Lesbian Rebellions: advances and setbacks in the rights of lesbians

Lesbian Rebellions: advances and setbacks in the rights of lesbians

Washington, 13 October 2023.- The Day of Lesbian Feminist Rebellions in Latin America and the Caribbean is not a day created by the United Nations. Born in 2007, following an accord adopted at the 7th Meeting of Lesbian Feminists of Latin America and the Caribbean (ELFLAC), in which around 200 lesbian feminists from across the region participated, delegates chose October 13th to commemorate the first Regional Meeting of Lesbian Feminists of 1987 in Mexico, the first lesbian assembly with a public presence. [1]

Since then, several countries in the region have developed different political and cultural actions promoted by lesbian feminists in favor of visibility and against discrimination. Their advocacy has also brought about legislative and regulatory advances in human rights; however, there has been more progress in some countries than in others.

For example, in Nicaragua there are no laws that protect the LGBTI+ population, much less lesbians specifically. “It is difficult to think of setbacks with respect to lesbian rights in a country where there has almost never been progress,” says Nicaraguan activist Tania Irías, of the Grupo Lésbico Feminista Artemisa, a collective that has been providing spaces for reflection, acceptance, and non-discrimination to young lesbian women in Nicaragua since 2006.

For Irías, the greatest setbacks in the lesbian struggle are linked to the organizational disarticulation caused by “state repression and the establishment of a dictatorship that, as a repressive strategy, has undermined the process of articulation, demand, and visibility of lesbians as political bodies with rights”.

However, in this context of dictatorship, in the “allied” spaces, the struggle for lesbian rights is also usually relegated. “We are not a priority, and we are always being asked to leave the visible struggle to others,” explains Irías, who also assures that as a movement they are clear about the need to continue to occupy their spaces of visibility and to continue joining “with those who join us and making efforts, because it will be difficult for us we don’t,” Irías emphasizes.

In contrast, other countries have made significant progress in the recognition of LGBTI+ rights. In Cuba, for example, with the approval of the Family Code in 2022, several rights that favor lesbian couples were included, such as equal marriage, assisted reproduction, and adoption. On September 28 of this year, Decree 96, an action protocol that prevents and addresses harassment and discrimination for reasons of sexual orientation, gender identity, among others, in the workplace, also came into force. Despite this, in real life the changes are not so evident. “In Cuba, sexist and patriarchal thoughts and attitudes continue to hold sway, which is why lesbian women continue to be victims of hatred and discrimination. We are frowned upon in the street, we are offended and insulted,” says Irina León Valladares, Cuban activist and member of the Latin American Federation of Rural Women (FLAMUR).

In the same vein, Annery Rivera Velasco, independent journalist, and Cuban activist mentioned that “the setbacks –that are more like the normal state of affairs—are social characteristics, as it is part of our sexist and patriarchal society.” Additionally, she said that in Cuba a lesbian movement does not exist due to disarticulation, since Cuban authorities criminalize people who work for the defense of human rights.

Colombia also has broad legal protections for lesbians. Its Constitutional Court has granted transcendental protections, one of them being the historic recognition of LGBTI+ people in the peace process with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Likewise, the Constitutional Court ruled in 2016 in favor of same-sex marriage.

However, there is still much work to be done so that norms are translated into actions, especially “in relation to reproductive rights, the right to life due to the rise in corrective rape and lesbofeminicide. In addition, discrimination and/or harassment at work due to lesbian sexual orientation,” said Sami Arizabaleta, activist, and director of the Afrodescendent Foundation for Social and Sexual Diversities (Somos Identidad).

“As a lesbian movement we are politically influencing the updating of the LGBTQI policy, with recognition of intersectional lesbian contexts. The strategies are diverse from the regional and social contexts, but in general terms we are advancing in organizational strengthening, political advocacy from the enforceability of rights, denunciations, and dialogue for the adoption of measures,” shares Sami.

In the case of Peru, a country mired in a deep political, social, and institutional crisis, the illegitimacy of the government and the Congress of the Republic prevails. According to the last poll by the Institute of Peruvian Statistics (IEP), around 80% of the population demands the resignation of the president of the Republic, Dina Boluarte, the closure of Congress and new elections.

Both the legislative and executive branches of government have promoted initiatives against the rights of lesbians, LGBTI+ people, women, children, and adolescents. In addition, several congressional members have presented various bills seeking Peru’s withdrawal from the Pact of San José. “The rights of lesbians have been completely ignored by the current government of Dina Boluarte and the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations (MIMP),” says Gabriela Zavaleta, lesbian feminist activist and advocacy coordinator of Más Igualdad.

She also mentions that the Working Group for the Promotion of Lesbian Rights of the MIMP has been deactivated and that for more than 5 years the approval of the investigation on the situation of lesbian rights in Peru has been postponed. “Only civil society organizations are resisting this situation, promoting the national and international articulation of lesbian organizations, carrying out advocacy actions before the CEDAW Committee for a general recommendation on lesbian rights, systematizing the proposals and demands of the organizations, and making efforts to unite lesbian organizations in a regional agenda that serves as a tool for advocacy with the different States and relevant institutions”, she indicates.

In general, various countries in Latin America have achieved significant legislative advances in the recognition of LGBTI+ rights. However, much work remains to guarantee that these rights are fully recognized and respected.

In light of this, Race and Equality highlights some recommendations for States in order to protect the rights of lesbians.

  • Guarantee the right to family and civil rights for lesbians through legal recognition of lesbian mothers and diverse families.
  • Guarantee access to equal marriage and keep unrestricted respect for rights acquired abroad.
  • Develop mechanisms to avoid the criminalization of lesbian mothers in child custody proceedings.
  • Strengthen training programs for State officials in order to guarantee the dignified treatment of lesbians in public services.
  • Implement Comprehensive Sexual Education policies that guarantee respect for sexual diversity.
  • Record, document, and analyze violence against lesbians to formulate policies that respond to their needs.
  • Guarantee access to justice andnvestigate and punish discrimination and crimes committed against lesbians.
  • Promote the access of lesbians to political spaces and positions of power in order to guarantee the right to political participation without violence and the representation of identities.
  • Implement programs of attention and containment for cases of violence due to prejudice inside and outside the home.

[1] Ochy Curiel (2007). Un encuentro trascendente e histórico. Available at: https://rebelion.org/un-encuentro-trascendente-e-historico/

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: fb.watch/lhnPl8jt7F/

Learn about our CIRDI 2024 campaign! https://cirdi2024.org/en/

31M Trans Visibility: What Happens to Trans People in the Context of Political Crises and Authoritarian Regimes?

Washington D.C., March 31, 2023 – Marking International Day of Transgender Visibility, The International Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights (Race and Equality) highlights and recognizes that within the region political and social crises, including authoritarian regimes generate differential impacts on vulnerable groups of people. For trans people and people of diverse genders, the impact is even greater when considering factors like socioeconomic status, race, migratory status, and age.

LGBTI+ people, and specifically trans people, systematically suffer human rights violations in different aspects of their lives. Moreover, in authoritarian regimes or in complex political and social contexts, their situation is aggravated by legislative setbacks and legal gaps, and it is therefore more difficult to guarantee respect for and compliance with international human rights obligations. In addition, the level of impunity for hate crimes are increasing and violence and discrimination are often perpetrated by public officials.

In Brazil, during Jair Bolsonaro’s administration, there was an increase in hate speech against the LGBTI+ population, which specifically affected the trans population. The rise of the extreme right, linked to conservative religious groups, strengthened the anti-trans agenda which became institutionalized and gained space in official government speeches. The anti-rights fundamentalist groups that persecute and lie about gender diversity, calling it “gender ideology,” have constructed a violent discourse which targets trans people as enemies and prevents the construction of public policies aimed at improving the human rights of this population. “In addition, they attack rights that have been conquered, such as respect for social names and a self-declared gender in public and private establishments, as well as the use of the bathroom according to your gender,” explains Gab Van, Representative of the João W. Nery Transmasculina League.

In 2022, Brazil maintained its 14th consecutive year as the top of the ranking for murders of trans people. According to the National Association of Transvestites and Transsexuals (ANTRA), 131 trans people were murdered in Brazil in 2022 (130 trans women and 1 trans masculine person). At least 76 percent of the victims were black.[1]

In Peru, the country is currently experiencing a serious institutional, political, and social crisis. After the attempted coup d’état against Congress by President Pedro Castillo in December 2022 and Dina Boluarte assuming presidency, various sectors of society are unaware of the government of Dina Boluarte and the Congress of the Republic. This has generated a series of nationwide protests causing 67 deaths, with 1,335 people injured,[2] along with arbitrary arrests, arbitrary searches, and a series of human rights violations by the government, the police, and military forces. Within this context, the situation of the trans population worsened and was relegated, not to mention the increase of impunity for hate crimes. In the first month and a half alone of this year, eight murders of trans women were reported,[3] which were classified as violent deaths. “As long as there is no gender identity law, this system will continue to oppress us because it does not recognize us as women and we cannot exercise full and responsible citizenship,” said Alejandra Fang, member of Trans Feminist Organization for the Human Rights of Trans People.

To date, there is no official record of violence and hate crimes against trans and gender-diverse people. The little information known so far is obtained through the media and trans civil society organizations who make great efforts for such documentation. Similarly, political studies, analyses, and reports on human rights violations make no reference to the situation, and the differentiated impact on the current institutional crisis, and the lives of trans and gender diverse people.

In the case of Nicaragua, the context of socio-political and human rights crises, where censorship and impunity prevail for the serious violations and abuses of human rights are perpetrated by the State and parastatal agents, there is no access to official figures on cases of violence against trans people; however,  according to testimonies gathered by the Expert Group on Human Rights on Nicaragua (GHREN), feminist leaders, women-led organizations, and groups (in all its diversity) have collectively been targets of attack.[4]

The authoritarian regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, held at least 4 trans women incarcerated in penitentiaries for men, denying them access to hormonal therapy and exposing them to differentiated risks based on their gender. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, in Opinion 12/2021, ruled on the case of a trans activist who was arbitrarily arrested on the second anniversary of the socio-political crisis, forced to be held in a men’s penitentiary and sentenced for 13 years and 2 months for “aggravated kidnapping” and “aggravated obstruction of duty.” “His status as a trans person was ignored as a form of humiliation against him,” concluded the Working Group. Finally, the activist was released in 2021, but the State never reported on the lifting of the charges against her, nor on the guarantees of reparation for the damages committed.

Similarly in Cuba, the arrest of Brenda Díaz, a 28-year-old trans woman who remains incarcerated in a male prison, reveals the serious situation faced by people with diverse gender identities on the Island. She was arrested for participating in the peaceful marches in July 2021 because, according to Cuban authorities, she “dressed as a woman to infiltrate” public demonstrations.[5] Victims face all kinds of discrimination and violence within this prison, Brenda is serving a 14-year prison sentence.

In Cuba, people with diverse gender identities can change the gender marker on official identity documents only if the applicant has undergone gender affirmation surgery, according to the database of the organization Ilga Mundo.[6] ILGA World also compiles other measures adopted by the Cuban government to protect this population, but according to trans people, they are not applied and remain a commitment on paper only. In the same way, women’s organizations affirm that a gender law against gender violence is needed to prevent gender-based violence.

In the case of Colombia, within the framework of the 2019-2020 National Strike, Colombia Diversa has documented that the majority of the victims of police violence, threats and homicides were trans women.[7] According to Caribe Afirmativo, as of 2019 most of the victims in 2020 were registered in Valle del Cauca, Antioquia, and Bogotá. In Valle del Cauca, for example, threats and repression by the police and impediments to demonstrations in public spaces were reported.[8] In addition, the Minister of Defense at the time, Diego Molano, criminalized the social leaders of LGBTI+ people in Cauca, establishing them as members of criminal organizations and offering a million-dollar reward to anyone who provided information about them.

Bicky Bohorquez, member of Somos Identidad, spoke about the importance of the personal security of trans people in demonstrations. “To promote the participation and visibility of trans people in spaces of social vindication, such as social protest, we must take into account that these must be safe spaces for us as trans people. Strategies such as listening and learning from our experiences, awareness, and education cannot be left out.”

Trans people in the region are exposed to more dangerous and vulnerable situations when their countries are in critical political and social contexts. Not only because their living conditions become more acute, but because their participation as political actors can place their physical and mental integrity at risk, especially in protest and emergency situations.

In view of these matters, Race and Equality wishes to submit recommendations to the States, many of which were presented by the IACHR in the Report on Trans and Gender Diverse Persons and their economic, social, cultural and environmental rights (2020):

  • Adopt gender identity laws that recognize the rights of trans and gender diverse people to rectify their name and sex and or gender component on their birth certificates, identity documents, and other legal documents. This is based on Advisory Opinion 24/2017 of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR).
  • Eliminate any form of criminalization in laws and public policies, direct or indirect, of the conduct of people in the exercise of their gender identity or expression.
  • Include protections against discrimination based on gender identity in public and private spheres.
  • Develop and implement policies and programs to promote respect for the rights of trans and gender diverse people and their acceptance and social inclusion. These must be comprehensive, transversal, and based on the human rights approach, including the gender perspective.
  • Develop and implement information campaigns to raise awareness in public and private media about bodily and sexual diversity and the gender approach.
  • Promote information campaigns for trans and gender diverse people about their human rights and existing protection mechanisms.

[1] ANTRA (2022). Expediente Asesinatos y violencia contra travestis y transexuales brasileños. Disponible en https://antrabrasil.files.wordpress.com/2023/01/dossieantra2023.pdf

[2] Defensoría del Pueblo (2023) Crisis Política y Protesta Social. Reporte Diario. Disponible en https://www.defensoria.gob.pe/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/ReporteDiario2332023_17-horas.pdf

[3] Presentes (2023). Perú: Por primera vez miles de personas marcharon en Lima contra los transfemicidios. Disponible en https://agenciapresentes.org/2023/02/23/peru-por-primera-vez-miles-de-personas-marcharon-en-lima-contra-los-crimenes-de-transodio/

[4] Consejo de Derechos Humanos de las Naciones Unidas (2023). Conclusiones detalladas del Grupo de Expertos en Derechos Humanos sobre Nicaragua. Disponible en https://informenicaragua.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/A_HRC_52_CRP5_Spanish.pdf

[5] Race and Equality (2022). Cuatro historias de personas detenidas por reclamar cambios en Cuba. Disponible en http://oldrace.wp/es/cuba-es/cuatro-historias-de-personas-detenidas-por-reclamar-cambios-en-cuba/

[6] Ilga Mundo database: https://database.ilga.org/cuba-lgbti-es

[7] Colombia Diversa (2020). 2020, el año con la cifra más alta de violencia policial, asesinatos y amenazas contra personas LGBT. Disponible em https://colombiadiversa.org/blogs/2020-el-ano-con-la-cifra-mas-alta-de-violencia-policial-asesinatos-y-amenazas-contra-personas-lgbt/

[8]Caribe Afirmativo (2021). Violencias contra personas LGBT a 20 días de Paro Nacional. Disponible en https://caribeafirmativo.lgbt/violencias-contra-personas-lgbt-a-20-dias-de-paro-nacional/

The Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Visited Peru with the Support of Race and Equality

The UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity met with State authorities, students, and LGBTI+ organizations from two regions of Peru to promote his mandate.

From November 21 to 26, the IE SOGI, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, held a promotional visit in Peru, which was carried out with our Senior LGBTI Program Officer, Zuleika Rivera, along with the support of the Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights (Race and Equality).

During his visit, Mr. Madrigal-Borloz met with various State authorities, university students, and LGBTI+ human rights organizations from Arequipa and Lima, Peru. The purpose of this trip was to provide information on 1. The functions of the mandate and 2. The mandate’s critical support in effective sate measures to address SOGI-based violence and discrimination.

The United Nations Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, in one of the meetings with LGBTI+ organizations in Lima, Peru.

It is worth mentioning that the SOGI mandate was created in 2016 thanks to the advocacy work of a group of civil society organizations worldwide. Through the mandate’s creation, the UN Human Rights Council affirmed its commitment to combat discrimination and violence on the grounds of SOGI and reminds all States of their obligations towards LGBTI+ and gender-diverse persons. To learn more about the work of the mandate and access its reports, visit the official website.

Dialogue with civil society

Arequipa was the first stop for the IE SOGI. There representatives of transmasculine, lesbian, and gay organizations highlighted the issues they face due to their sexual orientation and gender identity in the region, as well as the stigmas towards LGBTI+ persons that are generated from conservatism.

The United Nations Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, at the meeting with LGBTI+ organizations in Arequipa, Peru.

In addition, four thematic meetings were held in Lima: a) Discrimination, b) Violence, and Access to Justice; c) Data; d) Health and Comprehensive Sex Education; e) and Gender Identity. These meetings incorporated dialogues with various LGBTI+ individuals and organizations. Peru is one of the countries within the Andean region that does not have a gender identity law, so there is no administrative procedure that facilitates legal name change nor the “sex” category in the National Document of Identification (DNI).[1]

On the contrary, trans people must litigate through the courts against the National Registry of Identification and Civil Status (RENIEC), which constantly appeals favorable resolutions that are in accordance with the human rights of trans people. You can watch the interview that Race and Equality conducted with Bruno Montenegro on the subject.

In turn, the same entity refuses for Jenny Trujillo and Darling Delfín, a lesbian couple, to get their child an ID that registers two mothers on the identification document; learn more here. Regarding discrimination and violence against LGBTI+ persons, the State’s registration systems do not include sexual orientation and gender identity categories, as a consequence there is no database with disaggregated records that account for the number of LGBTI+ persons violated.

Juveniles and the law

The UNICXS Legal Office —a project of the Academic Office of Social Responsibility in Peru’s Faculty of Law at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú that offers free legal advice in cases of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity— invited Victor Madrigal to give a workshop to discuss his mandate, the criminalization of LGBTI+ people around the world, and the task of guaranteeing the human rights of all people.

The United Nations Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, at the workshop for members of the Unicxs Legal Clinic, of the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, in Lima.

Moreover, the IE SOGI also met with various Peruvian State authorities, including the Peruvian Foreign Minister, Cesar Landa, and the Congresswoman of the Republic, Susel Paredes.

Race and Equality, reaffirms support for the mandate of the Independent Expert in order to contribute to the visibility and respect for the rights of LGBTI+ persons. In this sense, it will continue to promote its visits to the countries of the region so that LGBTI+ activists and groups learn about the work of the mandate and collaborate with its documentation and analysis actions.


[1] The DNI, Documento Nacional de Identidad, is the Peruvian version of an ID card. It’s the only personal identity card recognized by the Peruvian State for all cases (civil, commercial, administrative and judicial) in which a person has to identify themselves.

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.

Trans Day of Remembrance: An urgent call to combat transphobia in Latin America

Washington D.C., November 20, 2021. As we commemorate another year of International Transgender Day of Remembrance, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) wishes to draw the attention of States and the international community to the chilling numbers of murders of transgender people in the Americas – a reality that unfortunately places the region once more at the top of the list of most homicides worldwide. At the same time, Race and Equality wants to urge governments to prioritize issues of violence and discrimination against gender-diverse people and to adopt swift actions to combat transphobia.

On November 11, TGEU’s Transrespect versus Transphobia Worldwide (TvT) research project published its annual Trans Murder Monitoring (TMM) report, released every year on the eve of November 20, International Transgender Day of Remembrance. According to the data, between October 1, 2020, and September 30, 2021 there were 375 murders of trans people worldwide, of which 311 occurred between Mexico, Central and South America. Globally, the total represents a 7% increase from the previous report (October 2019 – September 2020).

Transphobic tragedy

In Latin America, Brazil continues to be the country with the highest number of murders against transgender people, followed by Mexico (65), Honduras (53) and Colombia (25)*. Regarding global figures, the TMM report highlights that 96% of the murdered persons were transgender women or transgender feminine persons, and 58% were transgender sex workers. This is a pattern that has been corroborated in the region by reports published by LGBTI+ organizations.

“The data indicates a worrying trend regarding the intersections between misogyny, racism, xenophobia and hatred towards sex workers, with the majority of victims being black and colored transgender women, migrants and sex workers,” warns TMM, which also alerts that these numbers are only a small sample of the reality, since many murders remain unreported, or are misidentified.

Lives taken away

Brazil, which represents 41% of the global murders against transgender people, also commemorates on this day the National Day of Black Consciousness. Therefore, November 20 represents a date among human rights organizations in the country – especially those working in the defense of the trans population and the black population – to honor both populations and coincides in the intersection of their vulnerabilities in the midst of a transphobic and racist society.

Brazil began 2021 with the brutal murder of a transgender teenager. In the early morning of January 4, Keron Ravach was stabbed and beaten to death by a 17-year-old who was identified and arrested as the perpetrator of the hate crime. The young woman, who was going through a gender transition process, was defined by her friends as a shy person, but who at the same time dreamed of being a social media influencer. According to the TMM report, the average age of trans people murdered in the last year is 30 years old, with Keron being the youngest of all victims, at just 13 years old.

Indolence and Impunity

In most cases of murdered transgender persons there is a history of violence and threats, but these are often ignored by the authorities or are not dealt with in a timely manner. As such, when the murder occurs, there is insufficient information to identify the person or persons responsible. This issue has been expressed by organizations who promote and defend the rights of the LGBTI+ population and was manifested in the murder of Gina Rodríguez Sinuiri on September 21, in Callao, Peru.

Gina, 28, was stabbed several times in a hotel room in the city. Although immediately taken to a hospital, she was pronounced dead 18 hours later. The suspect is a man who regularly solicited the services of transgender sex workers and contacted them through his social networks using different names. According to her companions, it was not the first time the man contacted Gina. In addition, Agencia Presentes, which is in charge of making visible the situation of the LGBTI+ population in Latin America and the Caribbean-collected statements from Gina’s partners, in which they pointed out that on several occasions they have approached the Peruvian National Police to report acts of violence against them but are always ignored.

On top of the authorities’ lack of action there is the fact that Peru does not have a Gender Identity Law, which means that transgender people cannot carry out procedures with their social name, and this exposes them to discrimination and mockery in various sectors of society. “We denounce to the authorities and the police, but they do not pay attention to us, and that is what makes us frustrated and angry. We have families, we are human beings with feelings. Every time we file a complaint, when we turn around, they put it away. The worst thing is that they laugh and throw us out,” said a colleague of Gina on that occasion.

Dying in Invisibility

Although the murders of transgender people are generally silenced, when addressing this issue reference is usually made only to transgender women, because statistics show that they are the main victims, which is undoubtedly a reality. However, transgender men are also the focus of violence and discrimination due to transphobia and, as in the case of trans women, this can become deadly for them. One such example is the case of Samuel Edmund Damian Valentin, a young transgender man who was shot and killed on January 9 in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico.

Samuel Edmund was a student at Atlantic University College, in Guaynabo. On January 1 he had written on his Facebook page, “a new year to come, grateful for all the experiences that [taught me] how strong we really are, to life, to good and evil and for all the justice that is to come.”

“About transgender men and invisibilization in the public sphere, the truth is that it is the violence we suffer the most. Everyday life is designed for cis-gender men; we cannot be guaranteed public health issues in a dignified and efficient way for us. It is important that our identities are named, that trans men or transmasculine people get pregnant. What is not named does not exist. If we exist in the spaces, let us exist in the word”, says Danilo Donato, transmasculine activist and member of the GAAT Foundation in Colombia. According to the record of this organization on death of trans people, so far this year 2021 in the country 32 have been killed to date, while 8 have died from complications arising from surgeries and handmade interventions and barriers to access to rights.

Hate at its maximum expression

Kendra Contreras, known as “Lala”, was a 22-year-old transgender woman who lived in the town of Somotillo, in western Nicaragua. Those who knew Lala say that she was a young dreamer, hard-working, with a desire to better herself and who wanted her gender identity to be respected. Sadly, on March 3, 2021, two men ended her life in an atrocious way; they tied her to a horse and let it drag her twice for at least 400 meters and then stoned her. This is the ultimate expression of hatred towards women, bodies and diverse identities in a highly macho society, such as the Nicaraguan one.

Unfortunately, that was not the only time they killed Lala, as they do it every time they disrespect her gender identity and call her by her “first name” when they refer to her as “man” in news reports. Many media outlets fail to properly handle these cases by focusing on information and prejudices that generate morbidity and revictimize the victims of transphobia and gender violence.

Urgent appeal

Every year, Race and Equality takes advantage of this date to remind countries of their obligation to respect and guarantee the rights of all people without any kind of discrimination. Regarding the situation of violence and murders against trans people, we make the following recommendations:

  • Monitor and publicly sanction transphobic speeches that often slip into the media and incur in calls for discrimination and violence against the trans population.
  • Adopt the necessary laws and policies to guarantee the recognition, respect and inclusion of people with diverse sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Establish special mechanisms to respond to acts of violence and murders against LGBI and trans persons, which lead to the clarification of the facts and the punishment of those responsible, as well as the establishment of guarantees of non-repetition.
  • Collect data on acts of violence and murders against trans persons, disaggregated by specific gender identity and ethnic-racial identity.
  • Promote through the institutions and official channels a campaign to educate and sensitize the population on sexual orientation and gender identity, with a view to generating a context of recognition and respect for the integrity and life of LGBI and trans persons.

*In the case of Colombia, the Foundation Grupo de Acción y Apoyo a Personas con Experiencia de Vida Trans (GAAT) recorded 32 murders of transgender people so far in 2021.

First report on transmasculinities and non-binary AFAB people in Peru: A key step for the recognition and protection of diverse identities in the country and the region

Washington DC, September 30, 2021.- With the aim of contributing to the promotion and protection of the rights of transmasculine and non-binary persons assigned women at birth (AFAB) in Peru, the Institute on Race, Equality and Rights Human (Race and Equality) launched on September 24, 2021 the first report that demonstrates the situation of this population in the country. The report includes recommendations to the State, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and the United Nations Organization to guarantee their human rights.

The report, entitled “Bodies and Resistance that TRANSgress the Pandemic: Transmasculinities and Non-Binary AFAB People in Peru,” was launched through a virtual event with the participation of representatives of the transmasculine and non-binary movement in Peru, including two individuals who helped produce the report, and the United Nations Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, Victor Madrigal-Borloz.

“In Peru, the rights of trans people are not yet recognized, starting with the limitations to access the right to identity, which means that other fundamental rights cannot be accessed,” said the Executive Director of Race and Equality, Carlos Quesada. He also mentioned that when talking about the trans population, one usually thinks only of trans women, which means that the experiences and demands of transmasculine and non-binary AFAB people are not reflected in public policies and, on certain occasions, are also not present in the agenda of the LGBTI + movement.

Zuleika Rivera, LGBTI Program Officer for Race and Equality, indicated that the preparation of this report sought to understand the situation of transmasculine and non-binary AFAB people in Peru. She highlighted that one of the most important findings being the fact that the discrimination and violence that this population faces begins in the nucleus family, something that – Rivera said – is determined by the lack of information and the stigma that predominates in society regarding people with diverse sexual orientation and gender identity.

The situation

It should be noted that the completion of this report included a documentary review, data processing of transmasculinities and non-binary AFAB people who participated in the first survey for LGBTI people, which was carried out by the National Institute of Statistics (INEI) in 2017; a self-applied virtual interview called, “The Situation of Trans Masculine, Trans Men, Non-Binary Transmasculines and Non-Binary AFAB People Before and During the COVID-19 Situation in Peru,” and eight semi-structured interviews.

The report was presented by Alithu Bazan Talavera, a member of the report’s research team, non-binary trans activist and researcher, and by Santiago Balvin Gutiérrez, also part of the research team, non-binary transmasculine activist and member of the organization Rosa Rabiosa. The third individual who made up the research team is activist, researcher and teacher Denisse Castillo Matos, who is also part of the organization Más Igualdad Perú.

During the presentation Bazan mentioned that most of the people interviewed reported that they began to experience their identities from the age of 22, due to little or no information on the trans and non-binary spectrum. The activist and researcher pointed out that non-recognition in the family environment entails a series of violations and a systematic exclusion of trans-masculine and non-binary people.

Balvin Gutiérrez included in his presentation that in the case of trans men and trans-masculininities, 85.44% have identity documents that do not represent their desired social name, and in the case of non-binary people, 48.57% expressed the same sentiments. In addition, among both populations, 70% reported difficulties when exercising their right to vote due their identity documents not corresponding with their gender identity and/or gender expression and for fear of suffering violence. 

Significance of the report

Bruno Montenegro, National Coordinator of Transmasculine Fraternity-Peru, described the report as “historic” and said it will contribute to generate great advances in the struggle of the transmasculine and non-binary population. Montenegro further stated that all the information and evidence contained in this report will serve to demystify the belief that trans and transmasculinity men have privileges only because they are male or because they identify with masculinity.

“Transmasculinities do suffer violence even though we identify ourselves from masculinity (…) This report is important to demystify transmasculinities and put our realities on the agenda. Trans men also abort, trans men also decide to gestate, trans men also suffer so-called corrective rapes,” he emphasized.

The United Nations Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, Víctor Madrigal-Borloz, highlighted the relevance and significance of this report. “This report has a particular impact on Peru, but this information can also be raised as a working theory regionally and globally. For me it has been incredibly revealing in levels, perspectives and consciences that were not at all visible in my mandate,” he affirmed.

“There is data that, in addition, in its deep personalization call us to reflect; the testimonial is of great value and this study is extraordinary in that sense,” added Madrigal-Borloz.


The report, “Bodies and Resistance that TRANSgress the Pandemic: Transmasculinities and Non-Binary AFAB People in Peru,” contains recommendations to the State, the IACHR and the UN, with the aim of contributing to the adoption of public policies and/or measures in favor of the human rights of trans-masculine and non-binary people. In the case of the State, we recommend that the State urgently adopts a gender identity law.

In the case of the IACHR, one of the recommendations is that it creates dialogues with civil society organizations and independent activists related to the population of transmasculinities and non-binary AFAB people. In the case of the UN, the report recommends that the Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity make an official visit to Peru and publish a report with specific recommendations for the protection of this population.

Access and download the report in Spanish here: https://bit.ly/3uxtklx

Executive summary in English here: https://bit.ly/3o5oZ7S

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.

Leyla Huerta – Féminas Perú: The trans population is so invisible that the simple fact that you exist in your environment already makes you an activist

Washington D.C., April 1, 2021 – On June 7, 2015, the Peruvian organization Féminas was created with the aim of empowering trans women to achieve recognition and respect for their rights. The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) spoke with its founder and director, Leyla Huerta, who in addition to explaining the context that inspired the formation of Féminas, also described its future projects and the current situation trans women face in Peru.

Féminas emerged from the empowerment and activism Leyla envisions for trans women. By participating in other organizations that work with this population, Leyla was able to identify that in many cases, the bureaucracy and concentration of responsibilities do not correspond to the needs of women in terms of training and advocacy.

The leader explained, “I started questioning and saw that it made some people uncomfortable. Community activism was not an interesting scene. So, I stayed out of it, not participating in any organization. I continued to grow professionally and had the opportunity to coordinate a big project alongside trans women. With these women I began to create empowerment meetings within the workplace, and that’s how Féminas was formed.”

For Leyla, community activism is fundamental in changing reality and, therefore, the basis of Féminas’ work. “The trans population is so invisible that the simple fact that you exist in your environment already makes you an activist. The mere fact of existing without saying anything, just your presence in a neighborhood, begins to question the existence of gender diversity.”

The impact of COVID and their Plans

The COVID-19 pandemic made 2020 a year full of challenges for Féminas, both in its organizational processes and advocacy actions. In addition, the abrupt removal of President Martín Vizcarra, meant a break in the discourse of support for the trans population, where previously the presidency and key institutions handled trans populations’ political recognition and guarantee of rights.

Peru does not have a Gender Identity Law, therefore name change is only possible through a judicial recourse, a process that can be very long and expensive. With COVID-19, the possibility of carrying out this process online opened, but trans people have encountered numerous limitations, such as the lack of instruction manuals that clearly explain procedural steps. For this reason, Leyla points out that the pandemic is delaying the objective of accumulating a high number of name change petitions and generating jurisprudence in this process.

A positive aspect is that the pandemic has forced the State to update its information and registration systems. “A girl changes her name now and everything is updated, (because) everything is online. The work that had to be done for this, took time so we do not have to go through all the institutions to change the name on all the documents. It is a great advantage for those who have been able to change their names,” Leyla explains.

A double burden

In the presence of COVID, Féminas provides humanitarian aid to trans women, which involves, in addition to regular meetings, a process of aid planning, identification of beneficiaries, dissemination on social networks, and production of informative videos. And while these actions respond to their vision as an organization, they cannot deny that it implies greater effort, and labor, which makes them reflect on the double burden that transgender people face as a result of their gender expression and gender identity.

“We say that ‘with everything that cis people experience politically, imagine how it is for trans people.’ Because we too are affected by the government, a political landscape where hate speech and the identity of people are used to generate shows and people don’t realize it. People are so consumed by capitalism that they don’t realize they are following this hate speech.”

Regarding the dismissal of Martín Vizcarra on November 10, 2020, Leyla claims it signifies a “lost battle” in the struggle for the recognition and guarantee of rights of trans people. Leyla explains, “Vicarra’s government tried to have a very inclusive vision. Unfortunately, it was also evident that much more is still lacking, but interesting things have occurred. The topic of “pico y género” and ministers discussing gender identity and gender expression, I believe has been very important.”

Féminas recognizes the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations, the Ministry of Social Inclusion, and the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights as partners in the struggle. Leyla insures that within these Ministries there are people who have helped bring several changes, but due to the political crisis, this support was interrupted by a change in officials.

 What they want in the future

In the last five years, Féminas has managed to be in the Violence Against Women Plan, gotten trans women to be mentioned for the first time in a technical norm, and sought to continue name change trials to generate jurisprudence. Above all, it has fostered trust among the trans community. The latter is a point that Leyla considers fundamental, especially given the history the trans community has endured in Peru.

Leyla knows that to continue achieving these results as well as others, it is necessary to promote training processes and professionalization, which they were able to work on during the quarantine enforced by the COVID-19 pandemic. She states, “I want stability for Féminas, I see Féminas that way. An institution where we can provide different services, where we can have a research clinic, as an institution that can channel support for trans women and not lose that theme of idealism.”

The director stresses that in this process of growth they do not want to lose sight of community activism and always give prominence to women. “To continue at the community level (…), to be able to professionalize, contribute and improve the status of trans women, however it must be for trans women themselves and not only to develop the space where they will be. We are not going to achieve this change alone, with one or two people, but rather all together we can advance the conditions of the population,” Leyla reaffirms. She also mentions the political arena, as she considers it an important space for achieving sustainable change.

Race and Equality recognizes the importance of the work carried out by organizations such as Féminas in favor of trans people. We see with particular attention that the health emergency generated by COVID-19 during 2020, exacerbated many challenges. However, during this time the LGBTI community has learned many lessons, continuing to resist, heal and support each other.

Within this context, Race and Equality recognizes the different types of violence that LGBTI people endure, its diverse intersections with identity and sexuality, and the influences specific country contexts play. For this reason, we reiterate our support and accompaniment to organizations, like Féminas, who struggle every day to achieve the recognition of diverse gender expressions and gender identities.

Join Our Efforts

Help empower individuals and communities to achieve structural changes in Latin America.