in the region.” These include the situation involving people of African descent, women, persons deprived of liberty, and the gay community.
The Commission expressed its concern about information it received about persistent practices in the Dominican Republic whereby persons of Haitian descent “who were born in that country” are denied their right to nationality. The Commission believes that Dominican Republic’s argument that “there are no stateless persons in that country, since children born to Haitians in the Dominican Republic can be registered at the Haitian consulate”, is incompatible with the Inter-American Convention and case law of the Inter-American Commission and Court.”
Of course, the Dominican Republic is not the only place in which Haitians or persons born of Haitian parents are denied basic rights. In the Turks and Caicos Islands, it was well known that the Haitian migrant community was exploited as a work force and denied the right to become “belongers” or citizens, and in the latter case the consideration was not racial, it was pure and unadulterated xenophobia practised against people of the same race. Sadly, this latter phenomenon has also been witnessed in the countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) where discrimination has been ruthlessly applied in immigration controls against people of African descent while a blind eye has been turned to Europeans and other non-black peoples.
The Commission also reported excessive use of police force against Afro-descendants in Brazil. The report said the IACHR had “received troubling information about the high rates of crime and police violence in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Espírito Santo, Bahia, and Pernambuco, and heard petitioners’ allegations regarding the close link between these violent deaths and racial discrimination”.
Charges of “institutional racism” was also levelled at Brazil and petitioners claim that it contributes to the “high levels of harassment, deprivation of liberty, and executions among the population of African descent in Brazil, as well as the underreporting of violent deaths perpetrated by the police”. Costa Rica was also fingered in the report for poor human rights practices toward Afro-Caribbean people in the canton of Talamanca. The IACHR was informed that Talamanca has the lowest index of social development nationally, along with the highest levels of extreme poverty and illiteracy in the country.
As a point of general concern, the Commission received what it called “sobering information” about the risk, threats, and the troubling number of murders of human rights leaders and defenders among the Afro-descendant population in various countries of the region. All CARICOM countries, with the exception of the British Colony Montserrat, are members of the Organisation of American States (OAS) and are entitled to seek election to the IACHR. However, of the seven members now serving on the Commission, none of them are from the Caribbean.
26 May 2011 – TruthOut
Latin America Progresses Forward – a Victory for Gay Rights
by Katie Soltis, Council on Hemispheric Affairs
The Brazilian Supreme Court’s recognition of same-sex unions in early May marks the latest victory for gay rights in Latin America. The Court’s ruling grants equal legal rights to same-sex civil unions as those enjoyed by married heterosexuals, including retirement benefits, joint tax declarations, inheritance rights, and child adoption. While the Supreme Court did not go so far as to legalize gay marriage, gay rights groups such as Rio de Janeiro’s Rainbow Group have nevertheless praised the decision as an "historic achievement."1 The decision passed 10-0 with one abstention, but the justice who abstained had previously spoken in favor of same-sex unions.
An Unlikely Victory
As the world’s largest Roman Catholic country, Brazil was an unlikely venue for such a promising gay rights victory. The Roman Catholic Church has actively fought proposals for same-sex unions in Brazil, arguing that the Brazilian Constitution defines a "family entity" as "a stable union between a man and a woman."2 The Catholic Church responded to the recent ruling with outrage. As Archbishop Anuar Battisti put it, the Supreme Court’s decision marked a "frontal assault" on the sanctity of the family.3
The Catholic Church is losing its power in Brazil, which helped pave the way for the Supreme Court’s recent decision in favor of homosexuals. Nevertheless, homophobia retains a tenacious grip on Brazilian society. Despite the fact that the nation boasts the world’s largest gay pride parade, the LGBT movement has been unable to achieve fundamental progress and quell discrimination at a societal level. For instance, Marcelo Cerqueira, the head of the Gay Group of Bahia, claims the country is "number one when it comes to assassination, discrimination and violence against homosexuals."4 Additionally, in a disconcerting report, the Gay Group of Bahia found that 260 Brazilian gay people were murdered in 2010, exemplifying the level of hostility towards homosexuals. Because of this discriminating environment, gay rights activists traditionally have had little success in Brazil. Most notably, Congress disregarded proposals for gay rights legislation for nearly ten years.
The Supreme Court’s recent ruling was therefore a major turning point after a history of protracted, unsuccessful struggles. The judicial decision was made in response to two lawsuits, one of which was filed by Rio de Janeiro Governor Sérgio Cabral and the other by the Office of the Attorney General. While Congress repeatedly ignored requests for equal rights for gay Brazilian citizens, the Supreme Court argued that "Those who opt for a homosexual union cannot be treated less than equally as citizens."6 In this way, by appealing to the judicial system, the LGBT movement was able to achieve success despite deep-seated hostility throughout Brazilian society and in other branches of the government.
Latin America’s Gay Rights Revolution
Professor Omar Encarnación of Bard College calls the recent string of gay rights legislation in Latin America a "gay rights revolution."7 Brazil’s ruling came on the heels of several other noteworthy gay rights victories in Latin America, such as Uruguay’s legalization of same-sex civil unions in 2007. Shortly thereafter, in 2010, Argentina became the first Latin American nation and eighth nation worldwide to legalize gay marriage. Other landmark decisions in the past few years include Uruguay’s decision to allow all men and women, regardless of sexual orientation, to serve in the military and Mexico City’s legalization of same-sex civil unions.
May 10, 201 – Sentidog
(Translated from Spanish)
Launch Campaign "Cures That Kill" to combat homophobia in Latin America
May 17 marks the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia lesbophobia (IDAHO). This date marks the historical fact that the World Health Organization in 1990, removed homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Diseases and Related Health Problems.
Cures That Kill
In Latin America, a coalition of organizations for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) takes this day to bring attention to therapy to "convert" lesbian, gay and transgender people are employed at all the countries of the region, although not authorized by WHO and by most national psychiatric associations. They are collecting signatures from the international community in support of International Manifesto "CURES TO KILL: A life without discrimination is a right" from the website created for the occasion and Facebook.
International Manifesto Summary
May 17 marks the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia lesbophobia as in 1990, in a historical echo, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially accepted homosexuality as a natural variation of human sexuality . Since then, the international scientific community is opposed to all approaches that consider homosexuality a disease that must be "cured." Medical and political consensus is also growing around the world, in the sense of adopting the same approach to transsexuality.
Opposing this, some conservative voices still preach and promote the so-called "reparative therapy", often with the support of religious and sometimes even in public institutions. (Read case in Argentina) These "treatments" are not only ineffective, but rather reinforce feelings of guilt and low self-esteem, increase psychological distress and, in extreme cases, lead people to suicide. Moreover, by spreading homophobia and transphobia lesbophobia, incite discrimination, assaults and murders. The large regional campaign for Latin America and the Caribbean "Cures To Kill" opposes any therapy that seeks to "cure" homosexuality and transsexuality.
We demand that governments adhere to the principle of secularism States
Latin American and Caribbean countries and take concrete measures to combat the practice "reparative" of homosexuality and transsexuality, including the disruption of any public funding to institutions or individuals that are not clearly distanced from such practices. Demand that the national or local public health to withdraw from public health systems and private individuals who practice or promote practices "reparative" of homosexuality and transsexuality.
We urge that private donors and financial inclusion as a criterion in approving requests for support, the rejection of speech therapy "reparative" that violate human rights. Request that the religious authorities strongly condemn the use of discourses that suggest and / or promote processes of "repair" of homosexuality and transsexuality, and to promote the acceptance of sexual diversity and gender as variables of human nature.
August 24, 2011 – International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
Inter-American Court to Hear First-Ever LGBT Case to Determine Lesbian Mother Bias in Custody Dispute
Today, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights heard the case of Karen Atala Riffo, a judge and lesbian mother who was stripped of custody of her two daughters by the Supreme Court of Chile in 2003. The Court hearing was held in Bogotá, Colombia. Atala, who won in lower court decisions, lost custody of her children when the High Court ruled that she was an unfit mother on the basis of her sexual orientation. Atala sought justice through the Inter-American Human Rights System, which redresses human rights violations committed by states.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights subsequently reviewed the case and in early 2011 issued a decision in Atala’s favor. The case was heard by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which will issue a legally binding decision with which the government of Chile has agreed to abide. This case is the first time the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has ever heard a case specifically regarding sexual orientation or gender identity. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), the International Women’s Human Rights Law Clinic at the City University of New York (CUNY), MADRE, the law firm Morrison & Foerster and others, monitored the Inter-American Court session and will submit an amicus curae brief demonstrating the growing trend in customary international law that discrimination based on sexual orientation violates protected human rights.
“What happened to Karen Atala represents discrimination of the crudest sort. For no reason other than her sexuality, a court separated a mother from her children. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights now has an opportunity to render a decision that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is wrong.” Such a verdict will send a message to every state party to the American Convention on Human Rights — from the village court all the way to national supreme courts — that sexual orientation has no bearing on a parent’s ability to raise healthy children,” said Jessica Stern, Director of Programs for IGLHRC.
“Ignoring the growing international trend against discrimination based on sexual orientation, the highest court of Chile has institutionalized discrimination in this case, with the denial of Atala’s parental rights. Perversely, Atala is recognized as fit to uphold the highest principles of justice as a judge, and yet the Supreme Court found that she is not fit to carry out the duties of a mother. Indeed, Chile makes no attempt to deny that its action was on the basis of Ms. Atala’s sexual orientation,” said Lisa Davis, Adj. Professor of Law for the IWHR Clinic at CUNY Law School.