#26A Lesbian Visibility Day: challenging the heteropatriarchy

Washington D.C., April 26, 2022.- Every April 26, several countries around the world commemorate Lesbian Visibility Day. As the date was created as a political act that vindicates the presence and role of lesbian people in public spaces. It is also an opportunity to continue fighting for their human rights and to make visible the […]

Washington D.C., April 26, 2022.- Every April 26, several countries around the world commemorate Lesbian Visibility Day. As the date was created as a political act that vindicates the presence and role of lesbian people in public spaces. It is also an opportunity to continue fighting for their human rights and to make visible the multiple challenges lesbian women face in society and the State. 

The Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality), in addition to reaffirming its commitment to the promotion and defense of the human rights of the LGBTI+ population, gives special recognition to lesbian lives that rebel and confront the mandate of heteronormativity, a system that normalizes and institutionalizes violence against diverse sexual and gender identities. Throughout time, this contribution has been and is very important for the fight for human rights and a dignified life. 

This is also an opportunity to remember the courageous struggles of the lesbian movement and the pending tasks Latin American and the Caribbean States have with lesbians. In the history of Peru, for example, this year for the first time a couple of lesbian mothers and wives, Jenny Trujillo and Darling Delfín, sued the Peruvian State before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) “after waiting almost 5 years for the Peruvian justice system to guarantee the rights of their son and of them as lesbians and mothers”, as indicated by the Demus, the organization litigating the case. The National Registry of Identification and Civil Status (RENIEC) of the country refuses to register both women as mothers of their son in his national identity document, despite the fact that, in the first instance, the Judicial Power ordered it to do so. Currently, the case has been brought before the IACHR and thre is also a request for a precautionary measures. In Peru, LGBTI+families continue to be taboo and do not enjoy the rights that correspond to them by law. Lesbian mothers are often criminalized by their male ex-partners and by the Peruvian justice system, who try to take their children away from them during custody proceedings. For this reason, the case of Jenny and Darling would mark a great precedent in the legal recognition of diverse families. 

In Colombia, the case of Marta Lucía Álvarez Giraldo also reached the IACHR and had an important precedent. She serving a prison sentence in the Dosquebradas “La Badea” Detention Center, in Pereira, when she sued the State because the prison authorities refused to authorize the exercise of her right to intimate visits due to her sexual orientation. As a result of a 9-year legal process and a Friendly Settlement in the Inter-American System, the State had to apologize for its discriminatory action and reform the regulations of the National Penitentiary and Prison Institute (INPEC) to prohibit the sanctioning of expressions of affection between members of the LGBTI+ sectors inside prisons. 

On the other hand, in the Dominican Republic, organizations for the promotion and defense of the rights of LGBTI+ people such as TRANSSA, the Observatory of Human Rights of Trans People and the GLBT Volunteers are in charge of documenting and producing data on situations of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, a task that the States in the region do not carry out. In their latest report entitled “Homicides of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Trans and Intersex in the Dominican Republic” they point out that between 2020 and 2021, two lesbian women were murdered in this country, one in each year. 

The lack of a State registration system that collects data on violence against LGBTI+ people makes it difficult to formulate public policies for prevention and care, and makes it impossible to produce disaggregated statistical data that makes visible the violence and adequately address it. 

For its part, Nicaragua is experiencing a sociopolitical and human rights crisis that exacerbates the situation of those groups that have been historically marginalized, such as LGBTI+ people. This situation is aggravated even more so if they participate in political spaces and in defense of human rights. For example, since the outbreak of the civic rebellion in April 2018, more than 70 sexually and gender diverse people have been victims of hate campaigns, and more than 4 have been imprisoned for political reasons and in discriminatory conditions due to their sexual orientation and gender identity. Two exiled lesbian leaders from the National LGBTIQ+ Committee of Nicaragua assured that, in Nicaraguan political spaces, both pro-government and opposition, the demands of lesbian women are made invisible and measures that guarantee their rights are not prioritized. In addition, they stated that lesbian women do not have real access to decision-making spaces and specially if they are young. 

In Cuba, since 2002, Las Isabelas -the first activist group made up of non-heterosexual women in Cuba- have been demanding recognition of their unions and families, their patrimonial rights as couples, conjugal visits for lesbian women in prisons, comprehensive sexual education and the inclusion gender perspective in the formulation of public policies. Currently, the government of this country promotes a series of meetings to publicize the proposed bill on the Family Code. However, this initiative that would recognizes LGBTI families and marriage equality for the first time in Cuba will be sumitted to a referendum, an unusual situation because human rights are not subject to popular consultations. 

As Race and Equality, we continue to work in favor of the rights of LGBTI+ people and with our partners in order to eradicate stereotypes, prejudices and social norms that discriminate and normalize violence against lesbians in public and private spaces. We will work to break down the compulsory heterosexuality that perpetuates lesbophobic bullying, conversion therapy, corrective rape and other hate crimes. LGBTI+ rights are human rights! 

In this sense, we recommend that States: 

  • Implement Comprehensive Sex Education policies that include a human rights approach so that diverse sexual and gender identities are recognized and respected. 
  • Guarantee the dignified treatment of lesbian women and GBTI+ people in all public and private services in the region through the strengthening of training programs for authorities, justice operators, public officials and administrative personnel, and through the implementation of protocols and guides.
  • Collect, document and analyze data on violence against lesbians and GBTI+ people in order to better illustrate situations of violence and subsequently formulate public policies. 
  • Guarantee access to justice through the investigation and sanctioning of discriminatory acts and crimes committed against lesbian women and GBTI+ people. Likewise, develop mechanisms that avoid the criminalization of lesbian mothers in custody proceedings.
  • Guarantee and defend the civil rights and the right to family of lesbians and LGBTI+ people through access to equal marriage and legal recognition of lesbian mothers and diverse families. We also urge States to respect marriages entered into abroad and the familial rights of children born to LGBTI+ people abroad.
  • Promote the access of lesbians and GBTI+ people to political spaces and positions of power in order to guarantee the right to political participation without violence and the representation of diverse identities. 

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