Gay Politics in Venezuela
As the LGBT rights movement matures throughout Latin America, it’s thrilling to be witness to history. One aspect of maturity is political engagement and in countries such as Chile, Mexico, Colombia and Brazil, the shape of engagement sometimes takes the form of openly gay candidates daring to run for office (and in the case of Mexico’s Patria Jimenez or Enoe Uranga, actually winning).
Now it is Venezuela’s turn.
Not that it is a first. Oswaldo Reyes, widely recognized as a pioneer in bringing homosexuality out of the closet in Venezuela by becoming one of the movement’s first out leaders, was also the first person to run for political office in Caracas as a openly gay man in the late 1990’s. Unfortunately – as some of the other candidates in Latin America – he seemed to run only on the fact that he was gay (and incorrectly assumed that he could win by counting on the gay vote alone). Rumors of campaign improprieties also followed him and tainted his reputation for the rest of his life. Mr. Reyes died earlier this year leaving an indisputable political legacy including the fact that he was the first one to call for constitutional protections for Venezuela’s LGBT community during his failed candidacy to the National Assembly in 1999.
Now comes the December 2005 regional elections.
November 30, 2005 – Green Left Weekly
Venezuela: Struggling for gay and lesbian rights
Revolutionary Venezuela is challenging the centuries-old prejudices of machismo and homophobia, the legacy of Spanish colonialism in Latin America. Yet as Heisler Vaamonde of the Revolutionary Gay Movement (MGR) told Green Left Weekly’s Kiraz Janicke and Federico Fuentes, they still have a way to go. Vaamonde is standing as a candidate outside of the official “Chavista” pro-revolutionary alliance for the December 4 National Assembly elections in Venezuela. He works in the office for the promotion of social rights in Alcaldia in Caracas and is also the coordinator of the Bolivarian Network of Homosexuals, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transexuals and Transgenders, and a strong campaigner against what he describes as the “Catholic neo-inquisition”.
On December 15, 2002, three years after the new constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela was adopted, President Hugo Chavez said on his weekly television program Alo Presidente that a big mistake had been made in 1999 during the National Constituent Assembly, when the rights of gays and lesbians were left out of the new constitution. According to Vaamonde, “something awoke in the minds of many gays and lesbians that support Chavez, an interest to form a space that would allow us to defend the revolution”.
“ The Movimiento Ambiente Venezuela (MAV), the first gay rights organisation in Venezuela, formed in 1980, was focused on social work, removing itself from what it deemed to be political”, Vaamonde said. However, “there is no contradiction between activism and politics. Through politics you can achieve a clear objective and you can improve the conditions of a sector of the population like ours … It is for that reason that the Movimiento Gay Revolucionario was born, to bring into equilibrium social and political work.”
Vaamonde explained how at the National Constituent Assembly in 1999, Osvaldo Reyes, from the MAV and pioneer of the gay-rights movement in Venezuela, presented a proposal “that had in it the concept of no discrimination against gays and lesbians. This was to elaborate against discrimination at a constitutional level.”
Vaamonde explained that the interference of the Catholic Church in the Constituent Assembly blocked the passage of this resolution. “This constitution rejected the interests of the church, but the church still had a direct impact on the discussions over abortion, euthanasia and the rights of gays and lesbians, and this led to these issues being excluded from the constitution.”
According to Vaamonde, had that article been approved, “under no circumstances could we be discriminated against, such as [over] the issue of gay marriage”. However, he added, “the participation of a gay activist, who did not win, but participated in the vote … ensured that the issue of homosexuality was discussed openly in the revolutionary process”.
After this, the MGR presented proposals for an anti-discrimination law in the National Assembly. But according to Vaamonde, “The politicians did not want to listen to us gays. We had believed that because they were revolutionaries they would have a vision, a broader mind, but it was all to the contrary … we had too many obstacles from them for us to obtain results. There was not the political will on the part of the National Assembly, from the Chavistas, because the right-wing never even opened the door for us, they would not give us a yes or no answer, they were always ‘considering it’… well in the waiting we never got there.”
From this experience the MGR decided on “the necessity of taking our own candidates to the elections”. While Vaamonde isn’t sure how many people in the gay and lesbian community support the revolutionary process, “what we do know is that there isn’t a gay opposition. The discussion has generally been very positive in favour of the government, so much so that we have been one of the most important movements in the revolution.”
However, Vaamonde added: “Unfortunately we have personalities in the government behind Chavez that are not exactly revolutionary. Chavez is a revolutionary, but there are reformists around him.” For Vaamonde, getting gay and lesbian deputies elected would signify that there is a real “revolution within the revolution”. They would aim “for the creation of a national law which seeks no discrimination against lesbians and gays”. This would include the creation of a special commission of the National Assembly to study the levels of discrimination faced by gays and lesbians and present a plan for the implementation of anti-discrimination laws.
Vaamonde explained that the state is not responsible for discrimination, “rather it is a cultural issue”. Yet the state doesn’t have “public policies that are against this culture and this is bad because it is avoiding reality … gays and lesbians of this country continue to be assaulted, mistreated and in some cases assassinated and there is no system that guarantees our defence”.
Vaamonde believes that through education, a change of consciousness and through a revolution, “we can achieve the eradication of discrimination. We hope that the law serves as a way of generating that cultural revolution, and achieves a level of equality for us and for others that are discriminated against. We want real equality for all.”
Despite the problems, Vaamonde argued that there have been some concrete gains for gay and lesbian rights under the Chavez government. “We’ve celebrated the international day of gay rights every year since the beginning of the Chavez government”. Gay pride marches were previously impeded by the right. “This year, the Alcalde mayor participated, the Ministry of Culture and the National Council of Culture. For the first time in Venezuelan history the government has been directly represented at Gay Pride Day.”
December 5th 2005 – venezuelanalysis.com
Struggling for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Venezuela
by Federico Fuentes & Kiraz Janicke – Green Left Weekly
Revolutionary Venezuela is challenging the centuries-old prejudices of machismo and homophobia, the legacy of Spanish colonialism in Latin America. Yet as Heisler Vaamonde of the Revolutionary Gay Movement (MGR) told Green Left Weekly’s Kiraz Janicke and Federico Fuentes, they still have a way to go. Vaamonde is standing as a candidate outside of the official "Chavista" pro-revolutionary alliance for the December 4 National Assembly elections in Venezuela. He works in the office for the promotion of social rights in Alcaldia in Caracas and is also the coordinator of the Bolivarian Network of Homosexuals, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transexuals and Transgenders, and a strong campaigner against what he describes as the "Catholic neo-inquisition".
On December 15, 2002, three years after the new constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela was adopted, President Hugo Chavez said on his weekly television program Alo Presidente that a big mistake had been made in 1999 during the National Constituent Assembly, when the rights of gays and lesbians were left out of the new constitution. According to Vaamonde, "something awoke in the minds of many gays and lesbians that support Chavez, an interest to form a space that would allow us to defend the revolution".
"The Movimiento Ambiente Venezuela (MAV), the first gay rights organisation in Venezuela, formed in 1980, was focused on social work, removing itself from what it deemed to be political", Vaamonde said. However, "there is no contradiction between activism and politics. Through politics you can achieve a clear objective and you can improve the conditions of a sector of the population like ours … It is for that reason that the Movimiento Gay Revolucionario was born, to bring into equilibrium social and political work."
Vaamonde explained how at the National Constituent Assembly in 1999, Osvaldo Reyes, from the MAV and pioneer of the gay-rights movement in Venezuela, presented a proposal "that had in it the concept of no discrimination against gays and lesbians. This was to elaborate against discrimination at a constitutional level." Vaamonde explained that the interference of the Catholic Church in the Constituent Assembly blocked the passage of this resolution. "This constitution rejected the interests of the church, but the church still had a direct impact on the discussions over abortion, euthanasia and the rights of gays and lesbians, and this led to these issues being excluded from the constitution."
According to Vaamonde, had that article been approved, "under no circumstances could we be discriminated against, such as [over] the issue of gay marriage". However, he added, "the participation of a gay activist, who did not win, but participated in the vote … ensured that the issue of homosexuality was discussed openly in the revolutionary process".
After this, the MGR presented proposals for an anti-discrimination law in the National Assembly. But according to Vaamonde, "The politicians did not want to listen to us gays. We had believed that because they were revolutionaries they would have a vision, a broader mind, but it was all to the contrary … we had too many obstacles from them for us to obtain results. There was not the political will on the part of the National Assembly, from the Chavistas, because the right-wing never even opened the door for us, they would not give us a yes or no answer, they were always ‘considering it’… well in the waiting we never got there."
From this experience the MGR decided on "the necessity of taking our own candidates to the elections". While Vaamonde isn’t sure how many people in the gay and lesbian community support the revolutionary process, "what we do know is that there isn’t a gay opposition. The discussion has generally been very positive in favour of the government, so much so that we have been one of the most important movements in the revolution."
However, Vaamonde added: "Unfortunately we have personalities in the government behind Chavez that are not exactly revolutionary. Chavez is a revolutionary, but there are reformists around him." For Vaamonde, getting gay and lesbian deputies elected would signify that there is a real "revolution within the revolution". They would aim "for the creation of a national law which seeks no discrimination against lesbians and gays". This would include the creation of a special commission of the National Assembly to study the levels of discrimination faced by gays and lesbians and present a plan for the implementation of anti-discrimination laws.
Vaamonde explained that the state is not responsible for discrimination, "rather it is a cultural issue". Yet the state doesn’t have "public policies that are against this culture and this is bad because it is avoiding reality … gays and lesbians of this country continue to be assaulted, mistreated and in some cases assassinated and there is no system that guarantees our defence". Vaamonde believes that through education, a change of consciousness and through a revolution, "we can achieve the eradication of discrimination. We hope that the law serves as a way of generating that cultural revolution, and achieves a level of equality for us and for others that are discriminated against. We want real equality for all."
Despite the problems, Vaamonde argued that there have been some concrete gains for gay and lesbian rights under the Chavez government. "We’ve celebrated the international day of gay rights every year since the beginning of the Chavez government". Gay pride marches were previously impeded by the right. "This year, the Alcalde mayor participated, the Ministry of Culture and the National Council of Culture. For the first time in Venezuelan history the government has been directly represented at Gay Pride Day."
May 22, 2006 – "IGLHRC" <email@example.com>
2 Yhajaira Marcano Bravo, Venezuelan Trans Activist fled the country due to police harassment–asking for protection to go back
On July 29, 2000, Yhajaira witnessed how a policeman killed her friend Dayana in the city of Valencia, Carabobo state, Venezuela. Since then, she has been under permanent harassment by the police. Some of the incidents include a shooting after which she was paralyzed and spent three years in a wheelchair and had to be sent to Cuba for rehabilitation and the demolition of the precarious house in which she was living.
Yhajaira escaped first to Barquisimeto and then to Caracas, but was followed by her persecutors and attacked there too. At present, Yhajaira is in Buenos Aires, trying to mobilize the Venezuelan and international public opinion to put pressure on her government so she would be granted the protection needed to go back.
Right to life and security of person
Right to be free from discrimination and to equal protection before the law
Right to be free from torture, inhumane, cruel and degrading treatment
Rights of Human Rights Defenders
Rights of witnesses and complainants to protection
Rights to effective remedy and compensation
Right to simple and prompt recourse to a competent court for protection
April 21, 2006 – GlobalGayz.com
Commentary from a GlobalGayz.com reader regarding Venezuela:
I am an Aussie/Brit/EU dual national world traveller working in the international petroleum industry (very macho). My last major assignment was Venezuela where I lasted 12 years and thought you should know that Caracas offers a very big gay community. I have never explored any gay life in Margarita or Maracaibo, but believe they also offer reasonable access.
Caution should be exercised in the Caracas “Sabana Grande” area, as I was attacked with broken bottles (nothing to do with being gay – just famously dangerous to even locals) and was saved by a passing taxi. Best not to walk around alone at night in this area… Taxis are the best way to get directly from point to point and they are normally objectively opinionated when asked to go to a gay venue, only ensuring one is aware of the venue’s classification.
Although I was never really out there (town called Maturin), I felt no real feeling of homophobia or resentment to homosexuality. However, it was looked at as something to be made fun of calling out “Maricó” meaning queer. Being gay was just not talked about, while friends and acquaintances that were known or suspected of being gay were just accepted. However, everyone would think Carnival a failure without the participation of the gay presence of outrageous flamboyance.
October 11, 2007 – Bloomberg
Venezuela May Lower Voting Age, Add Gay Rights in Constitution
by Matthew Walter
(Bloomberg) – A Venezuelan legislative committee voted to lower the voting age and protect gay rights in a expansion of President Hugo Chavez’s plan to rewrite the country’s constitution. Venezuelans would gain the right to vote at age 16 under the proposed changes, down from the current age of 18, and discrimination based on sexual orientation would be formally outlawed in the constitution, according to a statement on the National Assembly’s Web site. The Chavez-controlled National Assembly is likely trying to expand the voter base and tap increased support for the president’s socialist “Bolivarian revolution” among younger Venezuelans, said Riordan Roett, head of Latin American Studies at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.
“The assumption is that the younger people are going to be Bolivarians,” Roett said in a telephone interview. “They are going to be the ones whose families have benefited from Chavez’s social programs.”
During a session yesterday the mixed committee for constitutional reform added six more changes to the 33 in the president’s original proposal unveiled in August. Chavez’s plan would eliminate presidential term limits, do away with central bank autonomy and introduce new definitions for private property, which critics have called a power grab. During a rally for Chavez’s Unified Venezuelan Socialist Party, the president said citizens should turn out to vote and ignore efforts by the opposition to encourage abstentions. Chavez said the average age among the party’s 5.7 million members is now 35 years old, and will likely fall should voters approve the plan to lower the voting age.
“It’s a very young party,” Chavez said.
The legislative committee will send the proposed constitutional changes to the full assembly next week, where it will be discussed for 15 days. Once approved there it will go to a national referendum, possibly as early as December.
To contact the reporter on this story: Matthew Walter in Caracas at firstname.lastname@example.org
March 05, 2008 – blabbeando.blogspot.com
Venezuela: Top Court says no to same-sex marriages
Considering the escalating diplomatic and military tensions between Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador – which have gathered wide international attention – few people probably noticed this news: In a ruling published yesterday by the Supreme Court of Justice in Venezuela, the top court’s constitutional wing ruled that same-sex marriages cannot be constitutionally authorized even if the Venezuelan constitution prohibits "any form of discrimination, including that which is based on sexual orientation." This according to an article in today’s El Universal that says that the justices keyed in on language that elevates marriage between a man and a woman to the constitutional level unlike other forms of relationships.
"The 1999 constitutional body opted to protect monogamous matrimony between a man and a woman – as the essential nucleus that gives origin to the family in the historic and cultural Venezuelan context," said the Court in their ruling, "To extend its effects to common law unions it should require, at the very least, that [common law unions] follow the same essential requirements (stable and monogamous relationships between a man and a woman, that have no impediments to get married and who unite freely)."
And why is this not discriminatory?
"The constitutional norm does not prohibit nor condemn unions of fact between persons of the same gender, it simply does not grant them enforced protection," they say. In other words, a person can elect to partner with another person of the same-gender if they so desire and have the freedom to do as such but their relationship, according to the Court, cannot be recognized as marriage or through any other form of partnership recognition including civil unions.
The court also argued that same-sex partners who want to protect their common belongings can always do so by signing social contracts establishing shared belongings, particularly when same-sex couples want to determine inheritance rights. The ruling came four years after the LGBT rights organization Affirmative Union of Venezuela (Asociacion Civil Union Afirmativa de Venezuela) asked the court to determine if certain constitutional articles discriminated against same-sex couples. It was not a unanimous decision. In a lengthy and impassioned dissent, Judge Carmen Zuleta de Merchan, says that the rest of the magistrates failed to recognize the implicit rights that the Venezuelan constitution grants same-sex couples and says the ruling is based on social and religious prejudices long ingrained in the Venezuelan society.
She says that the court’s ruling is based on the false assumption that only heterosexual couples can raise families when in reality there are many same-sex couples raising healthy and happy children and that the traditional family model that the other magistrates chose to elevate ignores a Venezuelan reality for other types of families, including that of the 20% of homes comprised by single women who are heads of households. Finally, she says that it is inadequate to simply tell same-sex partners to seek legal contracts in order to protect their common belongings since these contracts are not established by family law.
The full text of the ruling can be found here….It’s an unfortunate outcome.
2 June 2009 – BBC News
Venezuela ‘silent’ on hate crimes rise
by Will Grant, BBC News – Caracas
In a city where about 40 murders take place every weekend, it may not come as a big surprise that four prostitutes have been killed on the same stretch of road in Caracas in recent months. But when you find out that all four were transsexuals or transgender, it changes the picture somewhat. The bodies were reportedly found with money, mobile phones and handbags still on them, suggesting the attacks were not simple robberies.
"We have seen a definite increase in violence against transsexuals this year," says Estrella Cerezo, a founding member of the Venezuelan transgender rights group Transvenus. "We’ve registered over 20 murders of transsexual people in Venezuela so far this year, which is more than twice the number seen in the second half of last year," says Ms Cerezo, who is a transsexual hairdresser in one of the rougher neighbourhoods of Caracas, Flores de Catia.
“ As I graduated I came out as the woman I really am. Once I did that, all the doors began to close ” Transgender trained nurse But she says the real number of attacks is difficult to keep track of. "Many attacks against transsexual or transgender people – especially against transsexual prostitutes – go unreported. The police aren’t interested in investigating them properly. They just define them as crimes of passion, file them away, and leave it at that."
Law professor Tamara Adrian – one of the leading transgender figures in Venezuela – agrees with this assessment. "I think the violence against the transsexual community is hidden within the high, and rising, levels of violence we are currently experiencing in Venezuela."
"Hate crimes become absorbed into the more generic violence in this country and often are not identified as anti-gay hate crimes as such," Dr Adrian says.
It is not just violence either. Transsexuals are regularly humiliated and insulted in the streets. Groups of youths have even filmed themselves abusing transsexual prostitutes on Caracas’ notorious Avenue Libertador, the main area for prostitution in the capital, and uploaded the videos to YouTube. For Ms Cerezo the problems stem from the fact that transsexuals in Venezuela, as in other parts of Latin America, are forced to the margins of society because of deep-seated prejudice.
"In general, transsexuals only have two areas in which they can work – either as beauticians or as prostitutes." She says her own situation is a case in point. "I am a trained nurse, but as soon as I graduated I came out as the woman I really am. Once I did that, all the doors began to close. I couldn’t find any work in the public hospitals or healthcare centres – not even work experience."
The United Nations office on HIV/Aids protection agrees that the problem in Latin America is rife. "Sexual violence is a reality for many sexual minorities and often sex work is the only viable option to make a living for transgender and transsexual people," said UNAids’ Head of Civil Society Partnerships, Andy Seale, at a meeting in Brazil in 2006.
However, Dr Adrian says that in Venezuela the failure to act on the issues facing the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community is at odds with the socialist government’s rhetoric on social inclusion. "The important thing to understand about the LGBT community in Venezuela is that they are given no legal protection whatsoever," says Dr Adrian.
"There are huge prejudices still in place among the legal actors themselves – inside the state prosecutor’s office, the police, the judiciary and the national assembly. There is no recognition of the trans community at the official level," Dr Adrian continues.
"We have done studies which show that most transsexual and transgender people in Venezuela have barely obtained third or fourth-grade primary school education. Many not even that. So if the system doesn’t recognise you, nor provide for your protection in any way, then obviously it is going to be very difficult to get any kind of decent job – pushing them further into the shadows and the sex industry," explains Dr Adrian.
Argentina, Mexico, Brazil and Colombia are among the Latin American countries where significant inroads have been made for the LGBT community. These include in some cases the recognition of same sex civil unions, legal cohabitation, and the right as a transsexual to have your birth certificate changed.
Venezuela, says Dr Adrian, is well behind the rest of the region. "In 2004, I went to the Supreme Court of Justice to take out a direct injunction against the constitution in Venezuela, requesting that all my documents be legally changed to reflect my gender identity. Since then, I have been met with silence. In five years, they haven’t even ruled on the admissibility of my petition."
The government, however, argues that steps are being taken. President Hugo Chavez has referred to gay rights several times on his TV programme Alo Presidente, and a change to family law has been introduced in the national assembly which would include the right to marriage for gay couples. The socialist MP who presented the project, Romelia Matute, says the trans community has suffered in the Venezuela, particularly because of the contry’s religious tradition.
"They were considered ‘the devil’, and in many circles, they still are," she said. "Our response as the government has been this legal project which, among other things, would grant access to sex change operations on the public healthcare system."
What about the attacks suffered by the prostitutes in areas like Avenue Libertador – sometimes, they say, at the hands of the police? "That is going on, yes. But in a sense, the transsexual community must do more for themselves too," Ms Matute says. "There has been no visible group or march to support this proposed change in the law. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if this is rejected by the national assembly, it would be the fault of the LGBT community for being too timid, for not organising themselves properly," she says.
For Dr Adrian, a transsexual university lecturer who has overcome significant obstacles to be accepted in her public life, nothing could be further from the truth. "That change in the law has not even been discussed by the assembly yet and it seems the head of the family commission is staunchly opposed to anything which would grant equal rights to transgender people," she says.
As for the president, she says, "we have been trying for years to get close to Chavez on this matter. We are pretty much sure that unless he addresses this personally, it will not happen." At her small, stuffy hairdressing salon in the basement of a building in Flores de Catia, Estrella Cerezo is realistic about what the future holds.
"I believe the government is trying to help us," she says. "But if things are getting better in terms of our demands being taken seriously by the government, they are getting worse in terms of violent attacks and our personal safety. Security here is a big problem, and we are easy targets," Ms Cerezo says.
July 14, 2009 – LifeSiteNews
Venezuelan Bishops Denounce Bill to Legalize Abortion and "Homosexual Marriage"
by Matthew Cullinan Hoffman, Latin America Correspondent
Caracas (LifeSiteNews.com) – Venezuela’s Catholic bishops are denouncing a proposed legal reform that is likely to result in the legalization of abortion and homosexual "marriage" nationwide. The bishops state that although the bill currently under consideration by the Venezuelan Congress claims to promote such values as equality and solidarity, "we have well-founded reasons to affirm that within it serious violations and irreparable damage is committed against fundamental rights and structures of Venezuelan society recognized and guaranteed in our Constitution."
The new law, they continue, "seriously offends rights that are consecrated and protected by our National Constitution, specifically the institutions of marriage and the family, and the superior interests of boys, girls, and adolescents consecrated in articles 75, 76, 77, and 78 of the Constitution, by legitimizing same-sex unions, awarding them the same juridical and patrimonial effects as those of matrimony. In the bill these rights are rendered juridically vulnerable. It likewise ignores the constitutional protection of the right of inviolability of human life, whether through contraceptive methods or by abortion."
According to the Associated Press, Marelis Perez, President of the Committee on the Family of the Venezuelan Congress, denies that abortion or civil unions for homosexual couples are mentioned in the bill. However, the text of the proposed law, which is called the "Organic Law for Gender Equity and Equality," uses language common among pro-abortion groups to promote the "right" to an abortion, while not explicitly using the term.
The bill defends the right to "sexual and reproductive health," a common euphemism for abortion, and says this includes "the capacity to enjoy a satisfactory sexual life, responsible, without risks and the liberty to choose or not to choose to procreate…". It also defends the "right" to "decide freely, responsibly, and without coercion or violence to have or not to have sons or daughters, the number and the interval of births."
The bill also contains language that can easily be interpreted as establishing a "right" to homosexual unions, defending the "right of every person to live a pleasurable, responsible, and freely decided sexuality and the capacity to exercise sexual orientation and identity and expressions of gender without discrimination and in conditions of equality…" The bishops are urging Venezuelans to act to defend the right to life and the family from the threat posed by the bill.
"When the institution of matrimony and of the family, which are the pillars of a society, are threatened by social, economic, ideological, or juridical situations, the various institutions of the society must begin to move in their defense," they write. "In consequence the reaction and rejection of the society is legitimate when the dignity of the human person and the rights which are inherent in him are placed in danger, such as the enjoyment of a family structure constituted by a man and a woman and their children."
Although Venezuela is regarded as having the most leftist government in South America, its president, Hugo Chavez, has done little to promote anti-life and anti-family policies during his tenure. It remains to be seen if the alliance of socialist parties that support Chavez will advance the bill or will block it in accordance with traditional Venezuelan values.
July 21, 2009 – PinkNews
Venezuelan government moves to establish greater LGBT rights
by Ramsey Dehani
The Venezuelan National Assembly has voted to pass a bill for gender equity and equality through the first round of discussion. A public debate has raged within the South American country after the Venezuelan Episcopal Church publicly condemned the proposals. If passed, the ‘Organic Law for Gender Equity and Equality’ would criminalise discrimination, as well recognise the rights of co-habiting same-sex couples and introduce civil unions.
The current wording states: "Every person has the right to exercise their preferred sexual orientation and identity freely and without any form of discrimination, and as a consequence, the state will recognise co-living associations [civil unions] constituted between two people of the same sex by mutual agreement." The law would also allow gender reassignment surgery and to create framework to recognise a legal change of identity between genders.
According to Venezualanalysis.com, the implementation of the law would guarantee rights of children of same sex couples. It would also guarantee the rights of the couple in terms of social security, inheritance, rent and taxes, although no details are explicitly detailed within the article. One of the proponents of the Article 8 of the law proposal, which contains the amendments, is National Assembly Legislator Romelia Matute.
According to the site, Matute said that if the article passes in its present form, "every person has the right to exercise their preferred sexual orientation and identity freely and without any form of discrimination, and as a consequence, the state will recognise co-living associations [civil unions] constituted between two people of the same sex by mutual agreement."
The article also states that people who "change gender by surgical or other means have the right to be recognised by their identity and to obtain or modify the documents associated with their identification". It places an obligation on the state to create the conditions for their integration into society "under equal conditions." The bill would be a dramatic step forward for gay rights within the country where there is currently no legal recognition for same-sex couples and also no laws on discrimination based on sexual orientation, after a bill to propose this was blocked by fierce opposition from the Catholic church in 1999.
This bill is backed by President Hugo Chávez, who is said to be dissatisfied with current equality and discrimination laws in the country.
November 4, 2009 – IPSNews.net
Venezuela: Homophobia Stalks the Streets – in Uniform
by Humberto Márquez
Caracas(IPS) – One Friday at around midnight, on Villaflor Street, a favourite spot for gays and lesbians in the Venezuelan capital, Yonatan Matheus and Omar Marques noticed two Caracas police patrol vans carrying about 20 detainees, most of them very young. When Marques and Matheus, who are gay leaders of the Venezuela Diversa (Diverse Venezuela) organisation, approached to find out what was happening and take pictures, they were picked up too.
"Like most of those arrested, our identity documents and mobile phones were taken away, we were beaten, our sexual orientation was insulted in degrading language, and we were refused permission to speak to the Justice Ministry officials and members of the National Guard who were present," Matheus told IPS. The vans set out for the Caracas police headquarters with their load of detainees, but Marques, Matheus and two minors were left by the main highway crossing the city. They had to walk to the city centre, where they contacted officials at the Ombudsman’s Office to file complaints.
This incident in October was one of the multiple arbitrary arrests carried out against the GLBTI (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transvestite, transgender and intersex) community, within the framework of Operation Safe Caracas, a campaign to crack down on crime involving personnel from several police forces and the National Guard, a military body with police functions. The Venezuelan capital, with five million people living in the metropolitan area, is one of the most dangerous cities in the world; the annual murder rate is in excess of 135 per 100,000 population. In the third week of October alone there were 65 murders, and the central morgue has been stretched beyond capacity several times this year.
"Operation Safe Caracas has meant more insecurity, because it adds police harassment to attacks by common criminals and homophobic citizens," César Sequera of the Venezuelan GLBTI Network, a recently formed coalition of groups defending the rights of sexual minorities, told IPS. In Caracas and the oil-rich western state of Zulia, where Venezuela Diversa is also active, "so far this year nine transsexual persons have been killed in violence related to their condition, so one of our most urgent claims is proper guarantees for the right to life," Matheus said.
Astrid, a transvestite sex worker who finds her clients among drivers on Libertador Avenue in Caracas, told journalists that "sometimes the police stop us, take our money and even force us to have sex with them under threat of being beaten or dropped off in a dangerous part of the city." One of her co-workers said that on one occasion, a police patrol car drove up and without warning, its occupants shot pellets at her legs while laughing and hurling insults at her. Then they sped off into the night.
Even someone as well known as Giannina Cadenas, the transsexual host of the programme "Brújula Sexual" (Sexual Compass) on the state Ávila TV channel, has said that "those who discriminate against us the most are the police, who need reeducation in order to understand that they are supposed to provide a public service." "When I’m travelling by car, I’m always stopped at the police control points and they ask me whether I’m a man, a woman or a transvestite. I’m made to feel like a cockroach. The police have taken money off me just because I’m transsexual," Cárdenas said.
The non-governmental organisation Citizen Action against AIDS (ACCSI) carried out a 2008 survey of 742 people in the GLBTI community in Caracas and the western cities of Maracaibo and Mérida, to investigate negative experiences with the police. Half the interviewees said they had experienced situations in which their rights had been violated, although most did not report them, out of fear or a sense of shame. The most common behaviours they complained of were verbal aggression (36 percent), extortion (20 percent), physical aggression (12 percent) and deprivation of freedom (11 percent).
"GLBTI persons suffer strong rejection in Venezuela, because of dogma, social prejudice and mistaken medical or psychiatric diagnoses," said Edgar Carrasco, who directed the survey. "And the worst of," he added, "is that the discrimination and impunity is related to the spread of the HIV/AIDS epidemic." The depth of this rejection was spelled out to IPS by Fernando, a 22-year-old cookery student who came to Caracas "practically in headlong flight, because if we are excluded in Caracas, where gays gather in large groups to go out or spend time together, imagine what it’s like in a small town full of prejudice like Altagracia de Orituco," in the central plains of the country, where agriculture and ranching are the main activities.
Article 21 of the 1999 Venezuelan constitution states that all persons are equal before the law and, consequently, discrimination based on race, sex, creed or social condition is prohibited. On this basis, the Supreme Court ruled in March 2008 that no individual may be discriminated against by reason of his or her sexual orientation in any way that implies treating him or her in an unequal fashion. Yet based on article 77 which protects marriage between a man and a woman, in the same ruling the Supreme Court refused to equate the rights of stable homosexual unions with those of heterosexual married couples.
Sequera of the GLBTI Network emphasised that "many of our rights are still being infringed: in the first place, respect for our identity and self-image, and secondly the right to health, since we are often denied access to public and private health care centres, and we aren’t even considered as possible blood donors, for example." Matheus also complained of "employment discrimination in terms of access to jobs and treatment in the workplace, as well as discrimination in schools and educational institutions, where we are harassed by teachers and other students, leading many of us to drop out."
"But police harassment remains a serious concern, because in effect it abrogates our right to freedom of movement, to use the public thoroughfares of this country, or to freely and peacefully go to night clubs or shopping centres to exercise our right to leisure and entertainment, just like everybody else," Matheus concluded.
23 de Febrero de 2011 – Sentidog
Colectivos LGBT de Venezuela marcharon hasta el Palacio Federal Legislativo – LGBT Collective Marches to the Federal Legislative Assembly Palace
Tras una marcha que recorrió desde la plaza de Los Museos en Caracas hasta el Palacio Federal Legislativo, las organizaciones que integran la Red LGBTI de Venezuela y otras asociaciones con similares propósitos de este país entregaron a la directiva de la Asamblea Nacional una serie de peticiones con el propósito incluir dentro de la agenda legislativa venezolana el tema de la sexodiversidad. Originalmente se contemplaba la llegada al edificio de Pajaritos ubicado cerca del Palacio Federal Legislativo y donde serían recibidos por una comisión de diputados, sin embargo, a última hora y tras unas gestiones se logró que el documento fuera recibido por la Directiva de la AN en el propio palacio.
Los representantes de la Red LGBTI Venezuela solicitaron ante la Asamblea Nacional que se establezcan disposiciones claras y precisas, que incluyan órganos de protección específicos y sanciones severas en caso de discriminación por razón de orientación sexual o identidad de género. Asimismo, plantearon la necesidad del reconocimiento de los derechos patrimoniales de las parejas del mismo sexo en condiciones de igualdad y no discriminación; además de que se reconozca la identidad de género; la propuesta expresa que se reconozca el cambio de género sin que sea necesaria una reasignación genital.
Se solicitó la modificación de cuatro artículos de la Ley Orgánica de Registro Civil, con la finalidad de eliminar las consecuencias segregacionistas y asegurar los derechos patrimoniales de las parejas del mismo sexo en condiciones de igualdad. Entre ellos, destaca la modificación de los artículos 115, 116, 118 y 146 de la destacada ley, en función de establecer la libre manifestación de voluntad efectuada entre personas del mismo sexo para uniones estables, registro de matrimonios igualitarios celebrado por venezolanos o venezolanas en el extranjero, la inserción de actas de matrimonio de extranjeros con residencia en Venezuela y cambio de nombres y sexo de las personas transexuales.
Luis Fernando Soto Rojas, presidente de la Junta Directiva, dejó claro que las puertas de la Asamblea Nacional están abiertas para recibir y estudiar las propuestas planteadas por el pueblo organizado, quien hoy exige la eliminación de leyes segregacionistas (aquellas que niegan o eliminan derechos a las personas en razón de un prejuicio) de las personas sexodiversas, por su parte, el diputado Aristóbulo Istúriz, primer vicepresidente, aseguró que éste es un tema de mucha fuerza en la opinión pública, que requiere de la movilización y sensibilidad social “porque no habrá igualdad sin asumir la diversidad. Tenemos que salir a las calles a concienciar a la gente para que asuma la diversidad”.
Tamara Adrián, formó parte de la pequeña comisión que ingresó al palacio con las propuestas, y manifestó que: “las personas lesbianas, transexuales y homosexuales no somos iguales ante la ley, tenemos los mismos deberes pero no los mismos derechos. En el caso de los que tienen parejas del mismo sexo no tienen la posibilidad de tener un reconocimiento legal de la relación (matrimonio); mientras que en el caso de las personas transexuales no tienen derecho al reconocimiento de su identidad”. Por otro lado expuso que Venezuela está en el último lugar en Latinoamérica en este tema: “México, El Salvador, Argentina, Nicaragua, Panamá, Colombia, Ecuador, Uruguay, Brasil y Bolivia tienen leyes contra la discriminación. En el caso de Argentina y Brasil permiten el matrimonio entre parejas del mismo sexo, la coadopción, la comaternidad y copaternidad como reivindicaciones legales”.
Mientras los representantes del colectivo LGBT ingresaban al palacio, en las zonas adyacentes activistas como Yonatan Matheus y Heisler Vaamonde se dirigían a los presentes en una tarima, sus discursos coincidieron en que “entre homosexualidad y revolución no puede haber contradicción”. “Queremos que la Asamblea Nacional, que está en deuda con las personas de la diversidad sexual, de una vez por todas empiece a avanzar en aprobar leyes que reconozcan nuestros derechos humanos” comentó Matheus, quien además hizo énfasis en que las personas lesbianas, gays, bisexuales, trans e intersexuales son a diario sometidas a situaciones de exclusión y discriminación.
Además de las organizaciones que integran la Red LGBTI de Venezuela; Transvenus, Lesbianas y Ya, Diverlex, Alianza Lambda de Venezuela, Fundación Huellas, Terulias Dsx, Iglesia de la Comunidad Metropolitana, Venezuela Diversa y Unión Afirmativa, se sumaron las redes Bloque Socialista de Liberación Homosexual, la Alianza Sexo Género Diversa Revoluncionaria y las organizaciones Acción Zuliana por la Vida, Fundación Base Lésbica de Venezuela, Fundación Reflejos de Venezuela, Fundación Venezolana de Apoyo a la Diversidad Sexual y el Grupo de Diversidad Sexual de la Universidad Central de Venezuela.