The conference, organized by the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights, and Caribe Afirmativo of Colombia, with the support of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the Inter-American Foundation (IAF), will give way to the formation of a Latin America and the Caribbean, Afro LGBTI network, which will seek to promote the ratification of the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance, within the region. The Convention was approved by the Organization of American States (OAS) in 2013, during its annual General Assembly, and which will enter into full force on November 11, 2017.

A historic gathering of over 18 Afro-descendant LGBTI leaders from Colombia, Brazil, Cuba, Peru, the USA and the Dominican Republic will convene together, beginning on Wednesday, November 8, 2017, with the purpose of developing collective efforts to recognize LGBTI rights within the Afro-descendant context of the Americas and the Caribbean. Afro-descendant LGBTI people constitute one of biggest social groups experiencing heightened prejudice related to the intersectionality of their identities, in this case, because of their racial/ethnic identity, and their sexual/gender identity. Afro LGBTI people not only suffer from day-to-day homophobia and transphobia, but also deal with political, economic, social and cultural exclusion; the majority suffer from poverty, unemployment and lack of education.

Four out of every ten homicides committed against LGBTI people in Latin America are against Afro-descendant LGBTI. Three out of every five acts of police violence are found to be directed towards them. The most prevalent cases of criminalization, impunity and persecution of LGBTI leaders in Latin America and the Caribbean take place in primarily Afro-descendant territories. Furthermore, when looking at situations of denial of rights towards LGBTI people across the region, it is common to find even greater levels of stigma and discrimination when it comes to an Afro-descendant, black, palanquero, or raizal individual.

This first conference, from which the Network of Afro-descendant LGBTI of the Americas will emerge, is one of the agreed-upon initiatives, signed by activists and LGBTI organizations in Guatemala in 2013, just as OAS Member States were signing two historic conventions designed to stop the discrimination against Afro-descendant and Afro-LGBTI people, and which are yet to be ratified by the majority of countries in the region. These conventions acknowledge that much of the violence that affects the LGBTI population of Latin America and the Caribbean occurs in Afro-descendant territories; that gaps of inequality and inequity that affect Afro groups increase in people that are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or intersex. Furthermore, the Conventions note the absence of processes, programs and actions within Afro-descendant communities that guarantee the rights and visibility of LGBTI people in their territories.  They initiate a network-wide work that guarantees the access and effective enjoyment of the rights of LGBTI persons in Afro-descendant communities.

It is important to highlight that Caribe Afirmativo was an active member of the civil society groups promoting the creation of the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance and the Inter-American Convention against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance, within the framework of the 44th General Assembly of the OAS in Antigua, Guatemala, in 2013. In these conventions, the intersectionality of social categories that exacerbate imbricated discrimination, including ethnic, racial, sexual and gender identities, was introduced.

Addressing these topics, this first conference of Afro-LGBTI leaders aims to be a space for dialogue and debate on the common living conditions of LGBTI people in Afro contexts; to build an advocacy agenda in Latin America and the Caribbean that will achieve the commitment of states to eliminate all forms of discrimination; to help identify other forms of discrimination and to generate common strategies in partnerships between the Afro movement and the LGBTI movement.

During the three days, the following leaders/organizations will participate in the conference:

Caribe Afirmativo (Colombia): plural institution working for the promotion of human rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) population.

Arco Iris Libre de Tumaco (Colombia): Social organization that denounces and documents human rights violations against LGBTI Afro-descendants.

Foro Nacional de Pessoas Trans (Brazil): An organization that advocates for the rights of Afro-descendant Trans people in Brazil.

Rede Negra LGBTI (Brazil): The Rede (network) has contributed extensively on issues of race, sexual orientation and gender identity in Brazil, for more than ten years.

Ashanti (Peru): Organization with the goal of combating discrimination due to the lack of visibility of Afro-descendants in Peru.

TRANSSA (Dominican Republic): Organization that promotes respect and equality of Trans people in the Dominican Republic.

Manos (Cuba): A network of Cuban LGBTI organizations working for the recognition of the population in the context of Afro-Cubans in the country.

Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights: an International, non-governmental organization for the defense and protection of human rights.

Inclusion for Peace Program – IPA: A program of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) aimed at significantly closing the inclusion gap between the general population and ethnic populations.

For Race and Equality and Caribe Afirmativo, this is an historic opportunity to strengthen civil society in terms of understanding the intersections, and resistance to the historical discriminations that so many LGBTI people and people of African descent have suffered throughout their lives. The meeting will also be a tribute to Carlos Augusto Panesso, who was murdered on May 18. Carlos was a gay leader of the first Afro-descendant LGBTI organization in Colombia, called Arcoíris de Tumaco. He was murdered in an openly prejudiced act because of his sexual orientation and LGBTI activism in the Colombian Pacific Region – he had previously been a victim of threats and forced displacement, and his organization continues to receive threats and persecution from the actors participating in the conflict in Colombia.

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