Victor Madrigal meets with more than 30 LGBTI+ people from Mexico with the support of Race and Equality

Victor Madrigal meets with more than 30 LGBTI+ people from Mexico with the support of Race and Equality

In Mexico, the United Nations Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, Víctor Madrigal-Borloz, met with local authorities, leaders, and LGBTI+ organizations of two Mexican states to promote his mandate.

From July 17th to the 22nd, the United Nations Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (UNIESOGI), Víctor Madrigal-Borloz, held a promotional visit to two Mexican states –Oaxaca and Mexico City—, which were conducted in alliance with the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality), represented by the Senior LGBTI Program Officer, Zuleika Rivera. Likewise, the United Nations Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) was present, represented by Niza Castañeda, Human Rights Officer.

During his visit, he met with more than 30 LGBTI+ people of different organizations, leaders of civil society, and local authorities dedicated to the protection and promotion of LGBTI+ rights, with the goal of learning more about the situation of LGBTI+ people in Mexico and to provide information to participants on the functions of the mandate and the various forms of participation for civil society. Additionally, the Independent Expert and Race and Equality participated in the 6th Conference of LGBTI Political Leaders of the Americas and the Caribbean, where Madrigal-Borloz was invited to participate as a panelist.

Dialogue with the muxhe community

On July 18th, the “Dialogue of authorities and the muxhe/trans community of the region of Istmo with the Independent Expert” was held in Istmo de Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, Mexico, which was convened by the Technical Institute of the Isthmus, the Proyecto Transformándome, Mexfam and other civil society organizations. “In Oaxaca there exists a narrative and language of inclusion and respect for the communities of the Isthmus, lessons that are beneficial for the world. Indigenous peoples, African people, and Asian civilizations have known sexual and gender diversity as phenomenon that are part of the richness of society,” expressed the Independent Expert at the meeting.

The dialogue was attended by authorities such as Mariano Rosado López, Secretary of the Municipality of Juchitán de Zaragoza, and Juan José Rementeria Orozco, Director of the Technical Institute of the Isthmus (TecNM), who expressed his wishes for an inclusive education for the muxhe community and LGBTI+ people. Also in attendance was the first muxhe municipal representative, Carisia Cabrera, who described the challenge of reaching the governorship and the constant struggle to be representative, as sexism and racism have always existed.

The meeting was also attended by leaders, local groups, and secular actors, and had the purpose of establishing a link with the muxhe community and other sexual diverse communities, allowing listening and articulation of needs in health, security, justice, work, and social inclusion. In this regard, Jenni Natalia Santiago, from Ellas Deciden, a network of lesbian, bisexual and gender-diverse women, pointed out that colonial processes keep ancestral gender identities silent and that it is necessary for the Mexican State to recognize their existence and the barriers they face in accessing opportunities.

United Nations Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, Víctor Madrigal-Borloz, at the “Dialogue with authorities and the muxhe/trans community of the region of Itsmo” at the Technical Institute of the Isthmus of Mexico.

Meetings with civil society

Over two days, the Independent Expert on SOGI, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, met with Mexican civil society organizations in three thematic roundtables, where they addressed issues such as migration, human mobility and its impact on LGBTI+ persons, disappearances, hate speech and hate crimes, and the rights of LGBTI+ persons deprived of liberty, LGBTI+ indigenous and Afro-Mexican peoples, and trans youth.

Mexico has one of the borders with the highest migratory flows and, in the last year, the number of LGBTI+ people in migration has increased, including youth and adolescents. In addition, extreme violence at home and on the streets and lack of opportunities due to sexual orientation and gender identity are the main causes of expulsion from their places of origin. In the country, there is no specific migration policy for LGBTI+ people, neither in the national migration law nor in the federal asylum law, so there are no mechanisms of care; in addition, hypersexualization and racial profiling is very common.

On the other hand, civil organizations have a constant struggle for truth, justice, reparation, and for the memory of the victims of disappearance and hate crimes. The country has not been able to build an official registry of LGBTI+ persons and the Missing Persons Search Commissions and Prosecutor’s Offices in Mexico do not recognize diverse families’ ability to initiate the search processes for LGBTI+ missing persons. In addition, there is a lack of training in forensic anthropology to correctly treat the bodies of trans persons.

Likewise, it is necessary to recognize and respect the rights of LGBTI+ persons in detention centers in Mexico. LGBTI+ people deprived of their liberty are often victims of systematic violations of their rights and cruel and inhumane acts, with trans people facing these acts with greater severity. Likewise, hate speech and the presumption of criminality reinforce discrimination against indigenous populations, LGBTI+ Afro-Mexicans, and trans youth and children.

Víctor Madrigal-Borloz in thematic meetings with Mexican LGBTI+ civil society organizations.

Víctor Madrigal-Borloz in thematic meetings with Mexican LGBTI+ civil society organizations.

LGBTI+ Political Leaders

The Independent Expert and Race and Equality participated in the 6th Conference of LGBTI+ Political Leaders of the Americas and the Caribbean, the largest event that brings together openly LGBTI+ leaders, public servants, and allies, where Víctor Madrigal-Borloz was invited to participate in the panel “Betting on democracies, bursting with color”. During his portion of the panel, the Independent Expert reflected on how the creation of the mandate is a sign of the fight for political spaces, 30 years ago it was unthinkable that sexual orientation and gender identity would be discussed at the United Nations.

The main objective of the 6th Conference, in which around 500 people participated, was to provide a space for dialogue, capacity building and networking and exchange of experiences in the field of citizen and political participation to move towards equality. Something important to highlight is that, during the meeting, the first LGBTI+ caucus in Brazil was created to combat the systematic attack on LGBTI+ rights promoted by the extreme right. This delegation is composed of more than 23 political authorities, members of the government and social organizations, among them federal deputy Erika Hilton, Duda Salabert and state deputy Linda Brasil.

Part of the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights work is to support the promotional visits of the mandates of the United Nations and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) for the rights of LGBTI+ people. In this regard, Race and Equality reaffirms its commitment to accompany their efforts to ensure the equality and dignity of LGBTI+ people.

Miguel Ángel Alanis (Race and Equality), Niza Castañeda (OHCHR), Alex Leal (UNIESOGI), Zuleika Rivera (Race and Equality) at the 6th Conference of LGBTI+ Political Leaders of the Americas and the Caribbean. In the second photo: Victor Madrigal-Borloz participating in the panel "Betting on democracies, bursting with color".

Victor Madrigal-Borloz participating in the panel “Betting on democracies, bursting with color”. In the second photo: Miguel Ángel Alanis (Race and Equality), Niza Castañeda (OHCHR), Alex Leal (UNIESOGI), Zuleika Rivera (Race and Equality) at the 6th Conference of LGBTI+ Political Leaders of the Americas and the Caribbean.

Inter-American Forum against Discrimination celebrated the 10th anniversary of CIRDI and CIDI within the framework of the OAS General Assembly

Washington D.C., June 20, 2023 – The Inter-American Forum against Discrimination, an annual event organized by the International Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights (Race and Equality), took place during the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS). It brought together representatives from the governments of the United States and Brazil, as well as experts and Afro-descendant, indigenous, and LGBTI+ leaders from the region, for an effective dialogue on racial discrimination in the Americas.

This year, the Forum’s theme was the “Tenth Anniversary of the Adoption of the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance (CIRDI) and the Inter-American Convention against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance (CIDI),” which was held at the iconic National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington D.C.

Carlos Quesada, Executive Director of Race and Equality, highlighted in his welcome speech that the CIRDI is a Convention that broadly addresses racial discrimination, serving not only Afro-descendant peoples but also indigenous peoples and Romani communities.

The first panel, “The Historical Debt: State Responsibility towards the CIRDI and the CIDI,” featured the participation of Joy-Dee Davis Lake, Counselor Minister of the OAS Embassy and Permanent Mission of Antigua and Barbuda. In her remarks, the Minister emphasized the importance of building a better world for diversity, free from discrimination, where every individual can fulfill their full potential. This panel also included Luz Elena Baños Rivas, Ambassador of the OAS Permanent Mission in Mexico, who could not attend in person but sent her message calling for commitment and strengthening of the CIRDI to OAS Member States.

Moderated by Carlos Quesada, the second panel, “International Efforts to Combat Racial and Ethnic Discrimination,” featured the contributions of Margarette May Macaulay, President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH); Desirée Cormier-Smith, Special Representative for Racial Equity and Justice (SRREJ) of the U.S. Department of State, and Symmy Larrat, National Secretary for LGBTQIA+ Rights of the Ministry of Human Rights and Citizenship of Brazil.

“It is necessary to pay attention to racial representation in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) and in the United Nations Secretariat. Additionally, I call on government ministers and political parties to reflect on their resistance and inaction regarding the approval of the CIRDI by OAS Member States,” stated Margarette May Macaulay.

“We must commit to keeping the window of racial and social justice open. It is our responsibility to prevent this window from closing,” emphasized Desirée Cormier-Smith, urging all Afro-descendant individuals to empower themselves and influence their governments to build an antiracist democracy.

In her speech, Symmy Larrat celebrated the reestablishment of the LGBTI Popular Participation Council and announced the creation of a Working Group on ‘Memory and Truth,’ which will include experts and members of civil society to implement public policies addressing the historical reparation of the LGBTI population. “It is a challenge to strengthen LGBTI social movements with such a conservative congress. We won the elections, but we didn’t win the fascist wave,” she said.

Afro-descendant and indigenous leaders from civil society in Latin America shared their experiences in the panel titled Regional Experiences: Inclusion as a Tool to Strengthen Diverse Voices.” Moderated by Cecilia Ramírez, Executive Director of the Center for the Development of Afro-Peruvian Women (CEDEMUNEP), the dialogue included participants such as Maurício Yek’uana, Director of Hutukara Yanomami Association, who drew attention to the advance of drug trafficking in the countries bordering Yanomami indigenous lands in Brazil. “In addition to the miners we have been denouncing for years, criminal factions are arriving, and the government’s action is still insufficient to contain the invaders in the region,” stated Maurício Yek’uana. Adailton Moreira, Babalorixá Ilê Axé Omiojuarô, denounced religious racism and the State’s consent due to the lack of public policies that could curb violence against African-origin religions.

Representing the LGBTI agenda, the panel included Sandra Milena Arizabaleta, Legal Representative of the Afro-descendant Foundation for Social and Sexual Diversity (SOMOS IDENTIDAD) from Colombia, and Yader de los Ángeles Parajón Gutiérrez, an LGBT activist and member of the Mothers of April Association and the Unamos Party from Nicaragua.

Education and political will for anti-fascism are necessary for real inclusion. Authorities must bridge the gap between activism and the government,” expressed Sandra Milena Arizabaleta.

Yader de los Ángeles Parajón concluded, “Nicaragua owes a debt to gender identity. The violence generated by the dictatorship permeates all levels and remains silent. Many activists are persecuted. In this system, they no longer live, but they survive.” The panel also featured Wendy Geraldina López Rosales, an indigenous Guatemalan member and lawyer of the Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Guatemala (UDEFEGUA), and Cuban activist Jorge Luis García Pérez, who called for an effective alliance for the rights of their peoples.

The Guatemalan state issues arrest warrants against indigenous peoples, criminalizing them and subjecting them to inhumane treatment. They treat us as invaders, but no one can be an invader of land that historically belongs to them,” warned Wendy López.

I am a former political prisoner of Castro’s regime. My family is also a victim of fierce persecution because we are Black, because we are opponents. The dictatorship does not tolerate any form of faith either,” said Jorge Luis García Pérez, pointing out that religious persecution based on racial discrimination also exists in Cuba.

The last panel, “Coalition of Afro-descendants of the Americas and the 53rd Regular Session of the OAS General Assembly,” moderated by Elvia Duque, Senior Officer of the Race and Equality Program on Race and Ethnicity, provided the audience with a deeper understanding of the 53rd OAS General Assembly. It featured Paulina Corominas, Director of the Office of Civil Society of the Department of International Relations of the OAS, and Rosa Castro from the Association of Women of the Oaxaca Coast and Coordinator of the Afro-descendant Coalition of the Americas at the 53rd OAS General Assembly.

Paulina Corominas explained that there are 34 thematic coalitions formed within the 53rd OAS General Assembly, and on June 21, a dialogue would take place between OAS representatives and civil society. Rosa Castro highlighted some of the demands of the Afro-descendant Coalition of the Americas, which include a high-level meeting for the 10th anniversary of the CIRDI and an agenda that considers a fund for Afro-descendants.

Based on the diverse voices that resonated with the different realities and contexts of Afro-descendant, indigenous, and LGBTI peoples in Latin America, Race and Equality issued a call for unity in the Americas in the fight against racism and racial discrimination. With the CIRDI as the motto for an effective plan for its implementation by all OAS Member States by 2024, the alliance continues to support and empower civil society organizations to occupy these strategic spaces such as the Inter-American Forum against Discrimination.

Missed the event? Relive it through this link:

Learn about our CIRDI 2024 campaign!

Fabiola Fernández Guerra Carrillo: “We must understand the different types and logics in which racism operates because there is a lot of confusion”

Washington DC, March 16, 2023.– Regarding the recent presentation of the book Expresiones contemporáneas de los racismos en México. Cuerpos, medios y educación (Contemporary Expressions of Racism in Mexico. Bodies, Media and Education), the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) spoke with Fabiola Fernández Guerra Carrillo, director of 11.11 Cambio Social and member of the Colectivo para Eliminar el Racismo (COPERA), who is also one of the authors of the analyses that make up the book.

In this interview, Fernández Guerra Carrillo reflects back to the first campaign that tried to put the issue of racism on the country’s public agenda. In this way, she attempts to chart the “complex and dense panorama of contemporary expressions of racism in Mexico” that is presented in the book, and to show that racism is a structural problem.

Is racism identified as a problem in Mexican society, just as poverty and drug trafficking can be?

In the last decade, yes, it is becoming more and more important on the public agenda. In 2011 we did the first national campaign called Racism in Mexico, with CONAPRED (National Council for the Prevention of Discrimination), and one of the points was to talk about racism and not discrimination, to position this idea of racism in the public sphere, and we have seen that to date the amount of communication products, research, as well as the movement of social networks showing a very clear position on racist ads or campaigns, has been super positive. There are still a lot of things to do, but there has been a lot of progress. I wouldn’t say that everyone recognizes it as a public problem, but I think that many more people have in the last decade, so there has been a positioning on the issue. There has also been work by activist groups, both from indigenous peoples and Afro-descendant and Afro-Mexican populations, who have also promoted this agenda.

Along with this kind of awakening in the last decade, in Mexico are there institutions or mechanisms to combat racism and racial discrimination, how do they work and how effective has their work been so far?

Regarding the mechanisms and institutions that have promoted the issue of combating racism in Mexico, I think there is a pending issue in the way they have worked. There has been progress. However, in terms of administrative resolutions or specific sanctions, apart from recommendations such as those made by COPRED or CONAPRED or the different councils that exist in the States of the Republic, the part of the sanction is still pending, as well as the incorporation of the anti-racist perspective in the Powers.

Could you describe the “complex and dense panorama of contemporary expressions of racism in Mexico” referred to in the book?

It speaks of a complexity mainly because of the way in which it is expressed. For example, in this book I think the three axes with which it is approached are very appropriate: bodies, media and education. Bodies because it is the first front where we talk about racism, that is, the body of people, whether they are racialized in a positive way by being in a system that favors them or they are racialized in a negative way by being the object of racist behaviors, is the space where our stories cross and where they are lived. The second point is the effects of the media on racist communication and anti-racist communication. This is another of the bases where racist discourse, structural racism, exists in Mexican society. The logics of operation of this structural racism have generated some dimensions of racism that we at COPERA talk a lot about, and they are the emotional dimension and the structural dimension, then how these media generate a public and accepted discourse, and very difficult to unlearn, about which bodies are valid and which bodies are not valid, which bodies we can aspire to and which bodies we cannot aspire to. And the third point that is also addressed in the book has to do with education, which in Mexico has been a racist education, and with the school curriculum, how this media message of which bodies are desirable and which bodies are not desirable is translated in the educational sector to which languages are desirable, what it implies to speak Spanish and what it implies to speak your mother tongue if you are from a native people, how it has been devalued and how it translates into the ever-increasing loss of the use of mother tongues.

The manifestations of racism in Mexico could only be associated with discrimination against the indigenous population, what other ethnic groups are discriminated against in Mexico and how serious is the situation?

Here in Mexico, in 2020, for the first time, a census was conducted in which a self-identification question was included for black Afro-Mexican or Afro-descendant people, which was a commitment that was pending to be carried out according to the international agenda. From this census it was possible to clearly specify the percentage of the Afro-descendant population that currently exists in the country, more or less 2.5 million people in Mexico self-describe themselves as Afro-descendants. The issue is that racism itself has had this process of invisibilization, both of native peoples and Afro-descendant population due to the processes of miscegenation. The COPERA collective addresses the figure of this miscegenation, which under the idea that we are all mixed, does not go deeper into this mixture, but invisibilizes the native peoples and the Afro-descendant population. There is also the part that there are some mixtures that are more favorable than others, then there has been a whole reconversion and a whole repositioning, slow but very deep, of a grassroots work done by different organizations and also at institutional level, for the recognition of the Afro-descendant population in this country as another of the populations that exist here and that obey the historical process of the colony, of colonialism and of the effects and the sequels that it has. An interesting thing in the AfroCensoMX campaign, which we did with the COPERA collective, the W.F. Kellogg Foundation, Race and Equality, and the Colegio de México, the Conapred also and several organizations that joined in the diffusion of this campaign, was an intervention called José María and Vicente and it obeys precisely to the figures of José María Morelos y Pavón, who wrote Los sentimientos de la nación, which is one of the legal instruments that serves as a precedent to the Mexican Political Constitution, but if you analyze that the figure of José María Morelos y Pavón was a person of African descent, you understand much more the context from which he wrote Los sentimientos de la nación; and also Vicente Guerrero. When you go to a stationery store, they put José María Morelos y Pavón in pink and with chapitas (earings); this process of whitening history is laughable and tremendous, then becoming aware of how history has been and how they do not narrate it in the role of education regarding racism in Mexico, you can see how all the channels are intercepted.

In what spaces do you expect the discussion on racism in Mexico to be broadened? What results do you expect from the broadening of the discussion?

Look, when we did this campaign for Conapred we had several communicational products, and one was a video that was El racismo en México, then that was a bomb that had millions of views on YouTube. My doctoral thesis was to analyze the comments and we analyzed around 7,250 comments, and to answer the question, the interesting thing is that in these 7,250 comments there was only one that referred to the relationship between racism and colonialism in Mexico, none talked about the relevance of the participation or intervention of the State in racism in Mexico. There was also a dispute, which I find very interesting and which is taken up again in one of the axes that we deal with in the book, which talked about the school and there was confusion about the role of the school. On the one hand there were comments that referred to the fact that the children who appeared in that video answered that way because they had not gone to school and had not been educated, and on the other hand there were comments that said “when I went to school they called me Oaxaca, they insulted me”, etc. So, we see how there is no agreement about what the school really does. By the way, I believe that Mexico is the number one country in terms of bullying and if we see how much of this bullying is due to racist discourse, this is one of the places where I would love to see a change in the way we look at it. The argumentative conception of racism ten years ago obeyed, and I believe that still to date, to understand racism as a question of a person, of a group, and the structural dimension was not understood; When we talk about the responsibility of mothers and fathers and children, we are making invisible that we live in a racist society where at 5, 6 years old you already know which doll is good and which doll is bad, even if you don’t know why, but you understand how society works and operates, what is expected from society, again the relationship between body, media and education, what is important for society, what bodies are valid, where to be, what is desirable and what bodies are not valid, what bodies are not where we have to focus our attention. So, I would love for this conversation to stick very much in the education sector. What I wanted to say was that the process of how the part of academia and colonialism and racism was discussed was a commentary, then the bridge of how racism is understood in a society and the part of the causes that originate it are still very distant, so bringing the academic part closer to the activist part and also the social part, talking about this topic and its causes would be another of the fantastic points. I believe that another thing that is going to change racism in Mexico, as also happened with the issue of feminism, are the daily conversations we have at home, with our friends, the jokes, what is funny and what is not funny, that is where you can see the thermometers of a society, when you can see that there are certain moods that are a social lubricant that gives a permissiveness of actions and behaviors in a society and there are societies that do not allow it, where it is out of place, it is not funny, and that has to do with a level of awareness, with a level of discussion in the public space of where we are going. On the one hand there are all the hate speeches that the networks generate because there is an impersonal part when you are behind the computer that allows you not to be politically correct and then you say what you think and what you feel, and it is also a thermometer to understand what is happening with society; but on the other hand you see a lot of young people who are taking the networks to discuss theory, practice and activism regarding racism in Mexico and regarding racism in Latin America and in the world.

Mexico is one of the seven countries in the region with an international commitment to combat racism and racial discrimination. What actions do you consider key to promoting an anti-racist agenda?

I think there is a part of dissemination and discussion that is still pending; although the issue of racism in the public debate has a greater presence than it had 10 years ago, there is still little participation. I believe that in part of the public agencies there should be, just as the gender perspective is included in several protocols, an anti-racist perspective as part of their protocols, but for this there should also be a conceptual clarity about what we mean when we talk about racism, the difference between racism and classism. There are several things that are still a bit confused in the public sphere and that are important to specify with all their clarity, still the part of training, which is what we do a lot in the COPERA collective, is one of the points that is still essential. On the part of the State, spaces must be opened so that this education and training can take place at all levels. I mean training courses in the three branches of government on what racism is, what are the effects and the logics in which it operates, experiences in Latin America, to understand very clearly the difference between segregationist racism as it is in the United States and the issue of mestizaje in Mexico and Latin America, that is, to understand also the different types and logics in which racism operates because there is a lot of confusion. Also, the school curricula, I believe that this is another place where public policy could be developed, starting from the international commitment, international treaties, how it is translated into instruments in Mexico from the instances that exist here for the work and visibility of racism so that it becomes part of the structures of the State in terms of training and implementation of different protocols. And on the other hand, there is the part of the organizations and society and of the native peoples and Afro-descendant peoples who have a lot to say in this respect, as well as the questioning that we have to do at a collective level on how we are with respect to this issue in Mexico and what are the costs that we have as Mexican society with respect to racism.

The book Expresiones contemporáneas de los racismos en México. Cuerpos, medios y educación, was coordinated by Juris Tipa, Saúl Velasco Cruz and Uriel Nuño Gutiérrez, with contributions by Fabiola Fernández Guerra Carrillo, Elsa Muñiz, Alejandra Ramírez López, Carl Winston Jones, Rodrigo Zárate Moedano, Cristina Masferrer León, Miguel Ángel Paz Frayre, Juris Tipa and Saúl Velasco Cruz.

Race and Equality hosts a workshop on the Protocol for Justice with an Intercultural Perspective with a focus on strengthening the enforceability of the rights of the Afro-Mexican population

Mexico City, Febuary 3, 2023.– On the World Day for African and Afro-descendent Culture, commemorated on January 24th, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) hosted the workshop “Protocol for Justice with an Intercultural Perspective: Afro-descendent and Afro-Mexican People, Towns and Communities,” with the objective of promoting the knowledge and adoption of this protocol among civil society organizations, with the goal of strengthening the enforceability and protection of the rights of the Afro-descendent and Afro-Mexican population.

The workshop was given by Javier Meléndez, Director of International Human Rights Law, with the General Directorate of Human Rights of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN for its Spanish title). For Race and Equality, the opening words for the workshop were presented by Elvia Duque, Senior Race and Ethnicity Program Officer, and the session was moderated by Miguel Ángel Alanis, Race and Equality Mexico Consultant.

In her introduction, Duque referred to the Protocol as a key tool in responding to the demands that for decades have been put forward by organizations and activists in Mexico to consolidate the effective recognition of the rights of the Afro-Mexican population. In particular, she highlighted the section “Social construction of race and ethnicity,” that contained precise concepts on racism and its multiple manifestations, like that on the process of racialization that impacts the lives of Afro-descendent and Afro-Mexican people. “These concepts we consider key in the process of professionalization and must be analyzed and contemplated in all steps of the judicial process,” she continued.

Content and the importance of the Protocol

The Protocol for Justice with an Intercultural Perspective: Afro-descendent and Afro-Mexican People, Towns, and Communities was officially presented in November 2022. Its principal objective is that judges utilize it as a toolbox to facilitate and guide their actions through the procedural moments that take place within a judicial proceeding, explained expert Javier Meléndez.

The Protocol details the development of an intercultural perspective for the impartation of justice, in which they take into account the transversal axes of this methodology: equality and nondiscrimination, the free determination and access to justice, based on juridical criteria established by the SCJN and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

“This Protocol began to be elaborated from a sociological, anthropological and historical point of view until it moved on to focus on legal content,” signaled Meléndez, who initiated his exposition based on the four key aspects of the Protocol: the background that led to its origin, the structure of its content, its most relevant content, and its importance for the enforceability of the rights of the Afro-Mexican population.

The expert indicated that one of the barriers to implementation was a lack of precedent and national criterion on the rights of the Afro-Mexican population. Meléndez emphasized that until that moment there were only three precedents in the field, whose approach was based on a normative equalization in the Constitution with the rights of indigenous peoples. Among these precedents was Constitutional Action 81/2018, where the SCJN pronounced for the first time on the rights of Afro-Mexican people in light of the lack of free, prior and informed consent in the process of creating legislative provisions in the State of Guerrero.

Meléndez stressed that, although this Protocol was essentially directed at judges, one of the purposes is that people who work on the promotion and defense of the rights of Afro-descendent and Afro-Mexican people adopt the Protocol as well.

This workshop was presented in part because of the work of Race and Equality, with the support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, initiated in Mexico under the project “Promotion of an antiracist agenda to strengthen the work of civil society organizations in the fight against racism and racial discrimination in Mexico.” Race and Equality hopes to contribute to the knowledge and adoption of the Protocol for Justice with an Intercultural Perspective: Afro-descendent and Afro-Mexican People, Towns and Communities through this workshop and other actions, and invites you to access the documents through this link:

International Day for People of African Descent: What Are We Doing to Promote and Defend their Rights?

Washington D.C., August 31, 2022.  This August 31, the International Day for People of African Descent celebrates its second year, promoting respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms of people of African descent. In the Americas, there are 134 million people of African descent, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). This population continues to face human rights challenges and is victim to different manifestations of discrimination and violence.

For this reason, as the International Day for People of African Descent is commemorated once again, the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) encourages States to assume and implement actions for the promotion and protection of this vulnerable population, using the frameworks of the International Decade for People of African Descent, and other existing mechanisms within the Inter-American System and the United Nations.

About August 31 and Other International Mechanisms

On December 16, 2020, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 75/170 proclaiming August 31 as the International Day for People of African Descent. “To promote greater recognition and respect for the diversity of the legacy, culture, and contribution of people of African descent to the development of societies, as well as to promote respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of people of African descent,” reads the Resolution.

The plan of activities for the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024) has been the driving force behind this type of action. One of its main objectives is to adopt and strengthen national legal frameworks in accordance with the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, ensuring their full and effective implementation.

Additionally, the record of acts of discrimination and violence against people of African descent—such as the murder of the African-American citizen George Floyd in May 2020 in the United States—has impacted the vigilance and adoption of international mechanisms for the human rights of Afro-descendant populations and racial justice.

For example, a month after Floyd’s death, the UN Human Rights Council adopted Resolution 43/1, “Promotion and protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Africans and people of African descent from excessive use of force and other human rights violations by law enforcement officials,” which calls for widespread attention to racism and implores States to take an active role in meeting their objective of racial justice.

In 2021, the United Nations adopted two important mechanisms. One of them is the Permanent Forum of Afro-descendants, which was approved in August through Resolution 75/314 of the United Nations General Assembly, with the mission of being an advisory body of the Human Rights Council. Among its mandates is that of, “contributing to the full political, economic, and social inclusion of Afro-descendants in the societies in which they live, with an equal footing to other citizens and without discrimination of any kind and contribute to ensuring the equal enjoyment of all human rights.”

Moreover, in a resolution adopted on July 13, 2021, the Human Rights Council decided to establish an international mechanism of independent experts, composed of three experts with experience in law enforcement and human rights, and appointed by the chairman. Its mandate is to examine systemic racism and the excessive use of force and other violations of international human rights law against Africans and people of African descent by law enforcement officials around the world.

What are we doing?

To contribute to living in a more just and equitable society, Race and Equality works with partner organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean in the defense and protection of the rights of people of African descent and Afro-LGBTI+ populations, using capacity building to promote visibility, documentation, and strategic litigation before the Inter-American System and the United Nations.

In July, in Brazil, Race and Equality organized a visit by Margarette May Macaulay, the Rapporteur for People of African Descent of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The Commissioner had the opportunity to hear complaints from the black population, especially those related to police brutality and religious racism. In addition, in May Race and Equality launched the ‘Kátia Tapety Political Training School’ for Afro-BLTI women, with the aim of strengthening civil participation in collective decision-making spaces, with particular emphasis placed on reducing gender and race gaps in political participation at the regional, national, and global level.

Additionally in Brazil, Race and Equality has been working on projects that denounce the closure of civic spaces for black and indigenous movements; the fight against religious racism; the protection and defense of the Afro-LGBTI+ populations; the political strengthening of black, indigenous LBTI women; and the fight against police violence. It also monitors the implementation of the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance (CIRDI), which was ratified at the end of 2021 in Brazil.

In Colombia, Race and Equality carried out, in conjunction with organizations in Cali, documentation activities and the preparation of a report on the effects and differential impacts of violence against people of African descent in Cali within the framework of the 2021 National Strike. In the coming days, together with the organizations Ilex-Acción Jurídica, Temblores NGOs, and the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES), Race and Equality will publish a national report on police brutality and racial bias.

In relation to advocacy processes before the United Nations on the disproportionate use of force against people of African descent, Race and Equality recently presented a report for the Mechanism of Experts to Promote Justice and Racial Equality in Law Enforcement. It also submitted a report on inputs for the preparation of the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 47/21- this in coalition with Ilex-Acción Jurídica, CODHES, Black Communities Process (PCN), and the Center for Afrodiasporic Studies (CEAF) of the ICESI University of Cali.

In Mexico, within the framework of the International Day of Afro-Latin, Afro-Caribbean and Diaspora Women, Race and Equality launched on July 25 the project, “Promotion of an anti-racist agenda to strengthen the work of civil society organizations in the fight against racism and racial discrimination in Mexico,” which is being implemented thanks to the support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

One of the first activities of this project consisted of a cycle of conferences given between August 25 and 26 by Dr. Pastor Murillo, a member of the UN Permanent Forum on People of African Descent. The conferences, which were held both in Mexico City and in Mérida, Yucatán State, revolved around international tools to combat racism and racial discrimination, and the role of universities.

At the regional level, Race and Equality maintains the CIRDI 2024 campaign, “towards a region free of racial discrimination,” for the promotion of the signature, ratification, and implementation of the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Intolerance (CIRDI). Within the framework of this campaign, Race and Equality has considered working hand in hand with local organizations to strengthen their monitoring capacities in countries where this Convention has been ratified, as well as advocate in other countries where it has only been signed.

Race and Equality continues to make racial discrimination visible utilizing an intersectional perspective, through the Inter-American Forum against Discrimination, an event held each year with the participation of international experts and activists from the region. Its main objectives are to promote the effective participation of non-governmental organizations in the framework of the OAS General Assemblies and Summits of the Americas, to improve their impact within the system, and to make visible both the different discriminations faced in the Americas and the main demands of the different sectors of the population that are victims of discrimination, especially Afro-descendants and LGBTI population.

For Race and Equality, it is important to emphasize the promotion and protection tools offered by international mechanisms, such as CIRDI, for the benefit of people of African descent. We firmly believe that it is through these instruments States can adopt and implement clear and effective policies to guarantee the human rights and social welfare of people of African descent. To this end, it is essential to work with civil society organizations that protect the rights of this population, since they guarantee the visibility of their realities, and follow up on national and international commitments.

On August 31, Race and Equality reaffirms its commitment to defend and protect the rights of people of African descent in the Americas and calls on States to adopt measures and strengthen those already in place, based on the recognition of the historical inequalities that this ethnic group has faced. Two years before the end of the International Decade for People of African Descent, this task is not only urgent, but represents a true commitment to democracy and social inclusion.

Race and Equality launches project for the construction and implementation of an anti-racist agenda in Mexico

Washington DC, July 28, 2022. – Within the framework of International Afro-Latina, Afro-Caribbean and Diaspora Women’s Day, and with a view to contributing to a more equitable world, the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) launched on Monday, July 25, through a hybrid event in Mexico City, the project “Promotion of an anti-racist agenda to strengthen the work of civil society organizations in the fight against racism and discrimination in Mexico”, which is being implemented thanks to the support of the WK Kellogg Foundation.

With the participation of representatives of public institutions and autonomous human rights organizations of ethnic and national nature, the event was held in the Digna Ochoa room, at the headquarters of the Human Rights Commission of Mexico City. In his welcoming remarks, the Executive Director of Race and Equality, Carlos Quesada, highlighted the political will of the Mexican State to combat racism and racial discrimination with the ratification of the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance (CIRDI) in November 2019.

Meanwhile, the Director of Programs for Latin America and the Caribbean of the WK Kellogg Foundation, Alejandra Garduño Martínez, pointed out racial equity as a key element for the construction of an anti-racist agenda. “Achieving racial equity means that a person’s identity does not determine how they are treated; racial equity requires, therefore, the transformation of systems and the identification and change of practices that deny equal treatment or produce unequal results for certain social groups, resulting in an increase in social inequality,” she emphasized.

In the first panel of the event, which was called “Importance of promoting an anti-racist agenda in Mexico”, the participants offered their views on racism and racial discrimination, agreeing that these are structural problems in Mexican society and that they have different manifestations, so they must be combated from different areas and through common actions.

Francisco Estrada Correa, Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission of Mexico (CNDH), drew attention to the need for public policies or social programs to take on discriminatory issues from a comprehensive point of view, since focusing only on some of its manifestations are also racist actions or practices, he considered. “To unlearn racism, education in schools, messages in the media and the forms of socialization that we learn in the family are central to its elimination as long as they are accompanied by legal provisions that punish these behaviors,” he noted.

The coordinator of Gender Equality and Non-Discrimination of the General Directorate of Human Rights and Democracy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, Elvira García Aguayo, highlighted the progress at the international level with the adoption of agreements such as the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the CIRDI. In this sense, she encouraged everyone to learn more about the System of Monitoring and Attention to International Recommendations on Human Rights, which can be found on the Internet under the acronym SERIDH.

Akosua Ali, President of the Washington, DC chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People known by its acronym in English NAACP  was unable to attend the event in person for health reasons, so her intervention was through a video. The activist referred to the history of slavery in Mexico, a country that during the 16th century had more enslaved Africans than any other colony in the Western Hemisphere. “We need to start having these difficult conversations to heal past trauma and move forward together to ensure our communities are safe, healthy, and whole,” she said.

Berenice Vargas, Deputy Director of Planning of the Council to Prevent and Eliminate Discrimination of Mexico City, considered that community work is important to combat and eliminate racist and discriminatory practices, for which coordination between state institutions and civil society organizations is necessary. She also stressed that the actions within the framework of this effort must take into account the perspectives of gender, interculturality, multiculturalism, human rights, and intersectionality.

The Deputy Director of Territorial Liaison of the National Council to Prevent Discrimination (CONAPRED), Jean Philibert Mobwa, provided an overview of the recognition of racism and racial discrimination at the constitutional level in Mexico and the rest of the countries of the Americas. “The denial or elimination of the term race in national provisions does not solve the problem of racial discrimination and racism. And be careful, here the general principle of law works according to which ‘what is not prohibited is allowed‘”, he explained.

In the second panel, entitled “Towards the construction of an anti-racist agenda in Mexico”, María Celeste Sánchez, Alternate Senator for Mexico City, Fátima Gamboa, general director of EQUIS: Justice for Women AC; José Antonio Aguilar, founder and director of Racismo MX; Sagrario Cruz, professor and researcher at the Universidad Veracruzana; and Conrado Zepeda, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Mexico, intervened.

The Alternate Senator for Mexico City, María Celeste Sánchez, recognized the role that civil society organizations must play in building an anti-racist agenda in the country, with representation from all population groups and geographic areas. In addition, she confirmed that the Senate has a draft decree initiative since December 2020 requesting to reform and add various provisions of the federal criminal code to criminalize racial hatred based on the CIRDI. It is expected that once the Senate is reinstated in September and with the promotion of an “anti-racist agenda” progress will be made on this and many issues of interest to ethnic communities in Mexico.

The general director of EQUIS: Justice for Women, Fátima Gamboa, contributed to the debate some questions for the construction of an anti-racist agenda, among them: the role of the organizations that promote projects, which—she said—must be more horizontal, accompanying and strengthening, as well as having ethics in the use of voice and representation of people, organizations and key actors for its construction that outlines anti-racial structural transformations with a gender perspective.

Sagrario Cruz, professor and researcher at the Universidad Veracruzana, presented a series of proposals to guarantee the rights of indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants in the country, targeting sectors such as education, health, and census. Regarding the latter, she expressed that it is very necessary to update the National Survey on Discrimination (ENADIS) with disaggregated data.

José Antonio Aguilar, Founder and Director of Racismo MX, highlighted the importance of this project, which he identified as a first space to establish an anti-racist agenda in Mexico. “We have a country where more than 80% of the population, according to the 2017 ENADIS, has dark skin tones regardless of identity, so that means that there is a majority population in Mexico that is vulnerable to acts of racist discrimination,” he shared.

Conrado Zepeda, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Mexico, referred to the problem of racism and racial discrimination from the perspective of human mobility and intersectionality. “All migrants and refugees are not treated in the same way by government agents, by social organizations and by people in general. It is not the same to be a male, white, young, heterosexual, and European migrant or refugee, than to be a female, indigenous or black, elderly, lesbian migrant or refugee from a poor country,” he stated.

About the project

Miguel Ángel Alanis, a consultant for Race and Equality in Mexico, pointed out that this project “is part of a comprehensive strategy focused on Mexico whose objective is to empower civil society organizations to strengthen their fight against the structural racism and racial discrimination they face on a daily basis, based on an anti-racist agenda that directs their actions towards a more equitable world.”

A key focus of this project is the promotion of the effective implementation of regional and international human rights and anti-racism and racial discrimination tools and conventions. “With the signing of the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance (CIRDI) by the Mexican State on November 19, 2019, the need emerges to redouble efforts to promote the contents and scope established in the Convention between public and academic institutions and the counterparts that pay to build an anti-racist agenda in the country,” explained Alanis.

In Mexico, according to the 2020 Population and Housing Census, 2,576,213 people identify themselves as Afro-descendants and 7,364,645 speak an indigenous language. Despite advances in the recognition of rights and the inclusion of statistical information, structural barriers continue to exist that make it impossible to exercise human rights and enjoy a life free of discrimination and racism.

Race and Equality launches regional campaign to promote the ratification and implementation of the Inter-American Convention Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance

Washington, D.C.; September 4, 2021.- On September 2, the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) launched its new campaign Toward a Region Free From Racial Discrimination, which will last until 2024 and seeks to promote the universal ratification and implementation of the Inter-American Convention Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance (known by its Spanish acronym CIRDI).

The campaign, which takes place in the context of the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024), was launched in a virtual event that featured Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay, Rapporteur for the Rights of Afro-descendants and Against Racial Discrimination at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR); Gay McDougall, who was recently re-elected to serve a third term on the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD); and Vice President of Costa Rica Epsy Campbell.

Representatives from Antigua and Barbuda, Brazil, and Mexico, all State Parties to the Convention, also participated. Carlos Quesada, Race and Equality’s Executive Director, introduced the campaign while Latin America Program Officer Elvia Duque served as the moderator.

“This campaign is necessary, especially during the International Decade for People of African Descent, for the majority of countries in the Americas to ratify and implement this important Convention,” remarked Quesada in his introduction to the event.

The campaign

Race and Equality considers the ratification and implementation of CIRDI a necessary step to make the systemic forms of racism and discrimination against Afro-descendants, indigenous peoples, and other minorities in the region more visible. Race and Equality also emphasizes that the Convention is a key step for states to fulfill their international obligations to promote equitable conditions, ensure equality of opportunity, and combat racial discrimination in all individual, structural, and institutional forms.

The ultimate goal of the campaign is for all 35 members of the Organization of American States (OAS) to sign, ratify, and implement CIRDI by the end of 2024.

To that end, the campaign will consist of bilateral and multilateral initiatives across the region. These activities will offer accompaniment and resources to states as they move towards ratifying and implementing the Convention. Civil society organizations will also play an important role in the campaign, receiving training and tools to monitor the ratification and implementation processes.

The importance of CIRDI

Although the OAS General Assembly approved the Inter-American Convention against Racism in 2013 and it entered into force in 2017, only 6 of the 35 OAS Member States have ratified it: Antigua and Barbuda, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, and Uruguay. During the event, Costa Rican Vice President Epsy Campbell explained that improving the rate of ratification had become all the more important after UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet released a report on global systemic racism in 2020.

Bachelet’s report stemmed from UN Human Rights Council Resolution 43/1 (Promotion and protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Africans and of people of African descent against excessive use of force and other human rights violations by law enforcement officers), which was passed in the context of worldwide protests against the killing of George Floyd. The Resolution calls on all states to take an active role in achieving racial justice, using all available human rights instruments to combat racism and discrimination.

Joy-Dee Davis Lake, the Alternative Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the OAS, stated that CIRDI was passed by the OAS General Assembly in a moment of international attention on the need to build upon the human rights protections enshrined in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

Together, said Davis Lake, the CERD and CIRDI “represent the most ambitious efforts to prohibit discrimination under international law, be it on the grounds of race, color, national or ethnic origin, nationality, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, language, religion, cultural identity, opinions of any kind, social origin, socio-economic states, level of education, refugee or migrant status, or disability.”

Paulo Roberto, Brazil’s National Secretary for Policies to Promote Racial Equality, celebrated his country’s ratification of the Convention and called on other states to do the same: “We ratified the Convention on May 13 of this year, which is also the date of the Áurea Law [which abolished slavery in Brazil], a great step forward for Brazilian society. The Convention is an instrument to fight racism and the cultural impacts of colonialism.”

Christopher Ballinas, General Director for Human Rights and Democracy at the Secretariat of Foreign Relations of Mexico, stated that “racism and discrimination is a theme of vital importance in our region because it allows us to integrate our multicultural societies, and also because failing to fight racism and discrimination in multicultural societies leads to hateful discourses and hate crimes.”

Ballinas explained that Mexico was motivated to ratify CIRDI by a hate crime committed in August 2019, when 23 people, including 9 Mexican nationals, were murdered in El Paso, Texas.

Commissioner Macaulay pointed out that CIRDI calls for the creation of an Inter-American Committee to Prevent and Eliminate Racism, Racial Discrimination, and All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance, an independent body that will consist of one representative from each State Party and will monitor the State Parties’ commitments under the Convention.

“I strongly recommend that all Member States ratify and implement the Convention. The structural discrimination against Afro-descendants, indigenous peoples, and other groups demands a strong and serious commitment to combatting discrimination and all forms of intolerance in our hemisphere,” said Macaulay.

Gay McDougall of the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) emphasized that the entire international community has a responsibility to combat racism and racial discrimination, saying, “the killing of George Floyd created a new level of urgency to speed up our response.”

Sonia Guajajara, an indigenous leader who serves as the Executive Coordinator of the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), celebrated Brazil’s ratification of CIRDI, but also denounced ongoing structural, institutional, and environmental racism in the country, challenging the audience to ask themselves, “racial harmony for who?” when considering these issues. Guajajara discussed the experiences of the Lucha por la vida (Fight for Life) protest movement, in which 6,000 people have assembled to oppose the Hito Temporal court decision that puts indigenous territories protected under Brazil’s Constitution at risk.

“In Brazil, there is a tendency to deny the existence of racism or only acknowledge it in cases of extreme hate crimes. Indigenous people have fought for respect for our ways of life around the world, and in the Americas it is no different. We have seen our leaders killed, our women raped, our territorial rights violated, and our young people dying of suicide,” she said.

Paola Yáñez, Regional Coordinator of the Network of Afro-Latina, Afro-Caribbean, and Diaspora Women, discussed the work of women’s organizations in the region to bring issues of racism to the foreground across the region, saying, “the adoption of the Convention is an important milestone for the Afro-descendant movement that will allow us to move forward in recognizing racism and the need to act against it across the region.”

According to Noelia Maciel, a member of the National Afro-Uruguayan Coordination, “It is important for all states to ratify this Convention because it represents the culmination of three decades of struggle against racism and racial discrimination, and it is necessary to integrate this into our national frameworks so that we can protect the rights of Afro-descendants, indigenous peoples, and other ethnic or racial minorities.”

Join us

More information about the campaign’s goals, strategies, and activities can be found at The website also includes more information about CIRDI and the region’s progress towards signing and ratifying it, along with the tools needed to advance this process. The website is available in Spanish, English, and Portuguese. The campaign will also be active on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: Afro-descendants call on States to address COVID-19 through inclusive and effective public policies

Washington, D.C., March 19, 2021.– One year after the arrival of COVID-19 to the Americas, the pandemic continues to impact the region’s Afro-descendant population in distinct and disproportionate ways. As we approach International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (March 21), the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) calls on States across the region to tackle the pandemic with public policies that account for this differential impact and guarantee economic recovery for all.

In our work defending and promoting human rights across Latin America and the Caribbean alongside historically marginalized groups such as Afro-descendants, we have tracked the pandemic’s impact on vulnerable populations and studied government responses across the region. According to the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, the region’s 130 million Afro-descendants make up 21% of the total population.

Different conditions, different impacts

COVID-19’s distinct and disproportionate impact on Afro-descendants is rooted in the structural racism, structural discrimination, and exclusion from which Afro-descendants were suffering before the pandemic due to both actions and omissions by regional governments. From the very beginning of the pandemic, this marginalization manifested as a lack of information in Afro-descendant communities about how to prevent infection and serious difficulties in accessing national health systems for those infected. Over the course of the pandemic, a surge of violence in countries such as Brazil and Colombia, perpetrated by both the police and criminal groups, has further threatened Afro-descendants’ rights.

Other than Brazil, no country has issued official statistics on how many Afro-descendants have contracted or died from COVID-19. Civil society organizations, however, have continued to document the inequalities facing Afro-descendants throughout the pandemic. In August 2020, Race and Equality published a report addressing the situation of Afro-descendants during the pandemic. Paola Yáñez, regional coordinators of the Network of Afro-Latina, Afro-Caribbean, and Disapora Women, is quoted in the report as saying, “COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate, but we feel its effects in distinct ways because we don’t live in the same conditions.”

A regional view

Race and Equality’s partner organizations in the region emphasize that Afro-descendants began the pandemic in a situation of particular risk due to the discrimination and exclusion shaping their lives. When the pandemic took hold, government responses were generally inadequate and failed to account for the particular situations of Afro-descendant communities.

In Brazil, where President Jair Bolsonaro continues to deny the severity of the pandemic, Afro-descendants represent 67% of those who rely on the public health system. The majority of Brazilians who suffer from diabetes, tuberculosis, hypertension, and chronic kidney issues, all of which are aggravating factors for COVID-19, are also of African descent. According to the Brazilian Institute on Geography and Population, the COVID mortality rate for Afro-Brazilians has been 92 deaths per 100,000 people, while for the white population it has been 88 per 100,000.

In Colombia, Afro-descendant organizations have raised the alarm regarding their communities’ vulnerability to the pandemic, stemming from poor coverage by the public health and social security systems in majority-Afro-descendant areas. In cities such as Buenaventura (Valle de Cauca department) and Quidbó (Chocó department), the local hospital attends to 400,000 to 500,000 people without sufficient personnel or resources.

The Cuban government has used policies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as a cover for police actions that prevent human rights defenders from carrying out their work. Members of the Citizens’ Committee for Racial Integration (CIR), for example, have suffered arbitrary detentions, police raids, and attacks throughout their campaign demanding that the government implement its touted National Program Against Racism and Racial Discrimination.

In Nicaragua, the impact of the pandemic is largely unknown due to the government’s refusal to publish thorough and timely statistical reports. Afro-descendant and indigenous populations on the Caribbean coast, however, entered the pandemic in a situation of extreme precarity due to violent land invasions and a lack of health and education services. Their vulnerability to the pandemic has only worsened due to the impact of hurricanes Eta and Iota in November 2020.

In Mexico and Peru, both of which are among the hardest-hit countries in the region and the world, Afro-descendant communities have faced particular challenges. In Mexico, the 2020 census-which, thanks to the efforts of Afro-Mexican activists, was the first to include self-identification of Afro-Mexicans-coincided with the pandemic and was severely limited. In Peru, the official response to the pandemic was hampered by a political crisis stemming from the removal of President Martín Vizcarra.

The Convention against Racism is more important than ever

As we approach International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and in the context of the International Decade for People of African Descent, Race and Equality calls on all States to adopt the necessary measures to fight racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and the intersecting forms of intolerance that afflict people of African descent. These measures include legal reforms, the adoption of international instruments, and the implementation of effective policies.

Race and Equality continues to call upon States to ratify the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance. The Convention represents an effective and comprehensive framework for guaranteeing the enjoyment of economic, social, cultural, civil, and political rights of Afro-descendant people. To date, only Antigua and Barbuda, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Uruguay, and Brazil (as of February of this year) have ratified the Convention. Brazilian civil society organizations continue to work to ensure that the Convention is implemented.

Race and Equality calls upon States to:

  • Undertake public policies that combat structural racism and racial discrimination against Afro-descendant people.
  • Improve national health, employment, and educations systems, including by eliminating the gulf between urban and rural areas.
  • Prioritize Afro-descendant and indigenous communities in post-pandemic economic recovery plans.
  • Incorporate particular efforts to address Afro-descendants into emergency response plans. These efforts should respect Afro-descendants’ right to free, prior, and informed consent; account for intersectional human rights issues; and address the needs of vulnerable populations such as children, women, displaced people, migrants, and LGBTI people.
  • Create permanent programs to collect accurate, detailed, and disaggregated data on health, education, employment, and access to justice.

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.

Alongside international experts and Latin American civil society leaders, Race and Equality publishes a new report, “CEDAW and its Impact on Women’s Lives: an intersectional approach”

Washington, D.C., March 5, 2021.- In the lead-up to International Women’s Day, the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) held a webinar on Thursday, March 4th to launch the report “CEDAW and its Impact on Women’s Lives: an intersectional approach.” Representatives from organizations that defend the rights of Afro-descendant and LGBT women served as panelists alongside Gladys Acosta, president of the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Marisa Hutchinson, program official at International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW Asia Pacific); Janaina Oliveira, national director for LGBT issues of the Workers’ Party (PT) in Brazil; Laritza Diversent, director of the Cuban-American NGO Cubalex; María Vélez, coordinator of the Casa Afirmativa project operated by the Colombian organization Caribe Afirmativo; and Wescla Vasconcelos, coordinator of the Rio de Janeiro Forum of Travestis[1] and Transsexual People, all spoke on the panel about the impact of CEDAW and the challenges still facing its work. Cecilia Ramírez, an Afro-Peruvian activist with the Peruvian Center for Black Women’s Development, served as the moderator.

Race and Equality’s executive director, Carlos Quesada, gave the opening remarks. Melissa Monroy, the report’s author and an advisor on women’s rights at Race and Equality, presented the report, which analyzes CEDAW’s impact in Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Peru.

The report

In her presentation, Monroy explained that the report analyzes the dialogue among state parties, civil society, and the CEDAW committee that results in the committee’s reports and recommendations. The report pays particular attention to the representation and participation of Afro-descendant women, including Afro-descendant LGBT women, in this dialogue.

The analysis drew upon a thorough review of states’ reports to CEDAW and of CEDAW’s recommendations between 2010 and 2020. Monroy also interviewed civil society activists and leaders to understand their place in the CEDAW process and their perspectives on its impact.

“The actions of CEDAW, civil society, and state parties are all interconnected. More participation from diverse Afro-descendant women is needed in all three spheres for their voices to be heard effectively,” she remarked, noting that the report includes recommendations to the Committee, civil society, and states to improve their approach to Afro-descendant women’s rights.

The evolution of CEDAW

 CEDAW president Gladys Acosta acknowledged the lack of representation and participation of Afro-descendant women in the CEDAW process while assuring the audience that since the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1979, the Committee has undergone several reforms as society’s understanding of women’s rights has evolved. For example, she explained, the Committee has moved from focusing on “violence against women” to “gender-based violence” as the latter term gains acceptance among experts.

“This is not just a conceptual change, this is a historical evolution brought about by struggle and activism. Struggle comes before advances in laws: first there is a struggle and later on national and international institutions recognize the change. These standards are elastic; they expand as social consciousness expands, so we may have said one thing in 1980, but today things are different. There is a broader understanding of what constitutes a human rights violation,” Acosta explained.

To give another example, Acosta referred to the concept of intersectionality, saying that it has helped to fulfill the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ affirmation that all people are born free and equal in dignity and rights. “The Declaration establishes all people on equal footing, but for thousands of reasons we have delayed in arriving to this vision,” she stated.

“All this is in motion, it is not static, and the visibility that civil society brings to new issues is noticed – not only by CEDAW, but in all the UN treaty bodies. We are trying to create an understanding of human rights that is comprehensive, more specific, and more suited to protecting vulnerable people,” Acosta added.

An intersectional discussion of discrimination

 The panel’s civil society representatives drew on their experience working to defend and promote women’s rights to discuss how discrimination and violence are manifested in the lives of Afro-descendant and LGBT women.

“When I think about intersectionality, I first think about what it means to be a Black woman. We experience discrimination because of race or sexual orientation, because for a lesbian or trans Black woman, all your life experiences come to one point, which is your racial difference. This has a major impact on our experience with discrimination,” said Marisa Hutchinson, program official at IWRAW Asia Pacific.

Janaina Oliveira, national director for LGBTI issues of the Brazilian Workers’ Party, emphasized that not all public policies supposedly aimed at advancing women’s rights will improve the situation of Afro-descendant or LGBT women, especially in a country like Brazil, where the government of President Jair Bolsonaro denies the extent and impact of racism: “You can see this when we launch campaigns to fight violence against women, and there is a reduction in rates of violence only against non-Black women. State policies in favor of women don’t mean that the policies will reach the most vulnerable groups.”

Laritza Diversent, director of Cubalex, explained that in Cuba, Afro-descendant women suffer constant discrimination and violence at the hands of the authorities, including racial profiling by police who assume that Black women are involved in illegal sex work. “They assume Black women are more sexual and think that we try to go after tourists, so we are constantly being watched by police. During the pandemic, state violence against Black women has worsened,” she said, mentioning that the concept of intersectionality has not been mainstreamed in Cuba’s independent civil society, making it difficult to use an intersectional lens to gather and report data.

María Vélez of Caribe Afirmativo pointed out, “Lesbian, bisexual, and trans Black women experience life in racialized bodies, so we experience discrimination for our sexual orientation or gender identity differently than white LGBT women do. We experience it in an environment where racism against us is ingrained socially, economically, even religiously. Intersectionality requires us to think about racial, gender, and class oppression and how they are interrelated. This is how we can understand the inequality that we experience.”

The panel closed with remarks from Wescla Vasconcelos, coordinator of the Rio de Janeiro Forum of Travestis and Transsexual People, who warned of serious discrimination facing LGBTI people in Brazil. “We are the population that suffers the most hate crimes. This brutality must stop, it must be combatted – the situation must change,” she insisted.

At Race and Equality, we are committed to practicing intersectionality across our programs defending and promoting human rights, including the rights of Afro-descendant and LGBTI people. We hope that this new report will contribute to civil society’s understanding of intersectionality, its role in the fight against discrimination, and how to incorporate it into national, regional, and international policies for human rights.

The Spanish version of the report can be found here. English and Portuguese translations will be available soon.

The recording of the webinar can be found here.

[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.

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