LGBTI+ Rights in Brazil: Impressions After the Visit of Roberta Clarke, IACHR Rapporteur

LGBTI+ Rights in Brazil: Impressions After the Visit of Roberta Clarke, IACHR Rapporteur

Brazil, October 9th, 2023 – In a promotional visit to Brazil facilitated by the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality), Roberta Clarke, Rapporteur on the Rights of LGBTI People of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), had the opportunity to dialogue with civil society organizations and LGBTI+ activists from Brasília, Fortaleza, and Rio de Janeiro. During the visit, which took place from September 18th to 22nd, the IACHR Rapporteur was able to closely monitor the reality of the Brazilian LGBTI+ population, which, between advances and setbacks, remains united as a social movement and in the struggle for the preservation of the rights achieved thus far.

The trajectory of Roberta Clarke’s visit beyond the Rio-São Paulo axis was a strategy adopted by Race and Equality after several hearings with civil society, which constantly demanded attention to the different realities of the LGBTI+ population in other parts of the country. Thus, together with the support of the Ministry of Human Rights, through the National Secretary for the Rights of LGBTQIA+ People, Symmy Larrat, the city of Brasília was crucial for meetings with ministerial offices and meetings with the LGBTI+ movement in the Federal District. It is worth mentioning that the state of Ceará, with one of the highest rates of murders of LGBTI+ people, especially trans people, according to the dossier released by the National Association of Travestis and Transgenders (ANTRA), was also part of the script for active listening with activists from the northeast region, and for having the ‘Sister Imelda Lima Pontes Prison Unit’,  aimed exclusively at the LGBTI+ prison population.

Acknowledging that it is still too early to draw opinions and conclusions on the LGBTI+ Rapporteur’s visit to the country, Race and Equality brings to its audience an overview of the impressions shared by Roberta Clarke after talking to more than 15 organizations of the LGBTI+ movement in the visited cities. The Rapporteur’s impressions about the LGBTI+ population in the country were also reported during the public event held in Rio de Janeiro; “Building Bridges: LGBTI+ People’s Rights in an Intersectional Perspective”, hosted by Race and Equality.

During the week in which the Commissioner was in Brazil, two issues concerning LGBTI+ rights – which have already been achieved – were under discussion at the national level. One of them refers to equal civil marriage, which, due to the advance of extreme right-wing politicians in the Brazilian Congress, has once again been questioned as to its validity. Since 2011 and 2013, the Supreme Court (STF) and the National Council of Justice (CNJ) have equalized same-sex civil unions with heterosexual civil unions; however, Bill No. 5,167/2009 aims to annul this right. Although it has been postponed twice due to pressure from LGBTI+ deputies, and the vote remains suspended, it may return to the agenda in Congress. The other agenda that was under discussion refers to a manipulation also orchestrated by the growing anti-trans ideology that created a movement to attack the use of unisex bathrooms. The fomentation of intolerance on the part of conservative political actors has created a false idea that this was an urgent agenda item to be voted on.

These facts, for the Commissioner, reflected another Brazilian reality, since among the countries in the region, Brazil stands out among those that have made the most progress on LGBTI+ rights. In this regard, Roberta Clarke expressed concern about what is happening in the country and, particularly, about the issue of gender-based political violence, a topic that has been repeatedly denounced before the IACHR. For her, the spread of hate speech and the growth of the anti-trans movement has led to the need for reflection and the need to work together between social movements and LGBTI+ leaders. That is, to organize strategically to understand when it is worth expending efforts to the attacks of conservatives who aim only to spread fake news to dismantle civil society and interrupt the progress of the LGBTI+ political agenda.

In the face of these setbacks, the Commissioner demonstrated her solidarity and highlighted that the opportunity of having experienced different perspectives from across the country made her understand, in an intersectional way, the various types of violence that differentially affect the LGBTI+ community. While acknowledging the progress achieved through the historic struggle for visibility and rights, listening carefully to activists revealed that there is still much to be done. The country’s current situation has shown that there is strong pressure from the far right to destroy the progress made through gender equality policies and the recognition of LGBTI+ rights, and how through the spread of hate speech, trans people feel increasingly threatened and forced to live without access to basic rights.

Thus, Roberta affirmed the IACHR’s commitment to pay close attention to what happens in the country in the coming months, given that Brazil is a country of continental dimension and what happens in its territory has political influence on the entire region.

In her dialogue with the LGBTI+ social movement, the Rapporteur expressed concern about the difficulties reported in the documentation required for the process of civil rectification of name and gender; the various forms of violence against lesbian women; and the gap in the provision of public policies that meet their specificities, from the lack of data collection to the absence of health policies. In addition, lesbian women strongly emphasized the social exclusion they experience when they show affection in public, corrective rape practices, and conversion therapies, in addition to being expelled from their homes when they openly embrace their sexual orientation.

From the conversation with transmasculine people, the Commissioner was able to perceive how the violence they face is crossed mainly by issues of race, class, and territory, especially with regard to police violence. In Ceará, the theme of education was a major motto among LGBTI+ activists, highlighting the need for school inclusion policies since many LGBTI+ students abandon their educational institutions, either due to LGBTIphobia, bullying, disrespect for gender identity, among other forms of discrimination, and some do not even complete elementary school. In this context, on September 19th, the National Council for the Rights of the LGBTQIA+ Population published a resolution establishing guidelines to ensure inclusion and respect for gender identity in educational institutions.

In Brasilia, in addition to meetings with ministerial offices, Roberta Clarke met with the board of directors of the National LGBTQIA+ Council and had the opportunity to learn about the current demands of the LGBTI+ political agenda, in view of the democratic resumption in the country. The meeting with activists from the region took place in the Drag District with a round table that discussed topics such as the need for social assistance policies for the LGBTI+ population, such as the promotion of shelters and access to healthcare for the trans population.

During her visit to Rio de Janeiro, the Commissioner received a report from the Brazilian Lesbian Articulation (ABL) about lesbian women in the country; and received the ‘Dossier on Lesbocide’, after talking to one of the authors. In addition, she was given the dossiers on murder and violence against Brazilian travestis and transgender people in 2022; and the ‘Trans Brasil’ dossier, on their situation in the prison system, both documents being produced by ANTRA.

Finally, Race and Equality is deeply grateful to the Brazilian LGBTI+ movement that mobilized activists from different regions of the country so that they could convey to the IACHR Rapporteur their life experiences and their trajectories of struggles for rights in a country where being and existing as an LGBTI+ person is an act of courage. We also thank the IACHR for accepting our invitation and engaging in dialogue with the Brazilian LGBTI+ civil society movement. In view of our mission, encouraging visits by rapporteurs and experts from international mechanisms is another step in ensuring visibility, non-discrimination, and the full realization of human rights. Therefore, we ask the IACHR to consider the following recommendations for the Brazilian State:

1 – Creation of a National Council to confront hate speech and the dissemination of fake news with an intersectional perspective, in view of the violence and attacks suffered by the LGBTI+ population in the country.

2 – Establishment of policies and bills that constitutionally guarantee same-sex equal marriage, in addition to guaranteeing the safety of trans people in public bathrooms according to their gender identities and the plurality of unisex bathrooms.

3 – Collection of disaggregated data regarding the LGBTI+ population, either through the National Census or through surveys that foster the creation of specific public policies for this population.

4 – Training and education policies aimed at public security forces so that they can ensure the safety of Brazilian LGBTI+ people.

5 – Construction of a policy to confront gender-based political violence, with the provision of measures to protect LGBTI+ members of Congress.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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[1] Report of the independent expert in the field of cultural rights, Ms. Farida Shaheed, submitted pursuant to resolution 10/23 of the Human Rights Council. Available at https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G10/124/40/PDF/G1012440.pdf?OpenElement

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

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/

At OAS Assembly: Race and Equality to Commemorate 10th Anniversary of CIRDI and Denounce Human Rights Violations in Cuba and Religious Persecution in Nicaragua

Washington D.C., June 14, 2023 – On the occasion of the 53rd session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) will hold three parallel events. In the first event, the organization will commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Intolerance (CIRDI) and promote its signature, ratification and implementation. The second event will denounce human rights violations in Cuba; and the third will demand that the Nicaraguan regime cease the persecution of religious leaders and release all persons deprived of their liberty for political reasons.

The OAS General Assembly will be held June 21-23, 2023 at OAS headquarters in Washington, D.C., under the theme “strengthening a culture of democratic accountability with promotion, protection and equality of human rights in the Americas.” In this sense, the Race and Equality events aim to encourage OAS Member States to take action to combat impunity, promote inclusive and sustainable peace and a democratic transition in the region.

Inter-American Forum Against Discrimination: Tenth Anniversary of CIRDI and CIDI

Race and Equality, as part of its ongoing advocacy work on behalf of the rights of indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples, will bring together renowned representatives of the OAS and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the governments of the United States and Brazil, and civil society leaders from Latin America at the Inter-American Forum against Discrimination: “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)” on June 20, 2023.

The Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance (CIRDI) was approved by the OAS General Assembly on June 5, 2013, after thirteen years of advocacy by Race and Equality and other ethnic civil society organizations. This is an instrument that consolidates the commitment of States to the total eradication of these scourges; however, of the 35 member States of the OAS, only 6 States are party to CIRDI, only 7 have signed it, and 29 have not signed, ratified, or implemented it.

In this sense, the Forum will be divided into thematic panels on the historical debt and the responsibility of the States before the CIRDI and CIDI treaties, international efforts to combat racial and ethnic discrimination, and towards LGBTI+ people; as well as the participation of civil society leaders, regional experiences, and inclusion as a tool to strengthen diverse voices. Finally, there will be a dialogue on the coalition of Afro-descendants of the Americas and the 53rd regular session of the OAS General Assembly.

Cuba: At Pen Point

In order to continue denouncing the serious human rights violations in Cuba, particularly the cases of harassment against activists and human rights defenders, Race and Equality invites you on June 20 to the art exhibition “At Pen Point,” an exhibition co-organized with the platform El Toque, which brings together a selection of 20 cartoons and vignettes by Cuban artists who traverse with humor, nonchalance, and wit several transcendental socio-political events of recent years on the island.

In Cuba, as of May 31, there were 1,880 people deprived of liberty for political reasons, according to the 11J Justice working group, which has also documented that 773 people continue to be imprisoned for having participated in the peaceful protests of July 2021, the most massive in the last decade. Parallel to these human rights violations, there are already 38 cases of femicides on the island, a figure that exceeds the annual record for the year 2022. 

In this regard, the opening of “At Pen Point” will be accompanied by a discussion entitled ‘Graphic humor, art, and satire in the face of social protests and the human rights crisis in Cuba’, with the participation of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR, Pedro Vaca; the editor of El Toque, José Nieves; the Cuban visual artist and columnist, Camila Lobón; and the Cuban independent journalist, Orelvys Cabrera.

Nicaragua’s Crisis: A Threat to Democracy Throughout the Region

Finally, to reflect on Nicaragua’s deepening socio-political and human rights crisis and how this country is setting a standard for democratic setbacks in the region, Race and Equality – in coordination with the Legal Defense Unit (UDJ) – will hold the event “Nicaragua’s Crisis: A Threat to Democracy Throughout the Region” on June 22.

Five years after the start of the peaceful protests of April 2018, 355 murders of protesters continue in impunity, more than 47 people remain deprived of liberty for political reasons in Nicaraguan prisons, at least 2,090 people have been arbitrarily detained, more than 320 people have been stripped of their nationality, and the repression is at a stage characterized by the persecution and criminalization of the Catholic Church and restrictions on religious freedom.

Given this context, in the first part of the event, legal experts will discuss the repressive patterns against people considered opponents and against the Church; and in the second part, victims of the regime and representatives of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will discuss arbitrary imprisonment for political reasons and other reprisals against those who exercise their fundamental freedoms.

*** More information about the events ***

Inter-American Forum against Discrimination

Date: Tuesday, June 20, at 9:00 am

Venue: National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), Washington D.C.

Live: via Zoom and Facebook Live 

On-site registration here

Simultaneous translation in Spanish, Portuguese and English. 

Cuba: At Pen Point

Date: Tuesday, June 20, at 6:30 pm

Venue: National Press Club, Washington D.C.

Live Broadcast: Zoom and Facebook Live 

On-site registration here (R.S.V.P.)

Simultaneous translation in Spanish and English. 

Nicaragua’s Crisis: A Threat to Democracy Throughout the Region

Date: Thursday, June 22, at 5:30 pm.

Venue: National Press Club, Washington D.C.

Live Broadcast: Zoom and Facebook Live 

On-site registration here (R.S.V.P.)

Simultaneous translation in Spanish and English.



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/

IE SOGI and IACHR promote their mandates in the English-Speaking Caribbean

IE SOGI mandate and Rapporteur on the Rights of LGBTI persons meet with civil society organizations of the English Speaking Caribbean

From September 13-17, 2022, the mandate of the United Nations Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (IE SOGI), Victor Madrigal-Borloz; and the IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Persons, Roberta Clarke, conducted a promotional visit to the English-speaking Caribbean, supported by the Eastern Caribbean Alliance (ECADE) and the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) and accompanied by Senior LGBTI Program Officer, Zuleika Rivera.

During their visit, the delegation met with various civil society organizations dedicated to working with LGBTI+ people and women in St. Lucia and other Caribbean States. The purpose was to promote their respective mandates and listen about the situation of LGBTI+ people in the country and the work the organizations do to combat stigmatization, discrimination, and violence.

IE SOGI, Victor Madrigal-Borloz; Race and Equality Senior LGBTI Program Officer, Zuleika Rivera; and members of Raise your Voice St. Lucia.

SAINT LUCIA

In St. Lucia, the delegation held a dialogue on International Mechanisms and the rights of LGBTI+ persons. Victor Madrigal, the Independent Expert on SOGI, expressed the importance of holding this important exchange with civil society in the Caribbean. Commissioner Roberta Clarke, Rapporteur on the Rights of LGBTI persons, pointed out that only six Caribbean countries have ratified the American Convention on Human Rights, which is necessary to have access to the Inter-American Court. She also expressed concern over reports that violence against LGBTI+ persons may be under-investigated and characterized by impunity.

Representatives of civil society organizations also participated in the event, including Kenita Placide, Executive Director of ECADE, who highlighted the importance of civil society in the region working together to ensure that their voices are heard. Likewise, Catherine Sealy, Executive Director of Raise your Voice St. Lucia, said: “We want to help all civil society organizations and individuals, regardless of what they work towards.”

Among the most pressing issues in the country, the representatives of the organizations pointed to discrimination and violence against LGBTI+ people, impediments to access to justice, limitations to access to sexual and reproductive rights, physical and psychological violence against LGBTI+ people by their own families, loss of jobs after COVID, and unsolved murders of persons in the LGBTI community.

IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of LGBTI Persons, Roberta Clarke; IE SOGI, Victor Madrigal-Borloz; Race and Equality Senior LGBTI Program Officer, Zuleika Rivera; and members of United & Strong INC.

REGIONAL EVENT IN BARBADOS

The Caribbean Regional Dialogue on LGBTQI+ D.A.T.A., held for two days, consisted of regional roundtable discussions on violence and access to justice, health and the impact of COVID, economic inclusion of LGBTI+ people, education and human capital, discrimination, access to financial development and the impact of investments, poverty and access to the labor market, and tourism perspectives. It also included the participation of different representatives from civil society, governments, development institutions, regional bodies and the private sector, in order to create evidence-based policies for LGBTI+ rights.

In this regard, the Independent Expert on SOGI, Victor Madrigal addressed during his intervention for the need to collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity to dispel the myths and stereotypes that fuel violence and discrimination. “Evidence is a way to counteract the denial that there is no violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity”, said Madrigal. In her speech, Roberta Clarke, IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of LGBTI People, applauded the judicial decisions in 4 Caribbean countries which found  criminalization of same sex intimacy  between consenting adults to be a violation of fundamental rights and freedoms. She also reflected on how LGBTI people demand and deserve intersectional justice. “Too many people in our region remain economically marginalized, too many remain excluded”, she said.

Dr. Lee Badgett, Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, stated that having numbers and data tells LGBTI+ people that they count. She also mentioned that, according to a report by Phil Crehan, a researcher on data and social inclusion, 57% of LGB people and 69% of trans people reported experiencing harassment and bullying at school, and also emphasized the unprecedented opportunity that this event represented in the Caribbean.

Race and Equality’s work has included supporting promotional visits to countries by the United Nations and IACHR mandates for the rights of LGBTI+ people. It is important to follow closely the hard work being carried out by Caribbean civil society organizations, which have achieved important advances for the decriminalization of same-sex relationships in several countries in the region. Race and Equality reaffirms its commitment to supporting their actions to guarantee the equality and dignity of LGBTI+ people and expresses its gratitude to ECADE, the OAS in St. Lucia, the IACHR, the IE SOGI and all the civil society organizations that received us and participated in all the events.

 

Complexo da Penha Massacre: Human Rights organizations appeal to the IACHR to end police violence

Brazil, May 27th, 2022 – The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality), Marielle Franco Institute, Geledés – Black Women’s Institute, Observatório de Favelas, Justiça Global and Casa Fluminense denounce to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the Complexo da Penha Massacre, which took place this Tuesday, May 24, during a police mega-operation in Rio de Janeiro. The communiqué sent to the IACHR calls for the protection of community residents to be guaranteed and for the extensive monitoring of reported situations of violence. So far, there are registered: 25 dead and 07 injured in the Complexo da Penha Massacre.

  • 25 people killed were taken to the Getúlio Vargas Hospital.
  • 01 body of a woman was taken directly to the Legal Medical Institute (IML)
  • 01 person killed was taken to the Emergency Care Unit of Complexo do Alemão with 08 gunshot wounds
  • 07 injured were taken to Hospital Getúlio Vargas

This extreme violence reflects the result of the public security policy of the current Governor of the State of Rio de Janeiro, Claudio Castro, who, since his predecessor, Wilson Witzel, does not respect the decision of the Federal Supreme Court (STF) that determined the State must comply with the ADPF 635, known as ADPF das Favelas. Until now, the State Government has not presented any plan to reduce police lethality; it didn’t install GPS equipment, audio and video recording systems in police vehicles or on the uniforms of officers; and as a result of these current massacres, it has set no limits on lethal force. As a result, black bodies, from favelas and outskirts, experience constant scenes of terror and even their homes become a place of fear and insecurity for all families.

According to reports, agents from the Special Operations Battalion (BOPE) and from the Federal Highway Police (PRF) entered the Vila Cruzeiro Complex at 4:00 am, firing shots with helicopters and armored tanks as support. The operation took place throughout the day and, despite the active movement of civil society organizations urging the public authorities for a ceasefire, the operation continued on its terroristic course. In this regard, the signatory organizations urge the IACHR and other international human rights organizations to constantly monitor police violence in Brazil.

It is unacceptable to continue the current security policy that goes against the basic principles of human rights, such as the right of living and housing, in addition to State protection. It must be mentioned: this massacre is yet another demonstration of the structural racism present in the actions of the Brazilian police.

We regret the lives lost and sympathize with the various families of Complexo da Penha, who once more experienced the presence of the State in their territories with violence, deaths, scarcity and tears. In light of the foregoing, we share the requests to the IACHR:

  1. To publicly comment on this case, through a statement and monitor the situations of violence reported in this document;
  2. Request the Civil Police of the State of Rio de Janeiro to carry out technical investigations on the spot, with the elaboration of reports on ballistics and possible signs of torture on the bodies, ensuring the duty of publicity of the state’s action;
  3. Demand that the State (RJ) and Federal Public Ministry investigate the police operation responsible for this massacre, including the specific need to observe possible signs of alteration of the crime scenes, as well as the impediment of residents and activists to manifest about what happened;
  4. That the State (RJ) and Federal Public Ministry provide information to the families of the victims of the massacre and keep them informed about the investigations;
  5. Considering what was determined in ADPF 635 regarding the absolute exceptionality in carrying out police operations, that is, the premise that such incursions should only occur in extraordinary situations of immediate and concrete danger to life, which cannot consist of a generic allegation about the current calamitous situation of public security in the State of Rio de Janeiro and/or on the need to repress drug trafficking and criminality, allegations that underlie the human rights violations implicit to public security policy in Brazil. It is requested that the state of Rio de Janeiro be notified of non-compliance with the criteria determined in ADPF 635;
  6. Maintain direct communication with the Brazilian government inquiring about the measures adopted to combat police violence, considering the numerous cases publicized by the Brazilian press and by the aforementioned civil society organizations.

#26A Lesbian Visibility Day: challenging the heteropatriarchy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In this sense, we recommend that States: 

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

IACHR Rapporteur for Nicaragua: “We will continue to monitor the situation, accompanying and listening to the victims”

The work of monitoring, documentation, denunciation, and condemnation of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has been essential since the beginning of the serious sociopolitical and human rights crisis in Nicaragua. Recognizing their work, on the fourth anniversary of the civic rebellion of April 2018, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) interviewed the IACHR Rapporteur for Nicaragua, Esmeralda Arosemena, about the role that this agency has played in the situation that the country is going through since April 2018 and what could be the next steps to achieve truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition for the victims of violence and repression.

In a report published in October 2021, the IACHR warned that in Nicaragua there is a weakening of the rule of law and a profound deterioration in the area of Human Rights that has been brewing for two decades. What progress or setbacks have there been in Nicaragua in terms of Human Rights since the publication of this report (October 2021)? What new patterns have been identified and what is currently of greatest concern?

The report includes several elements that account for what its title indicates, concentration of power and weakening of the rule of law in Nicaragua. In November 2021, elections were held in a context of repression, corruption, electoral fraud, and structural impunity, which made it possible to ensure that the Executive remains in power and, in turn, consolidate an anti- democratic regime in the country.

The IACHR observes that the State continues with a strategy aimed at keeping civic and democratic space co-opted by imposing a perpetual police state, and new measures and laws that arbitrarily restrict the rights of the population. Recently, from the IACHR, we rejected the massive and forced closure of civil society organizations, foundations, universities, cooperation and development agencies, feminist groups, medical unions, among others.

On the other hand, we are very aware of the violation of criminal law, including (those) included in the constitutional norms of the country; and the criminalization of people identified as opponents of the government, an element that responds to the lack of judicial independence and separation of powers of a Public Ministry and a Judicial Power subject to the will of the government in a clear detriment to the rule of law and the democracy. This is in memory of the political prisoners who, between February and March, were tried and sentenced to very high sentences, without judicial guarantees.

Four years have passed since the beginning of the crisis in the country, and the Ortega and Murillo regime continues without responding to the recommendations and precautionary measures granted by the IACHR and fails to comply with sentences and resolutions of the Inter-American Court. How do you assess this position of Nicaragua? What is the position of the IACHR to contribute to the end of the repression and the way out of this crisis? What additional international mechanisms or instruments exist for accountability in Nicaragua?

Among the roles that the IACHR has is to raise awareness about human rights, make violations visible, and make use of its protection mechanisms such as precautionary measures. In this sense, we will continue to monitor the situation, accompany, and listen to the victims, and demand that Nicaragua restore its democracy and repair the serious and unacceptable violations that continue to occur under a regime that decided not to be democratic.

The Commission has assessed the lack of compliance with its recommendations for the inclusion of the State of Nicaragua in section B of Chapter IV of its Annual Report for three consecutive years. We have granted more than 30 precautionary measures to people, leaders, political opponents for being in a situation of risk and irreparable damage to their rights. For its part, the Inter-American Court in 2021 communicated to the OAS the contempt of the State of Nicaragua for the provisional measures issued in favor of the release of political prisoners in the country. This exemplifies that the organs of the Inter-American System are making use of all available conventional tools to contribute to compliance with the recommendations made to the State.

We must remember that the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) for Nicaragua was a body established through an agreement between the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (GS OAS), the IACHR and the Nicaraguan government to investigate the acts of violence that occurred in the period from April 18 to May 30, 2018. The GIEI presented its report that reported the serious violations that occurred and continued. Subsequently, the IACHR installed its Special Follow-up Mechanism also for Nicaragua (MESENI) to continue monitoring and raising awareness. Now the United Nations has resolved to establish a group of experts to investigate human rights violations in Nicaragua.

Recently, in a hearing of the IACHR, it stated that it had tried to establish a dialogue with the State but had not received any response . Do you think there are possibilities of obtaining a positive response from the State in the short term? What results can be expected from this dialogue?

The Inter-American Commission has permanently expressed its willingness to collaborate technically with the State for the restoration of human rights, the rule of law and compliance with the recommendations. From our role, we will continue to insist that the national dialogue with the organizations that fulfill the function of defending and promoting human rights is one of the ways that must be assumed in any democratic system for reparation, for the memory, truth, and justice.

You have previously stated that political prisoners are a priority for the Commission. From your Office of the Rapporteur: Do you see progress that could result in the prompt release of political prisoners? What other efforts are planned to demand the release of these people?

For the Commission, the 171 political prisoners are a priority, and it will continue to work for their release, as well as to guarantee due process and access to a defense. However, as I mentioned before, we regret the lack of will of the State to comply with the recommendations made and release them immediately. Due to the foregoing, the Commission will continue to make use of all its mechanisms so that prisoners are released and receive justice and reparation.

In my capacity as rapporteur for Nicaragua, I will continue to accompany the women and men who are political prisoners today, through their families, friends, and their lawyers.

As Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples, what is your assessment of the recent cancellation of the human rights organization for indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants CEJUDHCAN? What challenges exist in relation to the state obligation to respect the self-determination of these peoples in Nicaragua?

Without a doubt, the closure of this organization (CEJUDHCAN) has serious consequences for the protection of the traditional rights and territories of the peoples of the North Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua. In this regard, members of different communities have denounced the serious effects that the closure of this organization has for the protection of their rights, lands, and traditional territories in a context of systematic attacks by “settlers” (non-indigenous third-party invaders). It is worth remembering that the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, civil, political, economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights are closely linked to their own lands, territories, natural resources, social, cultural, and political institutions, and their self-determination.

In the report on the right to self-determination of indigenous and tribal peoples of the IACHR, reference is made to the fact that the different constitutive elements of self-determination such as political participation, consultation, and free, prior and informed consent, are part of commitments and States’ obligations under international instruments. This is one of the challenges that the States, including that of Nicaragua, have with respect to indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants.

On March 7, the United Nations High Commissioner affirmed that “the Indigenous Peoples of Nicaragua have continued to suffer violent attacks in the context of territorial disputes, most of them with total impunity.” Given this background: In what way do you think the IACHR could coordinate with the United Nations System to seek an improvement in the situation of lack of protection in which indigenous peoples live?

Since the beginning of the crisis, the IACHR has been working in coordination with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to address serious human rights violations. Last year, given the intensification of the repression in the context of the elections, the IACHR also announced that they were reinforcing this work, as well as the intention to establish articulated strategies to provide timely responses to the situation observed in the country […]

On March 23, the former Nicaraguan ambassador to the OAS, Arturo McFields, denounced crimes against humanity committed by the Ortega regime against Nicaraguan citizens: How important is this complaint to the IACHR? Could it be taken as further evidence of the deterioration of the human rights situation?

The IACHR considers that the statements by Ambassador Arturo McFields confirm the serious human rights violations that are being committed in the country, the institutional deterioration, and the sharpening of the Executive’s strategy to silence dissenting and opposition voices […] It also demonstrates the persistence of a police state that, in coordination with government groups, attacks, monitors, threatens, and harasses any person identified as an opponent, and this, in this case, is reflected in the dismissal of Arturo McFields as Nicaraguan ambassador to the OAS .

What is your message for Nicaraguan citizens, particularly for the victims of state violence? What call do you make to the Government of Nicaragua? What is your message to the international community and other States in the region in the face of the deepening of the crisis?

Four years after the beginning of the human rights crisis, the IACHR reminds the victims, their relatives, and civil society organizations that it maintains its permanent commitment to continue working to achieve justice and reparation, the reconstruction of democracy, and ensure that national reconciliation arrives with memory and historical truth. From our role, we will tirelessly ensure that the protection of life and physical integrity of each person is guaranteed, as well as the freedom of expression of the Nicaraguan people.

#31M: Recognize and respect the gender identity of trans people for the full guarantee of their human rights

Washington DC, March 31, 2022. – On International Transgender Day of Visibility, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) wishes to magnify the importance of recognizing and respecting the gender identity of trans people, as a basis for the full guarantee of their human rights, specifically their economic and social rights. In Latin America, people with diverse gender identity and expression face great challenges in accessing basic services which, in turn, constitute fundamental rights that every person should enjoy without suffering any type of discrimination or violence.

In at least 11 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean there are legal or administrative processes for trans people to rectify their identification documents according to their gender identity. For example, in Brazil—the country with the highest number of murdered trans people in the world—the Federal Supreme Court (STF) established in 2018 that trans people and transvestites over 18 years of age, regardless of sex reassignment surgery, hormonal treatment or the presentation of medical or psychological documents, have the right to change their name, gender, or both, at any Civil Registry office in the national territory, without the presence of a lawyer or public defender.

Meanwhile, in Mexico, 14 of the 32 States of this country recognize in their legislation the right to gender identity, so that trans people can access the modification of their sex or gender through an administrative process, without having to go through a judicial process. The State of Mexico was the last to incorporate this recognition, in July 2021, with a vote in Congress that had 59 votes in favor, one against and eight abstentions. The other states are Coahuila, Colima, Chihuahua, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Michoacán, Nayarit, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosí, Sonora and Tlaxcala.

In countries such as Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama and the Dominican Republic, there is no legal or administrative framework for trans people to rectify their identity documents, or there is no jurisprudence in this regard; therefore, if a trans person decides to start the process, this is at the discretion of the administrators of justice and it can be a long and costly path economically and emotionally. That is the case of Mística Guerrero, a trans woman from Nicaragua who until May 2021 did not have an identity document. In 2012 she began the process of changing her name before the Supreme Court of Justice and since then there has been no ruling on her case, according to a local media report.

The lack of recognition of the gender identity of trans people is not only determined by the existence or not of processes to change their name, but also by the will and management capacity of State institutions that must implement these regulations in civil registries. And the fact is that, despite the existence of these processes in many countries, activists and LGBTI+ organizations usually experience difficulties for trans people to access them, due to factors such as lack of clarity and transphobic attitudes, which generates delays and people desist from continuing the process.

Added to this is the fact that there are very few trans people who have the support of their families in these processes. The home is configured as the first space in which people with diverse gender expression and identity experience acts of rejection, violence and discrimination, a dynamic that is maintained throughout their lives.

“[…] There are countless barriers that keep trans and gender diverse people from being able to develop their full potential and from accessing basic rights from an early age, which has to do with the rejection and violence they receive since they begin to externalize their gender identity. In that order, there are numerous reports that show a high prevalence of trans and gender diverse adolescents who suffer expulsion from their homes at an early age”, explains the Report on Trans and Gender Diverse People and their economic, social, cultural and environmental rights, published in August 2020 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

Gender identity and economic and social rights

The non-recognition of gender identity has serious implications for the recognition and exercise of human rights, including economic and social rights. It is important to point out that States have an obligation to fulfill and guarantee these rights based on the principle of equality and non-discrimination of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the American Convention on Human Rights.

“The lack of guarantee of the right to recognition of gender identity has as a consequence because trans and gender diverse people often carry identification documents that are not consistent with their gender identity,” the IACHR points out in the aforementioned report. In this way, access to rights such as health, education, housing and employment is limited and subject to prejudice. In addition, the possibilities of people suffering situations of violence and discrimination are increased.

Agatha Brooks, a trans woman from the Dominican Republic and a member of the organization Trans Siempre Amigas (TRANSSA), has experienced discrimination when trying to access housing. “We are not allowed to rent a house, because they believe that we are depraved people and that we are bad examples for children or families around us,” she indicates.

Apart from the problem of access to these rights, trans people also face violence and discrimination when they exercise them. Arturo Nicolás, a trans man from Peru and a member of Transmasculine Diversity, says that urgent measures are needed in the educational field to guarantee full access of trans people to this right. “ This does not mean only opening the spaces through quotas or similar measures. The care and containment protocols in case of violence are pillars to support trans or gender diverse people in educational spaces”, he affirms.

While Bruno Pfeil, a trans man from Brazil and coordinator of the Revista Estudios Transviades, shares his experience in access to health: “In the field of health, the (dis)access that weighs me down the most is gynecological health. Whether it’s for testing, or just for a routine checkup; It is always a headache to have to explain that I have a uterus, that I need a certain consultation, and that the regard that should be given to my body cannot be built under the cisgender prerogative.”

In its Report on Trans and Gender Diverse Persons and their economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights, the IACHR gives a comprehensive account of how the impossibility of rectifying personal documentation has been identified as one of the greatest obstacles to the effective enjoyment of other human rights, both civil and political as well as economic, social and cultural, for which it considers it urgent that the States adopt measures to guarantee this right in accordance with inter-American and international standards on the matter.

Although we recognize and celebrate the adoption of judicial and administrative processes for the recognition of the gender identity of trans people in several Latin American countries, we believe that this does not only depend on correcting their name and/or gender in their respective identity documents, but it is also closely related to the implementation of educational processes and public policies to eliminate LGBTIphobia in society and guarantee effective services that are tailored to their needs, respectively.

We also appreciate and thank the role of the United Nations Independent Expert on Gender Orientation and Identity, Víctor Madrigal-Borloz, who, through reports—such as the latest titled Law of Inclusion and Exclusion Practices—and numerous interventions before civil society and States, has positioned the issue of gender identity as a determining experience in people’s lives and, therefore, subject to a framework of rights that States must guarantee.

Along with this, we submit some recommendations to the States, many of which were set out by the IACHR in the aforementioned report and which we consider key steps to guarantee the human rights of trans people in the region:

  • Adopt gender identity laws that recognize the right of trans and gender diverse people to correct their name and the sex 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 (IA Court).
  • Eliminate from their legislation and public policies any form of criminalization, 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 the 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 and particularly including the gender perspective.
  • Develop and implement informative awareness and awareness campaigns in the public and private media on body and sexual diversity and the gender approach.
  • Promote information campaigns for trans and gender diverse people about all their human rights and existing protection mechanisms.

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