Dominican Republic: Civil Society Delegation Present at The UPR Pre-Session

Dominican Republic: Civil Society Delegation Present at The UPR Pre-Session

Geneva, March 4, 2024 – A Dominican civil society delegation participated in the Pre-session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) held on Friday, February 16, 2024, in Geneva, Switzerland, with the technical support of the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality). The delegation was composed of Maria Martinez (Movimiento Socio Cultural de Trabajadores Haiti, MOSCTHA), Manuel Dandre (Red de Encuentro Dominicano-Haitiano Jacques Viau, Jacques Viau Network), Rosalba Diaz (Comunidad de Lesbianas Inclusivas Dominicanas, COLESDOM), Roberto Acevedo (Observatorio de Derechos Humanos para Grupos Vulnerabilizados, ODH-GV) and Jenny Morón (Movimiento de Mujeres Domínico-Haitianas, MUDHA), who were accompanied by Elvia Duque, Senior Race and Ethnicity Program Officer at Race and Equality.

During a week in the Swiss city, the delegation also had the opportunity to conduct advocacy by meeting with representatives of United Nations agencies and representatives of diplomatic missions, where they shared information about discrimination faced by some population groups in the Dominican Republic, in violation of their human rights.

Jenny Morón, of MUDHA, explained the situation of statelessness which, according to civil society estimates, affects more than 209,000 people and which has worsened as a result of Law 169-14, to the point that there are currently four groups whose human rights are affected in one way or another: 1) those who due to their surname and phenotypical characteristics are not associated with the Haitian population and have all their rights; 2) people who initially belonged to Group 1 but the State took away their nationality in 2013 for identifying some link with the Haitian population; 3) those who have been registered in the so-called Special Book (Registration Book for children of non-resident foreign mothers); and 4) those born in Dominican territory but who do not have any documentation or designation of nationality.

Activist Manuel Dandre, of the Jacques Viau Network, shared his experience as a person affected by Constitutional Tribunal ruling 168-13, because despite being born in the Dominican Republic, at the age of 55 the State changed his documents after identifying links with the Haitian population. “Those of us who find ourselves in Groups 2 and 3 have partial or no access to basic rights such as education, employment, transit, etc., and we are afraid of legislative changes that continue to diminish our rights,” he said.

Human rights defender María Martínez, of MOSCTHA, emphasized the crisis faced by the Dominican State in the labor area, with women and the stateless population being the most affected. According to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, more than 95% of women in the country identify their workplaces as places of violence or harassment.

Likewise, activist Rosalba Diaz, from COLESDOM, highlighted that “the lack of legislation that guarantees protection to the LGBTI+ population has generated a great vulnerability of this population” emphasizing in her presentation “the constant cases of mutilation, stigma, and other cases of human rights violations faced by the intersex population even from a very young age, as well as the judicial patterns that undermine the custody rights of lesbian mothers in the Dominican Republic.”

Meanwhile, Roberto Acevedo, of ODH-GV, exposed the lack of access to employment and discrimination suffered by people with HIV/AIDS, because despite the existence of Law 135-11 – which provides for the privacy of information on HIV diagnosis – public institutions perform laboratory tests as part of the process of pre-selection of candidates for jobs, resulting in not employing people who test positive even if they have the necessary skills.

The delegation made a positive balance of the visit because in addition to making visible the crisis that the country is experiencing due to racist, xenophobic, and discriminatory policies, as well as positioning its recommendations, it served to warn about Law 1/2024, which creates a centralized body of the State, with the aim of protecting the interests of the nation and assessing internal and external threats against it. Civil society considers that this law generates the necessary tools to support the State in its work of criminalizing activists and human rights defenders, therefore, the delegation made a strong call to demand its repeal.

In addition, upon the return of the delegation to the Dominican Republic, the approval of Resolution No. 13, dated February 17, 2024, on the processing of birth registration of children of foreigners born in the Dominican Republic, was announced. After a few days of evaluation of this Resolution, at first glance it appears to be a possible solution to several of the issues addressed by this delegation in Geneva regarding the situation of statelessness, but upon a deeper analysis it generates concern because it does not benefit the population in condition of statelessness as it establishes the presentation of documents that they do not possess.

Below, we highlight some of the recommendations presented by this delegation during its advocacy tour at the UPR pre-session in Geneva:

  • Promote the creation of a technical roundtable to accompany, review, and implement the recommendations made in the UPR, with the participation of civil society, a member state of the Council, international organizations, and the Dominican State.
  • Promote a national law on equality and non-discrimination that prosecutes, criminalizes, and punishes racism and discrimination in all its forms.
  • Motivate the State to modify and/or eliminate any legislation, sentence, or provision that is not aligned with international treaties and agreements for the protection of human rights.
  • Motivate the State to sign, ratify, and implement the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance (CIRDI).
  • Prevent statelessness by creating clear, free, and expeditious mechanisms to benefit the victims of Judgment 168.13, given that Law 169.14 has not solved the problem caused by Judgment 168.13. In addition, ratify the 1954 Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
  • Sensitize the authorities to avoid the criminalization of migration and to eliminate the policy of arrest, deportation, and expulsion based on racial profiling. In addition, take the necessary measures to ensure that no Dominican person is expelled from the national territory because of his or her skin color or descent.
  • Promote interculturality in the field of education and in the media.
  • Promote the protection of the human rights of women and girls in vulnerable situations.
  • Create legislation that integrates the benefits of Conventions 156, 190, and 189.
  • Promote and encourage the social integration of vulnerable groups (people living with HIV/AIDS, drug users) so that they can contribute to their community.
  • Motivate the elaboration and promulgation of the regulations for the application of Law 135-11 on HIV/AIDS, which 12 years later still does not have this important legal instrument.
  • Promote the strengthening of the role of the Ombudsman to promote and defend human rights regardless of gender, nationality, and creed.

Race and Equality thanks MUDHA, COLESDOM, and ODH-GV for obtaining their resources and joining the delegation initially composed of MOSCTHA and the Jacques Viau Network, and invites them to continue building together strategies to counteract the harsh reality that some populations live in the Dominican Republic. We also reiterate our commitment to fight against the different discriminations existing in this country hand in hand with the member organizations of the Jacques Viau Network and the NGO coalition CODHAJUR.


Pictured (from left to right): Elvia Duque (Race and Equality), María Martínez (MOSCTHA), Manuel Dandre (Jacques Viau Network), Rosalba Díaz (COLESDOM), Roberto Acevedo (ODH-GV), and Jenny Morón (MUDHA), in Room XXII, Building E of the United Nations. Geneva, Switzerland.

25J: Afro-Latina, Afro-Caribbean, and Diaspora Women in Spaces for the Protection and Defense of the Rights of the Afro-descendant Population

Washington D.C., July 25, 2023- The creation of new international mechanisms for the protection and promotion of the rights of people of African descent marks a key and historic opportunity to overcome the racism and discrimination faced by this population. Therefore, this International Day of Afro-Latina, Afro-Caribbean, and Diaspora Women, from the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) we call for the gender and intersectional perspectives to be taken into account in these spaces, so that they mark the work of monitoring the situation and making recommendations to the States.

July 25 and the Struggle for Racial Justice

July 25 was established as International Afro-Latina, Afro-Caribbean, and Diaspora Women’s Day during the First Meeting of Afro-Latina, Afro-Caribbean, and Diaspora Women, which was held on a day like today, but in 1992, in Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), in recognition of the work of women of African descent in the fight against racial discrimination, sexism, poverty, and marginalization.

In our line of work on racial equality, we have been incorporating gender and intersectional approaches in all the actions we carry out (strategic litigation, capacity building, and documentation), as we believe that through these perspectives, we can guarantee the inclusion of women and all those with diverse sexual orientation and gender identity.

Likewise, in view of the creation of international mechanisms on Afro-descendant populations, we have supported the participation of Afro-descendant women in new spaces such as the International Mechanism of Independent Experts to Promote Racial Justice and Equality in the Context of Law Enforcement (EMLER) and the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent (PFPAD), as well as in other long-standing spaces such as the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

Afro-descendant Women Setting the Agenda in New Mechanisms

At the second session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on People of African Descent, which took place from May 30 to June 2 in New York, Afro-descendant women’s organizations from Brazil, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic formed a Racial Justice Delegation to denounce racial and gender-based violence in Latin America. With the support of Race and Equality and the Black Alliance to End Violence (Fundo Elas), the delegation also raised the need to build agendas and projects to combat, through an intersectional perspective, the different ways in which racist violence affects the lives of women in the region.

“The important thing about being present in this space was that I was able to bring the voices of several silenced women. Grada Kilomba, a black artist, writer, and intellectual says that the white man is at the top of the social pyramid, then comes the white woman, then the black man, and the black woman is invisible at the bottom of the pyramid. And we want to change that,” says Monique Damas, lawyer and Executive Director of Selo Juristas Negras, one of the organizations that made up the delegation.

Erlendy Cuero, Vice-President of the Association of Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES) and who was also part of the Racial Justice Delegation to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Afro-descendants, believes that guaranteeing a gender perspective in these spaces is essential due to the persistence of racist and discriminatory actions aimed at harming their integrity not only because they are women, but also because they are Afro-descendant women.

“We are the ones who suffer the disproportionate impact of the armed conflict, when our bodies continue to be sexually abused as strategies for banishment and uprooting from our territories, when we cannot access education, employment, decent housing, health, etc.,” she says.

Regarding what is expected with the participation of Afro-descendant women in these new mechanisms, as well as in others that have been in operation for several decades such as CERD and the CEDAW Committee, Cecilia Ramirez, Executive Director of the Center for the Development of Peruvian Black Women (CEDEMUNEP), says: “More just, egalitarian, and equitable societies guarantee the autonomy of Afro-descendant women; also, increase the capacities of young Afro-descendant women and provide them with the necessary opportunities to develop their full potential”.

“We hope that our states can generate affirmative actions and public policies with budgets that guarantee the closing of the inequality gaps that we face not only because of our gender condition but also because of our ethnicity,” adds Ramírez. It is worth noting that during the review of the CEDAW Committee in Peru in 2022, Afro-Peruvian activists participated for the first time, through CEDEMUNEP with the support of Race and Equality.

From Cuba, Marthadela Tamayo, from the Citizens’ Committee for Racial Integration (CIR), highlights the gender approach and intersectionality as key tools in spaces on the Afro-descendant population. “Because they are necessary spaces for these populations to explain or narrate the realities they live from all the intersections they go through in their daily lives in their neighborhoods or communities,” she says.

“In addition, these spaces can be very positive scenarios for women to articulate, develop, and participate in the political and public life of a country,” she adds.

Race and Equality will continue to promote the participation of Afro-descendant women in existing regional and international mechanisms for the protection and promotion of the rights of Afro-descendant people. It is essential that the gender and intersectional perspective be taken into account in data collection, situation analysis, and the formulation of recommendations to the States.

Transcendent Voices: Art and Culture as Forms of Resistance and Pride

Washington D.C., June 28, 2023 – On International LGBTI+ Pride Day, the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) wishes to dedicate this article to recognize, celebrate, and highlight the presence of LGBTI+ persons in the region in the field of art and culture, which have always been forms of resistance, survival, and pride for LGBTI+ persons. Their disruptive forms of artistic expression have revolutionized this sector, not only enriching it but also challenging and transforming the dominant narratives of cisheteronormativity.

From a human rights perspective, the A/HRC/14/36 report by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights states that cultural rights are essential for the recognition and respect of human dignity in many aspects. Through these rights, the development and expression of diverse worldviews – both individual and collective – are protected, encompassing important freedoms related to issues of identity.[1]

In this sense, the representation and dignified visibility of historically marginalized groups, such as the LGBTI+ population, are crucial to reclaim their bodies and identities and promote their human rights. “Combat stigma and discrimination. Positive representation in culture contributes to challenging the negative stereotypes and prejudices surrounding sexual and gender diversity,” mentions Alex Aguirre, Human Rights Researcher at the Institute for Peace and Development (Ipades) in Nicaragua, who points out that this also applies to oneself when characters and narratives reflect personal experiences that contribute to developing greater confidence and accepting one’s gender identity or sexual orientation without shame or guilt.

“Diverse artistic expression makes things visible, exposes, portrays, and enriches. Being able to enjoy art created by sexual and gender diverse individuals provides a different perspective to the audience, humanizing and making their expressions their own,” says Fhran Medina, lawyer and LGBTI+ rights activist from Fraternidad Trans Masculina Perú.

From the perspective of the meaning of art and culture, Guillermo Valdizán states in his book Creación Heroica that “forms of cultural production are intimately linked to processes of social transformation.”[2] In other words, cultural production does not exist outside of a specific social, political, and economic context and has been present throughout the history of societies; therefore, it is part of the social process and not just a tool. As Sol Ámbar Sánchez Latorre, Advocacy Director at the GAAT Foundation in Colombia, says, there is an appropriation of the more visible cultural sphere by LGBTI+ persons, which produces new representations and reflections on sexuality and gender, fostering cultural transformations.

Next, Race and Equality’s counterparts recommend some notable examples of cultural productions that have contributed to the visibility of LGBTI+ people:

Yunior Pino, Cuban photographer and activist: “We are courageous individuals endowed with talents and gifts; we educate to eradicate the taboos that have caused a lot of harm and discrimination for generations. I recommend the Cuban film titled Fátima because it portrays the harsh reality experienced by the majority of the LGBTI+ community in Cuba, facing a macho and discriminatory society and a system that forces family separation and prostitution.”

Sol Ámbar Sánchez Latorre, Advocacy Director at the GAAT Foundation in Colombia: “I would like the work of Kia sonorica, a Paraguayan trans artist, to be more widely known. She is also an anti-colonial historian and has a deep understanding of art history; and now she is one of the pioneering Latin American artists using artificial intelligence to create artistic works.”

Fhran Medina, Peruvian lawyer and activist: “Antay is my favorite Peruvian singer-songwriter, not only because he is a great singer, but also because of the work and immense heart he puts into each song and performance. His lyrics are filled with tenderness and artistry. As a trans singer-songwriter, he carries many stories and experiences of the trans population. The music video for the song “Júrame” is something that everyone should watch, and you can find more of his productions on Spotify and YouTube.”

Articulación Brasileña de Lésbicas – Rede ABL: “We recommend the work of Bia Ferreira in music because she is a black woman and ‘sapatão’* who brings true ‘gospels’ of liberation in her songs. It is important for other people to know her work because she explains the cause and solutions to various social issues in a didactic way.”

Alex Aguirre, Human Rights Researcher at the Institute for Peace and Development (Ipades) in Nicaragua: “I recommend the artist Ru Paul, an iconic Drag Queen and host of the show RuPaul’s Drag Race. Ru Paul has been an important figure in LGBTI+ culture and has promoted acceptance and celebration of diversity.”

In conclusion, the visibility of LGBTI+ persons in the field of art and culture is a powerful indicator of progress in human rights. Through cinema, music, dance, theater, visual art, and more, a space has been conquered where these transcendent voices can be heard, and their experiences can be authentically represented. Race and Equality reaffirms its commitment to promoting the visibility and representation of LGBTI+ individuals in all areas of life and wishes them a Pride Month filled with music, art, and culture. All people deserve to live in a society free of violence, more just, and without discrimination. Human rights always!

*’Sapatão’ is a word of pride that refers to lesbian women in Brazil. It is similar to how the trans movement has embraced the word ‘travesti’.



[1] Report of the independent expert in the field of cultural rights, Ms. Farida Shaheed, submitted pursuant to resolution 10/23 of the Human Rights Council. Available at

[2] Valdizán, Guillermo (2021). Creación Heroica: Neoliberalismo, políticas culturales y estrategia comunitaria en el Perú del siglo XXI. Lima: RGC Ediciones

Afro-Descendant Activists from Latin America and the Caribbean take over New York and Washington D.C.

Washington D.C., May 31, 2023 – In light of the second session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Afro-Descendants (PFPAD), which will take place from May 30 to June 2 in New York City, organizations representing Afro-descendant women from Brazil, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic have formed a Delegation for Racial Justice to denounce racial and gender violence in Latin America. With the support of the International Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights (Race and Equality) and the Black Alliance to End Violence (Fundo Elas), the Delegation for Racial Justice aims to highlight the experiences of Afro-descendant women and the urgent need for international support in building agendas and projects to combat the various forms of racist violence affecting the lives of Latin American women from an intersectional perspective.

Additionally, Race and Equality, together with the Open Society Foundation, is promoting the participation of 15 other organizations, predominantly composed of Afro-descendant women from Latin America and the Caribbean, in the Permanent Forum of Afro-Descendants. With this collaboration, the Delegation for Racial Justice will comprise approximately 30 organizations, united in their call for international cooperation to end racial and gender violence in the Americas. The objective of this delegation is also to prepare a report with recommendations and insights on the first and second sessions of the Permanent Forum, to be presented during the third session scheduled to take place in Brazil in 2023.

The United Nations Permanent Forum on Afro-Descendants was established in 2021 by General Assembly Resolution 75/314, serving as a consultative mechanism to contribute to the fight against racism and the promotion of the rights of the Afro-descendant population. The forum collaborates with the Human Rights Council and other UN mechanisms. The first meeting took place in December 2022 in Geneva, Switzerland, and in addition to the upcoming session in New York, the forum is scheduled to convene in Brazil in December of the same year. The Permanent Forum on Afro-Descendants is part of the implementation activities of the International Decade for People of African Descent and is chaired by Epsy Campbell Barr, the former Vice President of Costa Rica.

Parallel Event: Racial and Gender Violence in Latin America

On Thursday, June 1, at 1:15 p.m. (New York time), the event ‘Racial and Gender Violence in Latin America‘ will be held at the Church Center of the United Nations. The event will call upon political actors present in New York to listen to the realities of Black and LBTI Latin American women. With panels on ‘Women’s Rights and Intersectionality’ and ‘Civil Society’s Vision in the Fight Against Gender Violence in Latin America.’ This space, organized within the framework of the Permanent Forum on Afro-Descendants, aims to facilitate dialogue among Latin American women leaders, discussing the different contexts in which they live, where the brutality of structural racism manifests in terms of discrimination and violence.

Moreover, the urgency to address racial and gender violence is supported by data indicating that Latin America is one of the most violent regions in the global south, with the Black population being disproportionately affected due to the absence of specific policies. Therefore, this delegation aims to contribute to the development of the agenda and declaration of the Permanent Forum with a focus on combating racial and gender violence in Latin America. Furthermore, it seeks to establish appropriate channels for obtaining disaggregated data to better implement and propose public policies tailored to the realities of Afro-descendant individuals, particularly Afro-descendant women.

Political Advocacy Week in Washington D.C.

To strengthen and continue the work carried out during the Permanent Forum on Afro-Descendants, the delegation will travel to Washington D.C. from June 5th-7th. With the support of organizations such as the Washington Brazil Office (WBO) and Black Women Radicals, they will meet with representatives from the Department of State and Afro-North American organizations, including the Black Caucus. They will also hold meetings with missions from the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

Additionally, the Delegation for Racial Justice will strategically work towards the implementation and strengthening of bilateral international treaties among their countries, such as the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance (CIRDI), the Joint Action Plan for the Elimination of Racial and Ethnic Discrimination and the Promotion of Equality (JAPER), which has recently been reactivated between Brazil and the United States, and the Action Plan between the United States and Colombia for Racial and Ethnic Equality (CAPREE).

“For this delegation, it is crucial that Afro-descendant women directly present their realities and recommendations for positive change because they play a key role in defending their communities. Moreover, the context of racial justice in the Americas is an important point of exchange between Afro-Latin American and Afro-North American organizations,” explains Elvia Duque, Race and Ethnicity Officer at Race and Equality.

To conclude the week of political advocacy, the ‘Black Women’s Movement in Washington D.C.‘ event will take place on June 7, starting at 11 a.m. (Washington D.C. time), at the meeting center for Afro-descendant women, ÌPÀDÉ. The panel discussion on communication and mobilization strategies against racism and racial violence in the Americas will feature the leaders who make up the delegation.


 Delegation for Racial Justice of Afro-Descendant Women from Latin America and the Caribbean

United Nations Permanent Forum on Afro-Descendants – May 30th to June 2nd in New York

Parallel Event: Racial and Gender Violence in Latin America

Thursday, June 1, 1:15 p.m. (New York time)

Venue: UN Church Center – 777 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017. 8th floor. Located a two-minute walk from the UN headquarters.

Political Advocacy Week in Washington D.C. – June 5th to June 7th

Event: Black Women’s Movement in Washington D.C.

Wednesday, June 7, 11 a.m. (Washington D.C. time)

Venue: ÌPÀDÉ – 1734 20th St NW, Washington, DC 20009



8M-International Women’s Day: Recognize and protect women’s leadership from an intersectional perspective

Washington DC, March 8, 2022. – The fight of women for their rights has been tireless. Although Latin America is going through critical moments in terms of democracy, human rights and security, women remain firm in the process of denouncing the violence they face and advocating for structural changes. This International Women’s Day, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) wants to draw attention to the importance of recognizing and protecting women’s leadership, and that this be done at all levels of society from an intersectional perspective.

We recognize that women’s life experiences are directly influenced by their gender, as well as other characteristics such as their race or ethnicity, their gender identity and expression, and the role they play in society. In this way, women human rights defenders, Afro-descendants, indigenous, lesbian, trans and women journalists, to name a few, face particular situations when exercising their leadership or their professions, which often threaten their integrity and put their lives at risk.

Below, we provide an overview of the specific problems faced by different groups of women in the region. At the same time, women from Nicaragua, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Peru, and the Dominican Republic offer their perspectives on how their activism and professional work are marked by the adverse contexts that prevail in their countries.

Defending Rights in a Dictatorship

Women have been active subjects and protagonists in the defense of human rights and in civic resistance since before the social unrest in Nicaragua in April 2018. In the current context, characterized by systematic state and parapolice violence, women defenders, activists, and journalists are targets of persecution, harassment, siege, threats, and deprivation of liberty. These attacks expose them to even greater risks because of their gender.

According to records from the Nicaraguan Initiative of Human Rights Defenders (IND) and the Autonomous Women’s Movement (MAM), since the beginning of the crisis in April 2018, at least 109 women defenders and activists have been arbitrarily detained, and there have been more 4,000 attacks on defenders. On the other hand, at least 12 released women have reported having been victims of some type of rape, among other attacks; and 13 women (5 of them older adults) continue to be deprived of liberty for political reasons and without adequate medical care in detention centers.

The President of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH), Vilma Núñez de Escorcia, affirms that, historically, women political prisoners have suffered serious differentiated aggressions within detention centers. She recalls that, as a political prisoner of the Somoza dictatorship, her greatest fear was that “she would be transferred to the Somoza State Security Directorate, where there was a history of sexual violations of political prisoners.” Now, she denounces that the government of Ortega and Murillo, through “perverse police officers” subjects women political prisoners to isolation, incommunicado detention, prolonged interrogations, and other forms of psychological and physical torture. She cites the cases of Suyén Barahona, Tamara Dávila, Dora María Téllez, and Ana Margarita Vijil, who have spent almost 9 months in isolation cells.

Ana Lucía Álvarez, who is a human rights defender and a relative of three political prisoners, explains that women defenders are victims of sexualized attacks such as touching, nudity, sexual torture, network dismantling, among others. Likewise, she denounces that “in one of the trials of a political prisoner, the prosecutor’s narrative was related to whether she had a partner, whether she had had sexual relations with this or that person. These are narratives that do not appear in the trials of men who are political prisoners but do appear in the trials of women who are being prosecuted and criminalized,” she concludes.

Fighting and Surviving Transphobia 

In Brazil, where civil society organizations constantly denounce the wave of violence against human rights defenders, in addition to being the country with the most murders of trans people in the world, trans women who hold public office face hate speech and lack of State protection every day. “In the 2020 elections, some 30 trans/transvestite women were elected and in the exercise of their mandates their lives are threatened, which demonstrates and justifies that we are (…) in dispute over the social project,” says Ariela Nascimento, a trans woman and parliamentary adviser to Councilwoman Benny Briolly (Niterói-RJ), who is also a trans woman.

Ludymilla Santiago, a trans leader for more than 13 years who raises her voice for women’s rights from a non-binary and inclusion perspective, points out that the issue of identity is very important for trans women and that the discourse on being a woman goes far beyond current social impositions. “We must evolve and make this diversity more and more represented to break the patriarchal hegemony,” she says.

Confronting Violence and Racism

The armed conflict in Colombia—whose greatest impact has been in areas with Afro-descendant populations—has differentially affected Afro-descendant women in the country. Among the main effects is sexual violence. According to figures from the Single Registry of Victims, 20% of all women victims of sexual violence are Afro-descendants. Luz Marina Becerra, representative of the Coordination of Displaced Afro-Colombian Women in Resistance La COMADRE, emphasizes the gaps of inequality, racism and discrimination that black, Afro-Colombian, Raizal, and Palenquera women have to face, thus making it impossible to effectively enjoy their rights.

The COMADRE has been requesting the State to comply with Resolution No. 2016-244846 for 5 years now, through which its registration in the RUV was ordered and it was recognized as an ethnic subject of collective reparation under the terms of Decree Law 4635 of 2011. However, after 5 years and numerous requests to start with this route through prior consultation, they have been denied by different state agencies, ignoring their fundamental rights.

Practicing Journalism to Resist Censorship and Violence

According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and its Office of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Cuba is the country in Latin America with the fewest guarantees for the exercise of freedom of expression and, therefore, freedom of the press. The independent press on the Island constantly faces government censorship, harassment, and repression and, in the midst of this reality, women journalists suffer different impacts.

In the “Paper Democracy” report, the organization Article 19 reports “systematic and generalized attacks that are implemented to suffocate journalism.” It details that, during 2019, they documented that a journalist on average could be attacked up to five times in a year, but in 2020 the average increased to six times and, in 2021, it rose to eight times. And in the case of women, this situation is aggravated, since on average a journalist was attacked eight times a year in 2020 and up to 11 in the first half of 2021.

On repeated occasions, the journalist María Matienzo has been the target of interrogations, harassment, and smear campaigns on social networks in which her gender and gender expression are the focus of attack. She considers that practicing journalism in such an adverse context does not make her an activist, but she is clear that this profession forces her to cross the borders of writing and ends up accompanying other women who have suffered violence. “Hopefully saying what you think in the midst of so much adversity is some kind of leadership because sometimes we have no choice but to disagree if we want to live with some dignity,” she says.

Advocating for Equality

In Peru, lesbian women are joining forces to achieve the adoption of policies in favor of their rights to equality and non-discrimination. In the recent CEDAW Committee review of the State, a coalition called #LesbianasCEDAW advocated for this body to make specific recommendations on their rights, based on the main problems they face. One of their demands is to strengthen and implement the comprehensive sex education policy that recognizes lesbian children and adolescents as subjects of rights, in order to prevent and address all forms of violence.

Likewise, they demand that the Congress of the Republic modify article 234 of the Civil Code through the approval of legislative initiative 525/2021-CR, a bill on same-sex marriage, and that the National Registry of Identification and Civil Status (RENIEC) apply article 2050 of the Civil Code, which establishes the recognition of rights acquired abroad; the latter due to the non-recognition of the marriages of lesbian women who marry outside the country and of their children.

“In the Peruvian case, feminist lesbians have contributed to expanding the essential content of the right to equality and non-discrimination to incorporate the prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Likewise, to understand that lesbians and women in general do not want to be equal to men, but rather we think about equality considering differences and access to freedoms, rights, goods, and power,” says María Ysabel Cedano García, a Quechua lesbian feminist socialist.

Accompanying Discriminated Migrant Women

In recent months, the Government of the Dominican Republic has been criticized for the application of a measure that consists of deporting pregnant Haitian women. To date, some media reports the deportation of between 200 and 300 women in this condition. This situation has become a new cause of concern for the Dominican-Haitian Women’s Movement (MUDHA).

In this sense, Jenny Morón, from the Legal Department of said organization, shares that she feels privileged to have the opportunity to raise her voice on behalf of other migrant women who suffer this and other types of violence. “When I speak for women, I speak for my generation, for my offspring, I think I am building a foundation for my daughter and granddaughters to live in a world that is less discriminatory and more equal,” she affirms.

This International Women’s Day, from Race and Equality, we express our utmost admiration and respect for the work carried out by thousands of women for the recognition and guarantee of their rights. We will continue accompanying them. We also call on States to adopt laws and policies that protect their activism and professions in line with international human rights standards and, in addition, respond to their demands; all this taking into account that women are diverse and that their life experiences are marked by their characteristics and the roles they play in society. We ask the human rights systems to be protagonists in the development of national and regional standards for the protection of women, offer technical assistance to States for the adoption and implementation of the same, and recognize the diverse and intersectional identities of women.

Dominican Republic: Activists and the LGBTI + Community Fight for the Senate not to Approve the Penal Code that Excludes Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity as Grounds for Discrimination

Washington, D.C., July 19, 2021. – The Chamber of Deputies of the Dominican Republic approved, on June 30, a reform to the Penal Code that excludes sexual orientation as a ground for discrimination— organizations and activists that defend and promote the rights of LGBTI+ people in the country are engaged in a legal and social battle for the Senate not to ratify this Penal Code. Ratification would inevitably expand the grounds of discrimination against the community with different sexual orientations and gender identities.

The Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) spoke with human rights activist and lawyer Juan Alberto Francisco, who explained that efforts to reform the Penal Code have been underway for more than 20 years, but they have always been hampered by the dominance of conservative groups in both the House, Senate, and even at the Executive level. An example of hindered progress includes the 2015 reform that was vetoed by former President Danilo Medina, which included three grounds for terminating a pregnancy.

Francisco noted that it was only in August 2019 that a bill recognizing sexual orientation and gender identity as grounds for discrimination was introduced. However, the latter was left out in the draft prepared by the Justice Committee of the Chamber of Deputies. When it was finally put to the vote on June 30, 92 Members voted against sexual orientation being covered by Article 187, which refers to the grounds for discrimination.

The specialist said that another worrying change within the article includes a paragraph that reads: “there shall be no discrimination where the service provider or contractor bases its refusal on the grounds of religious, ethical or moral conscientious objection or on institutional requirements.”

“That means that in the event that the LGBT community is excluded from any health service, from any employment, even from any commercial establishment, it will not be considered discrimination,” says Christian King, a trans non-binary activist and representative of the organization Trans Siempre Amigas (TRANSSA). “This is a setback considering that TRANSSA has used the Human Rights Unit of the Attorney General’s Office, and we have obtained compensation for damages caused to LGBT people who have been discriminated against in that regard,” he adds.

After approval in the Chamber of Deputies, it is up to the Senate to vote on this Penal Code reform. Although there is still no set date for this, activists and the LGBTI + community in the Dominican Republic are taking various actions to make visible the human rights violations that would result from the final approval of this Penal Code—moreover, to recognize that both sexual orientation and gender identity are causes of discrimination.

“A movement has been formed called RD es de Todes, it is made up of activists and members of the LGBT community who do not want this Penal Code to be approved as is. With TRANSSA we have exhausted legal processes hand in hand with the Observatory for Human Rights of Trans People, so that the Senate understands that rights are being violated. What we carried out with the Observatory was a preventive protection action before the Superior Administrative Court so that the Senate does not approve it, while the movement, RD es de Todes, encourages   senators to raise awareness. We are also doing visibility work with the media and the Inter-American System to create pressure so that the Senate does not approve the reform,” expressed King.

The human rights activist and lawyer, Juan Alberto Francisco, explained that from the legal point of view, senators must understand that including sexual orientation in Article 187 of the Penal Code does not imply any conflict with national legislation, including the Constitution, since sexual orientation is already included in other laws such as the Code of Criminal Procedure, which says  that there can be no discrimination against judges or officials of the Public Prosecutor’s Office on the basis of racial prejudice, sexual orientation, among others.

Francisco commented that, unfortunately, in the Senate there is also a strong influence of conservative and anti-rights groups. In addition, even if the Senate modifies the Penal Code based on the demands raised, it must return to the Chamber of Deputies for approval.

From Race and Equality, we join the concern of activists and the LGBTI+ community of the Dominican Republic regarding the Penal Code reform, and we call on the Senate, the Chamber of Deputies and the Executive branch to take into account the obligations of the State in the field of human rights, especially with regard to guaranteeing non-discrimination.

Race and Equality launches a report to raise awareness around the Afro-LGBT population in Brazil, Colombia, Peru and the Dominican Republic to contribute to the recognition of their ights

Washington, D.C., June 30, 2021. – The Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) launched on June 30, 2021 a report titled, “La deuda pendiente con la población Afro-LGBT en Brasil, Colombia, Perú y República Dominicana” (“The Pending Debt to the Afro-LGBT Population in Brazil, Colombia, Peru and the Dominican Republic”) with the aim of highlighting the violence and discrimination faced by this community on the basis of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, and to contribute to the adoption of public policies for the recognition and guarantee of their rights.

This report is the result of systematized documentation carried out by Race and Equality based on reports presented by six partner organizations: Instituto Transformar Shelida Ayana and Rede Afro LGBT, from Brazil; Somos Identidad, Fundación Arco Iris de Tumaco y Conferencia Nacional de Organizaciones Afrocolombianas (C.N.O.A.), from Colombia; Ashanti, from Peru, and Trans Siempre Amigas (TRANSSA), from the Dominican Republic.

“With this report we seek to generate a conversation within the LGBTI+ movement and Afro movement to make visible the problems faced by Afro-LGBT people. We need to talk about racism within the LGBTI+ community and the LGBTIphobia within the Afro movement. Not only should we talk about inclusivity, but we must also show it and that starts with having these conversations,” said Zuleika Rivera the LGBTI Program Officer at Race and Equality.

For Narciso Torres, coordinator of Gender Equity and Sexual Diversity at the C.N.O.A., an important aspect of this report is that it provides a detailed overview of the violence and discrimination suffered by the Afro-Colombian LGBT population, which leads to the awareness of this situation and for States and civil society to take action to combat and prevent these abuses. “In addition, (it helps) to maintain hope for the transformation of coexistence between all,” he contended.

Sandra Milena Arizabaleta “Sami,” Director of the Afro-descendant Foundation for Social and Sexual Diversities (Somos Identidad), affirmed that in addition to the visibility of the realities that Afro-Colombian LGBTI people endure, the report points to the creation and implementation of public policies that respond to their demands. “We hope that this report will be publicized and approached by governments, and eventually become enforced state policies,” she expressed.

“This report allows us to create a dialogue between the government, legislative and legal sectors around the conditions of the Afro LGBTI+ Brazilian population, as well as provoke the human rights commissions of Congress to act, and to present requests to international organizations when we do not obtain a response from the State concerning our demands,” shared by Janaina Oliveira, from Rede Afro LGBT.

Regarding the experience of preparing Brazil’s data for this report, Eduardo Castro, from Instituto Transformar, indicated how his organization was able to learn from the different realities of trans and Cariocan women (people born in Rio de Janeiro). “Although the nucleus of members is mostly made up of trans and afro-transvestite people, the uniqueness of each experience, the regional specificities, the negotiations narrated by the subjects involving actors such as trafficking, the police, health workers or even university colleagues, marked the diversity of these experiences,” he commented.

The report includes a series of recommendations addressed to States, civil society and the human rights mechanisms of the Inter-American and United Nations system, all aimed at protecting and promoting the rights of the Afro-LGBT population in the region. Recommendations made to States include:

  • Sign and ratify the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance.
  • Take measures to collect disaggregated data on the population according to ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Create new participation mechanisms and strengthen existing ones, so that Afro-LGBT people actively participate in the design and implementation of public policies that directly concern them.

 As of today, the report can be accessed and downloaded from the Race and Equality website using the following link: http://oldrace.wp/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Informe-Afro-LGBT_May2021.pdf (In Spanish only).

“Loving and Resisting from Diversity:” Race and Equality Celebrates LGBTI+ Pride Day

Washington D.C., June 28, 2021.- To commemorate this LGBTI+ Pride Day, The Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) chose the slogan “Loving and Resisting from Diversity.” This slogan pays tribute to LGBTI+ organizations and activists who each day wage a powerful struggle to combat discrimination and violence, and move towards the recognition of their rights despite living in a context as adverse as Latin America and the Caribbean when it comes to human rights.

Although there has been little progress in the region in terms of recognizing and guaranteeing rights for LGBTI+ people, we want to exalt the great capacity to love and resist that people with diverse sexual orientation and gender expression or identity continue to sustain, when facing a society that attacks, excludes, and humilitaes them, in addition to increased attacks and instensified hate speech.

On this day we cannot refrain from remembering the Stonewall riots carried out in rejection of the police raid that took place in the early hours of June 28, 1969, in a bar known as Stonewall Inn in the New York neighborhood of Greenwich Village; this location is where LGBTI+ people used to meet. A year later that date would be declared as LGBTI+ Pride Day as a way to reclaim and celebrate the struggle for freedom and respect for the rights of this community.

Progress and Challenges

In the beginning of this month of June, the Prosecutor’s Office of Salta, Argentina, confirmed that the skeletal remains found by a day laborer and his son in a desolate area north of the city corresponded to Santiago Cancinos, a young trans man who disappeared in May 2017, who reported he was being bullied by his school and classmates.

This is one of the most recent and shocking events. However, when it comes to violence and discrimination, Latin America and the Caribbean accumulates a long list of episodes ranging from threats and verbal assaults to police brutality and murder. Hate crimes that in most cases remain unpunished-  this lack of will and judicial mechanisms only generates more negligence among authorities when making justice a priority.

LGBTI+ and human rights organizations closely followed the case of Vicky Hernandez v. Honduras, in which the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) determined the State’s responsibility for the alleged extrajudicial execution committed against Hernández in June 2009, which occurred in the midst of the tense socio-political context generated by the coup d’état that year. This set an important precedent of ensuring the application of justice in future cases of violence against LGBTI+ persons at the regional level.

With respect to the COVID-19 pandemic, we see how the situation of vulnerability of this population is exacerbated, as the health emergency deepens conditions of inequality in the fields of health, social assistance, education, work, among other inequalities. In addition, States have not taken into account the LGBTI+ realities of discrimination and institutional violence against gender nonconforming and trans people. For instance, in Colombia, people with diverse gender identity or expression were left in limbo with policies like “pico y género.[1]

However, the commitment to fight for a more just and equitable society for all people has also led to celebratory results in the last year, like the approval of equal marriage in Costa Rica. We are slowly witnessing the progress of campaigns and bills for the recognition and guarantee of the rights of LGBTI+ people. In Argentina on June 11, the Chamber of Deputies approved the bill that guarantees the trans-transvestite labor quota. The so-called Diana Sacayán – Lohana Berkina Law, who were recognized defenders of the formal trans and transvestite labor inclusion, was passed with 207 positive votes, 11 negative votes and seven abstentions.

Let us celebrate!

Race and Equality spoke with LGBTI+ activists from different countries in the region and asked them about the importance of celebrating LGBTI+ Pride. These are their answers.

Christian King, trans non-binary activist and member of Trans Siempre Amigas (TRANSSA) – Dominican Republic: For me, celebrating LGBTIQ+ Pride Month is nothing more than claiming my personhood, and at the same time reclaiming all the people who have fought, who have lost their lives making themselves visible, those people who have led us to enter this movement of struggle and recognize ourselves as members of the LGBTIQ+ community, and to demand that the State recognize our rights.

Agatha Brooks, trans activist and member of Trans Siempre Amigas (TRANSSA) – Dominican Republic: Celebrating Pride Month is to make ourselves visible as the rainbow flag represents each of us, we are a brand that grows more and more every day. We become more visible so that equality becomes present in our communities, in our country and throughout the world

Darlah Farias, Coletivo Sapato Preto – Brazil: Celebrating LGBTI+ Pride is celebrating the life of this population. Not just the lives that struggle today, but all the lives lost so that we could be here. Principally I, as an Afro and lesbian woman, carry all my ancestry with me and understand that our struggle is forged in revolution and reinvention.

Thiffany Odara, FONATRANS – Brazil: Celebrating LGBTI+ Pride is celebrating the right to life, my existence, the right to be who I am, it’s celebrating the memory of my ancestors. Celebrating who I am is the greatest challenge for Brazilian society. The challenge of resisting to guarantee policies of social equity. Long live the LGBTI+ Pride Movement! I’m proud to be who we are!

Gael Jardim, Trascendendo – Brazil: Celebrating LGBTI+ Pride Day is about making a real difference. It’s remembering that this day was born out of a revolt so that people can have the right to exist in society, and no longer in ghettos, closets or exclusion. To celebrate Pride Day is to give visibility to our cause and our struggle, which is not a day but a whole year of citizenship.

Santiago Balvin, nonbinary transmasculine activist and member of Rosa Rabiosa – Peru: Pride for me is important because society has imposed feelings of guilt and shame on who we are, but we rise up against them by showing pride in who we are and by showing ourselves in an authentic way. It is also very important to know that we have been in hiding and that visibility has been important to be able to show ourselves, and also give voice to our problems.

Leyla Huerta, founder and Director of Féminas – Perú: Celebrating Pride Day is very important to me. It’s the day in which we recognize ourselves as brave, strong and resilient. It is also a date of commemoration for all those people who are no longer with us, and who, due to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, were exterminated because that is the word that best fits our disappearances. A society that does not recognize us, a society that limits us in our own development, it does just that: exterminates us. Pride Day, as the word conveys, is a day in which we should be proud because we are here, resisting, advancing and educating.

Roberto Lechado, independent comedian – Nicaragua: Celebrating Pride Month is to celebrate life, but also to recognize myself as part of a community and remind myself that I’m not alone and that’s a super nice feeling. It is also reminding myself that it is okay to be the person I want to be, that my love is valid and valuable, and my existence is magnificent and important. Celebrating Pride is also for me, to make visible these colors that many times in the day to day become opaque, and to say to society “we are here, we exist, we deserve, and we matter!”

Miguel Rueda Sáenz, director and founder of Pink Consultores – Colombia: For me, celebrating gay pride means a lot of things. There’s an important historical force, it also shows community and group strength and fundamental social aspects, and it has an enormous personal stance as it recognizes me as a gay man, this day allows me to shout even louder. It is very important for me on June 28 to be able to celebrate who we are and why we exist.

Lesley Wolf, actor, dancer, and BA in Performing Arts – Colombia: Celebrating LGBTI Pride is more than a celebration, it turns into a demand for resistance. It’s re-signifying and dignifying a struggle that not only costs us nor takes us just a month, but a whole year, it’s a constant activity.

María Matienzo, activist and Independent Journalist – Cuba: For me to celebrate Gay Pride Day is to celebrate the claim of rights that we should all have as citizens of the world, although it’s not really a matter of one day, it should be a matter of a lifetime.

For Race and Equality, it is an honor to know and accompany the work that is being carried out, individually and collectively to defend and promote the rights of the LGBTI+ population. Denouncing the violence this population faces in different areas of society, making visible and documenting their realities and demands, and strengthening their capacities to influence Sates and the human rights mechanisms of the Inter-American and United Nations system.

For us, celebrating LGBTI+ Pride Day means reinforcing and renewing our commitment to working for a more just and equitable society for all people, without any discrimination. In addition, it represents an opportunity to make recommendations to States aimed at protecting and promoting the rights of the LGBTI+ population:

  • To implement educational campaigns on sexual orientation and gender identity, aimed at making people in all areas of society aware of and respect the diversity of the population.
  • To collect disaggregated data with an intersectional focus on the LGBTI+ population, including information on the violence they face.
  • To train authorities, mainly justice operators, health and education providers, so that LGBTI+ people can access these basic services without discrimination and without restrictions based on prejudices about sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Adopt policies and laws that allow LGBTI+ people to fully enjoy their rights, such as the gender identity law.
  • Sign, ratify and implement the Inter-American Convention Against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance.

[1] “Pico y género” was a sex-based quarantine measure temporaily implemnted in Bogotá and Cartegena, where women and men were allowed out for essential tasks on alternating days of the week; trans women and men could go out according to their gender identity. However, the policy resulted in some 20 cases of targeted discrimination against trans people.

International Day of Trans Visibility: Honoring the struggle to protect and promote trans rights in the Americas

Washington, D.C.; March 29, 2021 – On the eve of International Day of Trans Visibility (March 31), the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) honors the activists who work tirelessly to protect and promote the human rights of trans people in Latin America and the Caribbean. We also call upon all States to put in place laws and policies that ensure respect, recognition, and full enjoyment of rights for the region’s trans population.

Sadly, for yet another year, the Day of Trans Visibility will be marked by a lack of recognition and protection for trans people in the Americas, resulting in threats, physical and verbal attacks, persecution, exclusion, and the deaths of people with diverse gender expressions and/or identities. According to the international organization Trans Respect vs. Transphobia, of the 350 killings of trans people that were reported worldwide between October 1, 2019 and September 30, 2020, 82% took place in Latin America.

The COVID-19 pandemic worsened the already-vulnerable situation of trans people throughout 2020. Some governments failed to consider trans people’s needs when designing gender-based pandemic response measures, exposing trans citizens to sanctions for supposedly violating these measures. Meanwhile, both police violence and violent criminal attacks against trans people increased during the year, especially violence against trans women sex workers.

Despite this adverse context, however, activists and civil society organizations remain firm in their commitment to fight for trans people’s fundamental rights. Race and Equality applauds the trans community’s efforts throughout the region and is committed to providing support and technical assistance as civil society advocates before regional and international human rights bodies.

To commemorate International Day of Trans Visibility, Race and Equality spoke with activists from around the region about their work and about their visions for a just society. These activists spoke of great challenges, but also of the victories they have won and their dreams for the future.

Recognition and respect

The Brazilian journalist Caê Vasconcelos told us that society needs to learn to see trans men in their full and complex totality. Caê, himself a trans man, said, “we should be able to bring our whole life stories, experiences of life, struggle, love, care, and all the power that our trans bodies have.” He emphasized that a lack of knowledge of trans people’s experiences renders them invisible in Brazilian society. This invisibility manifests, for example, in a total lack of gynecological or pregnancy care for trans men. Making trans people’s needs visible is a vital step to honoring their existence and ensuring their rights as full citizens.

This invisibility also results in transphobia and violence against trans people as Brazil’s cis-heteronormative structures lash out against those who are different. As the National Association of Travestis[1] and Transsexual People (ANTRA) reported in their Dossier on Homicides and Violence against  Travestis and Transsexual People in Brazil (2020), some conservative ideologies and political sectors encourage this hatred, leading to Brazil’s status as the country with the most murders of trans people.

In Nicaragua, the human rights activist and former political prisoner Victoria Obando sums up the trans movement’s demands as, “Stop killing us.” Recently, Nicaragua’s LGBT community was horrified by the brutal murder of Anahís “Lala” Contreras, a 22-year-old trans women who was beaten by two men and dragged behind a horse. For Victoria, such a grotesque act reveals the levels of violence and exclusion facing trans people in Nicaragua.

The case of Celia Cruz is indicative of the arbitrary persecution and criminalization that trans Nicaraguans have suffered at the hands of their government throughout the socio-political crisis that began in April 2018. Celia, a trans woman, has been held in a men’s prison since April 21, 2020, where she is serving a 10-year sentence after being convicted of obstruction of justice and kidnapping for ransom.

Tomás Anzola, coordinator of the Trans Support and Action Group (GAAT) in Colombia, told Race and Equality that he wishes “for trans people to be able to construct our own identities and bodily experiences in loving and safe environments, in the company of our support networks.” In Colombia, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in increased violence against trans people, with 28 trans people (27 women and 1 man) killed in 2020 and 6 already killed in 2021.

As Colombian society debates the decriminalization of abortion, several trans organizations have spoken out about the need to ensure that reproductive rights extend to trans Colombians, emphasizing that denying such rights to trans people denies their very identities. These organizations are also demanding reforms to the National Police after an attack against a trans woman in Soacha (Cundinamarca department) in which police officers insulted, attacked, and sexually abused her.

Colombia’s trans activists and organizations make clear that Colombia has not yet implemented effective public policies guaranteeing full recognition and enjoyment of trans people’s rights. This failure, they emphasize, leaves trans people highly vulnerable to prejudice and violence.

Living without fear

Isabella Fernández, an activist with the Peruvian organization Féminas, told Race and Equality that above all, she wishes for trans people to be able to grow up in homes free of violence and discrimination. Worldwide, trans people and others with diverse gender expressions and/or identities frequently leave home after being rejected by their families, putting them at risk of violence and other harm.

In Peru, organizations fighting for LGBT rights are working towards a national law on gender identity, seeking to ensure that trans people can have their genders recognized by public and private institutions. Currently, those whose genders do not correspond with their civil registrations or identity documents struggle to access health services, education, jobs, and housing.

The Dominican activist Geisha Collins, part of the organization Trans Siempre Amigas (Trans Always Friends, or TRANSSA) shared with us that trans women must have access to identity documents that reflect their genders, which is why TRANSSA is fighting for a gender identity law in the Dominican Republic. Geisha also works to fulfill trans Dominicans’ right to health services that reflect their needs and for access to education, work, and the justice system without discrimination.

TRANSSA is also leading a national campaign for the General Law on Equality and Non-discrimination, which will put into practice the guarantees of Article 39 of the Dominican Constitution. The draft law includes sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories, outlawing “the denial of the right to enjoy a gender identity of one’s choosing,” which in turn “implies the right to reassign one’s gender or image on public documents.”

Race and Equality laments the lack of recognition for trans people on the part of States and societies in Latin America and the Caribbean, which in turn leads to violence and human rights violations. We support the demands of trans activists and organizations across the region and call on States to respect and protect all people’s human rights, without regard for their sexual orientation or gender identity and/or expression. We recommend the following steps to governments across the region:

  • Approve gender identity laws that allow trans people to exercise their citizenship under the correct gender without obstacles or delay, as called for in Consultative Opinion 24-17 of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
  • Strengthen programs to train public servants, including the police and judiciary, on gender identity and trans issues.
  • Investigate and sanction all acts of violence against trans people, guaranteeing protection and respect to trans people throughout the process.
  • Implement public education and awareness-raising campaigns to promote respect for LGBTI people and their rights.
  • Create specific public health protocols for attending to trans people and people with diverse gender identities and/or expressions.
  • Collect and publish disaggregated data on violence against LGBTI people, using an intersectional approach.
  • Sign and ratify the Inter-American Convention against All Forms of Discrimination.

[1] Travesti is a Portuguese term for a person who was assigned male at birth, but who identifies and self-expresses as female, with or without any related medical interventions.

On International Women’s Day, Race and Equality pays tribute to all the women fighting for equality and a better world amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Washington, D.C., March 8, 2021.- On this year’s International Women’s Day, the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) makes a special recognition to all the women who were firm in their commitment for equality over the past year, particularly in light of the increase in violation of their rights during the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, we align with the United Nations’ theme for commemorating March 8: “Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World.”

Race and Equality held talks with seven women from different parts of Latin America and the Caribbean who participated in advocacy spaces to promote the defense of their rights. We asked them to share their message to the nation’s leaders as well as a message of hope and resistance to all the women in the region.

United and Secure

From Colombia, Alicia Quiñonez of the National Conference of Afro-Colombian Organizations (CNOA, in Spanish) asks the Colombian authorities to place their focus on the ethnic Afro-Colombian, Raizal and Palenquero territories; to protect life and to guarantee women the right to a decent life, free to pursue social, political and entrepreneurial work within their territories.

In her message to women, Alicia states: “I invite you all to imagine and to work towards more social, political and economic spaces that will allow us to remain united, lifting our voices each day for organizational processes that allow ethnic territories to demand their rights and to live in peace – because together, we can achieve much more.”

Rights’ Guarantee

Jessenia Casani, director of DEMUS of Peru, stated that authorities must focus their efforts on promoting and achieving gender equality. “We must confront the pandemic with a gender approach in mind. For example, we need to implement preventative strategies to counter sexist violence and, in this context, be able to guarantee sexual and reproductive rights by providing comprehensive sexual education, including access to emergency contraceptives, access to legal and safe abortion services, maternal health, and other services without discrimination and violence.”

Political Participation

Rosa Castro, from the Women’s Association of the Coast of Oaxaca, Mexico stressed the importance that women continue denouncing all forms of violence they experience, as well as demand for spaces of power. “Let us exercise our political rights and continue to organize, empower ourselves and consolidate our political participation in all decision- making spaces, women must have a place at the governance table and be represented in the discussions.”

Resilience in the Midst of Crisis

Juanita Jiménez, Director of the Autonomous Women’s Movement (MAM) in Nicaragua, explained that in the midst of a socio-political crisis and human rights crisis that the country has endured since April 2018 combined with the pandemic, women face an ever-increasing risk of violence and femicide. She assured that “the fight for equality continues on, for historical and present-day discrimination continue and even modernize.”

She emphasized, “We continue to fight for the return of democracy and for the return of all rights, we want to live in a democracy so that our human condition is recognized, so that our bodies are not punished for daring to decide, to think differently, nor be criticized or inspected by authorities; the fight for equality continues so that girls can grow up safe, be valued from birth, have access to technology, science, education, and integral development, and most importantly, that they can live free from violence.”


Lisandra Orraca, a Cuban citizen and member of the Latin American Federation of Rural Women (FLAMUR), made a special call to the authorities so that in Cuba any crimes of femicide be classified and punished as such. She expressed, “I would like to tell the women of my country to stay united in the fight for equality and for the respect of our rights, this is the only way we can achieve a better future, free from abuse and discrimination, together we can achieve it, we can never give up, together we can accomplish whatever we set our minds to.”

From the organization TRANSSA in the Dominican Republic, Agatha Brooks articulated the importance of authorities responding adequately and efficiently to the violence faced by trans women. In the midst of the pandemic, violence is exacerbated by the lack of gender identity legislation and access to health services, not to mention a drastic decrease in financial stability. Brooks remarks, “To women, both cis and trans, I tell them not to stop fighting, that our fight is constant and that, if women in the past had stopped fighting, we would not be where we are today. Although it is believed that there has not been progress, much progress has been made and we still have a long way to go, so we need courage, strength, we can move forward.”

Women in Pandemic: Resistance and Community

The health emergency generated by Covid-19 not only exceeded the capacities of most health systems around the world, but also exposed pre-existing inequalities, violence, and poverty in our societies. Thus, historically marginalized groups like the Afro-descendant populations, LGBTI peoples, and women suffered from the impacts of this pandemic in an extreme and differentiated way. The lack of access to health services, the exclusion of health measures, the exacerbation of gender violence and the increase in the burden of care assumed by women in the home are some only a few of the many emerged situations.


And yet, along with all this suffering, we saw how women who fight for the recognition and guarantee of their rights remained firm, including women in public positions, health personnel, and those who head the household. For these reasons and many more, from Race and Equality we hope that on this International Women’s Day, women can re-double their strength and determination to organize, advocate, and take action for their rights. Women’s contribution is essential to have a more just and equitable society.

Throughout this week, we will be sharing videos with the messages of these women on our social networks, under the slogan “Women in Pandemic: Resistance and Collective Action.” We invite you to join this campaign so that your voice can reach more spaces for reflection and advocacy.

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