OAS General Assembly: Race and Equality to dialogue with civil society and experts on racial discrimination, gender-based violence and hemispheric security

OAS General Assembly: Race and Equality to dialogue with civil society and experts on racial discrimination, gender-based violence and hemispheric security

Washington D.C., June 14, 2024 – Ahead of the 54th session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race & Equality) is reaffirming its commitment to the defense of human rights in the region by holding three parallel events. The first event, the Inter-American Forum against Discrimination, which has been part of the institutional calendar since 2005, will bring together leaders from different countries for a dialogue on reparations and the main demands of the Afro-descendant, indigenous and LGBTI+ population. The second event will address the human rights crisis in Nicaragua and international financial support; and the third event, coordinated by the Latin American Human Rights Consortium, will bring together key actors from different countries to discuss human rights as a pillar of hemispheric security in the Americas. 

The OAS General Assembly will be held from June 26 to 28 at Conmebol, located in the city of Asuncion, Paraguay, under the theme “Integration and Security for the Sustainable Development of the Region”. For Raza e Igualdad, the OAS General Assembly is a space for broad dialogue and exchange of best practices of civil society in the region, as well as an opportunity to strengthen its demands by listening to delegations from Member States and its Secretariat. In this way, the parallel events achieve the purpose of effective political advocacy before this international human rights mechanism. 

Inter-American Forum against Discrimination

This year, the Inter-American Forum against Discrimination will be held on Tuesday, June 25, and will consist of four sections with the following themes: “The role of human rights protection systems in the reparation of different groups discriminated against in the region”; “Experiences of reparation in the region and its scope in relation to racialized, mobile or displaced groups, sexual, religious, linguistic, political minorities, among others”; “Reparation in the context of gender”; and, finally, the section “The ethnic population and the 54th Regular Session of the OAS General Assembly”.

In its opening panel, the Forum will feature experts in the field, such as Gloria De Mees, OAS Rapporteur on the Rights of Afro-descendants and against Racial Discrimination; and Ashwini K.P., United Nations Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.

In the following panels, leaders from the region will join the debate with information about their contexts and their struggles for reparations, restitution and guarantees of non-repetition. In addition, in the context of gender reparations, several activists will present and discuss the implications of the general recommendation of the Follow-up Mechanism of the Belém do Pará Convention (MESECVI) on Afro-descendant women. 

The annual Forum will also discuss the strengthening of the Afrodescendant Coalition of the Americas and the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance (CIRDI). 

To participate, register here: https://tinyurl.com/2fx7uc29  

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International financial support to Nicaragua despite democratic and human rights crisis

On Tuesday afternoon, June 25, Raza e Igualdad will bring together experts from the OAS, academia and civil society to discuss the responsibility of International Financial Institutions (IFIs) in relation to crimes against humanity and human rights violations in Nicaragua. It will also analyze the strategic relevance of these institutions in the use of human rights due diligence to address the negative impacts of their development projects. 

In a regime historically marked by systematic human rights violations, the continuity of international financial support brings to light several questions from civil society. From 2018 to the present, the authoritarian regime of Daniel Ortega, Rosario Murillo and their followers have carried out widespread and systematic attacks against the Nicaraguan civilian population in opposition for political reasons. Since 2021, the democratic and human rights crisis has significantly worsened. On February 9, 2023, 222 people were released from prison, then banished to the United States and arbitrarily stripped of their nationality and citizenship rights. Among the most vulnerable groups are human rights defenders, journalists, religious leaders, women, indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples, and LGBTI+ people.

However, the abundant evidence of the democratic and human rights crisis in Nicaragua was not enough for the International Financial Institutions to decide to change their strategy towards the country, strengthen their human rights due diligence, or suspend and/or cancel the implementation of their projects in the country. In February 2024, the World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund, the Inter-American Development Bank Group and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration supported 97 projects in the execution phase in Nicaragua, with the approval of US$5,082.43 million, according to information available on their websites. Of these, 57 projects were approved for a total of US$2,784.43 million, following the onset of the crisis in 2018.

To participate, register here: https://tinyurl.com/57r4b22m

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Human Rights as a Pillar of Hemispheric Security in the Americas

The Latin American Human Rights Consortium – formed by Race & Equality, Freedom House and the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) – will hold the event “Human Rights as a Pillar of Hemispheric Security in the Americas” on Wednesday, June 26. This event aims to highlight human rights violations in Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Venezuela as a driver of the debate on security in the region. In these countries with insecure and repressive contexts, inequalities are generated in terms of freedom and security with a differential effect on the most vulnerable groups, such as Afro-descendants, women, children, LGBTI+ population and people deprived of liberty for political reasons.

Thus, new concerns and challenges, including the political, social, economic, environmental and human rights situation of OAS Member States, have led this organization to redefine its understanding of hemispheric security. Thus, on October 28, 2003, the States of the Americas promulgated the “Declaration on Security in the Americas”, proposing a new concept of multidimensional security that recognizes that the objective of hemispheric security is the “protection of human beings”.

In its declaration, the OAS considered that “representative democracy is an indispensable condition for the stability, peace and development of the States of the Hemisphere” and that it is “the responsibility of the specialized forums of the OAS, as well as inter-American and international forums, to develop cooperation mechanisms to confront these new threats on the basis of the applicable instruments”. 

In this context, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR, Pedro Vaca; the Deputy Director of the Program for Latin America and the Caribbean of Freedom House, Alejandra Argueta; the lawyer of the organization Cubalex, Alain Espinoza; the legal professional of the Legal Defense Unit of Nicaragua, Arlette Serrano; the Venezuelan journalist from Voces de la Memoria, Victor Navarro; and the co-founder of the association Tracoda (Transparency, Social Controllership, Open Data) from El Salvador, Luis Villatoro, will discuss strategies to strengthen the security and protection of the population and human rights defenders, among the current challenges faced by authoritarian regimes in the Americas. 

To participate, register here: https://tinyurl.com/537cdu3w  

 

More information about the events 

Inter-American Forum against Discrimination

Date and time: Tuesday, June 25, 9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. (Asunción and Washington D.C.) / 10 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. (Brasilia time)

Location: Dazzler Hotel, Aviadores del Chaco avenue

Live broadcast via Zoom and Facebook Live @RaceandEquality

Registration: https://tinyurl.com/2fx7uc29  

Simultaneous interpretation in Spanish, Portuguese and English.

 

International financial support to Nicaragua despite democratic and human rights crisis

Date and time: Tuesday, June 25th, 5:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. (Asuncion and Washington D.C.) / 6 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. (Brasilia time)

Location: Dazzler Hotel, Avenida Aviadores del Chaco

Live broadcast via Zoom and Facebook Live @RaceandEquality

Registration: https://tinyurl.com/57r4b22m  

Simultaneous interpretation in Spanish, Portuguese and English.

 

Human Rights as a Pillar of Hemispheric Security in the Americas

Date and time: Wednesday, June 26th, 5:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. (Asunción and Washington, D.C.) / 6 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. (Brasilia time)

Location: Hotel Esplendor, Avenida Aviadores del Chaco

Live broadcast via Zoom and Facebook Live @RaceandEquality

Registration: https://tinyurl.com/537cdu3w 

Simultaneous interpretation in Spanish, Portuguese and English.

IDAHOBIT: Celebrating the most recent advancements in the struggle of LGBTI+ persons

Washington D.C., May 17, 2024 -. “No One Left Behind: Equality, Freedom, and Justice for All” is the global theme for May 17, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia+ (IDAHOBIT). Today we commemorate the date on which the World Health Organization (WHO) removed homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) Manual and remember that there is no democracy without the inclusion of LGBTI+ people.

Emphasizing that no one should be left behind implies reflecting on how many times LGBTI+ people have been excluded from public and private spaces due to their sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity; it means, for this reason, thinking about real inclusion where there is no place for hatred and rejection which are lethal to LGBTI+ people.  These phenomena kill by pushing them into the margins, they kill by bullying and suicide, they kill by violating their bodies and torturing their minds, and they kill by murdering them.

For this reason, this day calls us to the task of eradicating LGBTI+phobia in all its manifestations and from all areas of society.  At the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality), we are committed to this goal, and we believe that in this effort it is important to recognize every achievement achieved with the strength and arduous advocacy of LGBTI+ organizations against hatred and in favor of human rights.

Figures that make visible

In Nicaragua, for example, there is the Observatory of Human Rights Violations of LGBTIQ+ Persons, the only platform for social denunciation in the country created by the feminist organization La Corriente more than two decades ago. Despite the total closure of civic space and the context of censorship imposed by the Ortega-Murillo regime, the validity of the Observatory is a demonstration of society’s rejection of violence and other forms of discrimination.

A similar situation is that of Cuba, whose most recent achievement through referendum has been the approval of the Family Code, where same-sex couples can marry and adopt. However, in this country, there is no Gender Identity Law or official records that address the violence that this population suffers daily.

Strong voices in the face of subjugation

In Peru, LGBTI+ and human rights organizations recently spoke out against a Supreme Decree of the Ministry of Health that modifies the Essential Health Insurance Plan (PEAS), where it applies the obsolete ICD-10 and incorporates transgenderism, gender identity, and egodystonic sexual orientation as mental disorders to access medical and health procedures through health insurance. In response to the collective reaction of civil society, the Ministry of Health issued a statement noting that the implementation of ICD-11 is underway and affirming its position that gender identity and sexual orientation did not constitute diseases. Another inspiring example of persistence is the fact that the “I Have Two Moms” case reached the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and is now awaiting a ruling on the admissibility of the case that seeks the recognition of lesbian families in the country.

Building an Anti-Discrimination Legal Framework

In Brazil, in addition to the creation of the National Secretariat for the Promotion and Defense of the Rights of LGBTQIA+ Persons in 2023, there were 21 pro-LGBTQIA+ bills presented in the National Congress, among which was the proposed prohibition of the misnamed “sexual conversion therapies”, the reservation of places for trans people and travestis in federal universities, and the criminalization of political violence against LGBTI+ parliamentarians, among others. That same year, the Federal Supreme Court recognized that the crimes of homophobia and transphobia should be equated with racial slurs.

An End to Hate Speech and Practices

In Colombia, the Constitutional Court of Colombia made two important jurisprudential advances on the rights of LGBTI+ people. Judgment T-061 of 2024 declares the violation of the fundamental rights of LGBTI+ people and orders the influencer Luis Villa Westcol to rectify the publication of content that promotes hate speech. For the high court, the publication exceeded the limits of freedom of expression and incited hatred against LGBTI+ people. Secondly, the Constitutional Court, through judgment T-033 of 2024, declared the violation of the fundamental rights of two mothers who were questioned by a doctor from the Noel Clinic because, according to him, only the biological mother could be considered the “real” mother. This instance ordered the clinic to apologize and recognize the couple’s right to equality, rejecting discrimination based on sexual orientation.

While there is still a long way to go and we are currently seeing anti-democratic movements targeting the LGBTI+ movement, these advances demonstrate the resilience of the LGBTI+ community. They show that progress is possible even in adverse contexts such as Nicaragua and Cuba, and that LGBTI+ inclusion is essential to guaranteeing our democracies. It is necessary to get off of paper and for progress to be socialized and penetrate the consciousness of the people to make lasting and transformative change. States and society in general must commit themselves to taking action against discrimination and violence in all spheres of society. For this reason, Race and Equality recommends that States, in line with international human rights standards:

  1. Repeal laws that criminalize consensual sexual relations between adults of the same sex and ensure respect for sexual and gender diversity with legal frameworks.
  2. Develop rules and laws that guarantee equality and non-discrimination in public and private spaces.
  3. Punish hate crimes committed against LGBTI+ people and develop protocols for their proper investigation. Likewise, establish, comply with, and monitor the corresponding reparation measures.
  4. Recognize the gender identity of trans and gender-diverse people so that they can obtain identity documents that represent them, as well as access and exercise their basic rights.
  5. Implement training and awareness-raising programs on human rights, and sexual and gender diversity for police officers, health personnel, prison personnel, teachers, workers, and public officials in general so that they can carry out their duties without humiliating, mistreating, discriminating against, or violating LGBTI+ people.

Five years after 11M in Cuba: LGBTI+ activism, stories of repression, jail, and forced exile

Washington D.C., May 10, 2024 – This Saturday, May 11, marks five years since a public demonstration in Havana, Cuba, that ended with dozens of LGBTI+ people detained and assaulted. 

On that day in 2019, also known as 11M, dozens of people with diverse sexual orientation and gender identity were getting ready to participate in a conga (Cuban dance that is accompanied by drums) for the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, which is commemorated worldwide every May 17; but the event was canceled at the last minute, generating indignation among those preparing to attend, who spontaneously continued with the plan to take to the streets to demand their rights, even though they did not have the approval of the official body that coordinates this activity, the Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual (Cenesex).

Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and trans and non-binary people gathered in Havana’s Central Park, and starting at 4 pm they began to march without a set course. They mobilized peacefully and held a besatón (the name given to the act in which several LGBTI+ people kiss in public as a sign of protest), until the Cuban authorities, including members of the State Security blocked the demonstration, assaulted and arbitrarily detained dozens of demonstrators who had attended thanks to a call made through social networks.

On this date, we spoke with activists from this country about the challenges that come with activism and the struggle for LGBTI+ rights.

“Washing and putting away the laundry”

This phrase is mentioned by Yennys Hernández, lesbian activist and reporter for the independent media Periodismo de Barrio, to explain how the activism of LGBTI+ people goes “between a rock and a hard place”. 

She has been a victim of harassment by Cuban authorities. More than a year ago, she watched in amazement as State Security showed up at her wedding celebration to take down the names of the human rights defenders who attended the wedding to put pressure on the dissident voices that had gathered at the event. 

Hernandez says that, as she and her wife did, in Cuba same-sex couples can marry and adopt; assisted reproduction is also legal, discrimination in the workplace and in education is prohibited, and people with diverse gender identities can change their names on their documents. However, in this country there is no gender identity law, and the macho violence that exists in all public and private spheres punishes, represses, and assaults lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and trans and non-binary people. 

LGBTI+ people who fight for their rights are also victims of repression and harassment by Cuban authorities, as are artists, independent journalists and, in general, dissident voices against the Cuban government. Most people with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, according to Hernández, avoid reporting that they have been summoned for interrogation to avoid being excluded from the dialogues and processes that seek to advance the recognition of the rights of this population in Cuba. 

LGBTI+ people “wash and put away their clothes”, that is, they censor themselves to survive in this country, where there are no official records that address the gender-based violence suffered daily by lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and trans and non-binary people.

Behind bars 

The story of Brenda Díaz García, a trans woman who remains in a male penitentiary center for participating in the peaceful protests of July 11, 2021 (known as 11J) in the municipality of Güira de Melena, in the province of Artemisa, demonstrates the discrimination and, in general, the violence suffered by trans people in Cuba. 

She was arrested because, according to Cuban authorities, she had “dressed as a woman to infiltrate” the demonstrations. And as soon as she arrived in prison, they cut her hair and did not recognize her chosen name, two symbolic aggressions that annulled her rights. 

Brenda Díaz was initially sentenced to more than 14 years in prison, but eight months ago her sentence was reduced to 7 years and nine months, according to Ana María García, her mother, who has repeatedly denounced that her daughter has been beaten and has been the victim of sexual violence inside the prison, where she remains for demanding changes in Cuba. 

Living in fear

“Doing activism in Cuba and being an LGBTI+ person is complicated because you know very well what happens inside the Island, and the fear that exists is a fear that they put inside your body; and, from here it is easier to do it because you feel free to be able to do it, because you are not watched,” says Nornardo Perea, a Cuban artivist exiled in Spain since 2019. 

The writer, photographer and documentary filmmaker participated in the 00 Havana Biennial in May 2018, which was organized by the San Isidro Movement (of which he is still part). As a result of this event where he openly exposed his political position and sexual orientation, Perea was threatened and interrogated three times by Cuban authorities.

“In the third interview they made me sign a paper with several slogans. In the end, they (the authorities) do with you whatever they want. There were five hours of interrogation in Marianao (municipality of Havana). They forced me to collaborate with them,” says the artivist, who after participating in March 2019 in a journalism workshop in Prague, Czech Republic, went into exile in Madrid, Spain, and still, he says, continues to adapt to that city and that country.  

The stories revealed by Hernandez, Garcia, and Perea show how complex it is to be an activist and fight for LGBTI+ rights in Cuba, a country where advances such as equal marriage or adoption between same-sex couples have occurred, and at the same time lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and trans and non-binary people are prohibited from participating in marches independently and demanding their rights without participating in the actions organized by Cenesex. 

From the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) we commemorate 11M by recognizing the work of activists working for the recognition of the rights of people with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities in this country. We also call on the State of Cuba to promote gender identity laws and laws against gender violence, and to refrain from repressing and harassing defenders of the rights of this population. 

Lesbian Visibility: a look into the strength and public presence of lesbians

Washington D.C., 26 April 2024. – April brings much lesbian power. Today we recall the fundamental political role that lesbians have had in history, and the courage and determination of many lesbian women who face a machista, violent, and discriminatory society. Their strength has generated an undeniable impact in every country in the region; therefore, on International Lesbian Visibility Day, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) highlights and recognizes the struggle of thousands of visible lesbians to live with dignity and for more lesbians to be present in public spaces exercising their human rights.

As signaled by the regional report from LESLAC[1] regarding the Situation of Lesbians, Bisexual, and Queer Women in Abya Yala, over time, societies have qualified lesbianism only as an individual and private sexual practice. However, lesbians have demonstrated many times their collective and political essence through social struggles. A demonstration of this is the first Meeting of Lesbian Feminists of Latin America and the Caribbean (ELFLC, for its name in Spanish) in 1987 in Mexico, a space that arose from the reflection of feminist lesbians to have their meetings to represent their political stakes.[2] Similarly, they achieved again when at the 4th Conference of Women in Beijing, in 1995, it was discussed –for the first time at a conference of the United Nations—the criminalization of same-sex partners and discrimination due to sexual orientation as it impugns human rights and how this should be recognized by the Universal Human Rights System of the United Nations.[3]

In addition to their determination to guarantee their participation in political discussion and action, lesbian women are committed to documenting and making their realities visible. With the support of Race and Equality, the first report about lesbian women in Cuba “If they don’t mention us, we don’t exist: lesbophobia in Cuba” will be launched this month, which accounts for the invisibilization of lesbian women on the Island. “There is still violence against lesbian women, we do not appear in any statistics on femicide or gender violence. We do not appear mentioned in any of the proposals made for a comprehensive law [against gender-based violence]. We do not even appear in the anecdotes of women victims of violence that are published on social networks”, says María Matienzo, independent journalist and Cuban activist, and the researcher responsible for the report.

Olguita Acuña, Nicaraguan singer and performer, feminist artivist, lesbian, and member of the Colectivo de Productores Audiovisuales y Artistas Latinoamericanos (COPAL), has a very beautiful way of contributing to lesbian visibility from the arts. “The country maintains a historic debt with women and the LGBTI+ population. In Nicaragua, they celebrate Miss Gay, Miss Trans, but not same-sex marriage or homoparental families. Personally, I sing in a feminine voice. I write my songs and poems in a blatant way that are dedicated to women that I love and have loved, from sensuality to tenderness. I do not deny, I do not hide who I am or whom I have the joy of loving before God and society,” she expressed.

In this line, Pamela Almendra, a Peruvian musician, signaled: “We as artists or moderately public people have a [pedagogical] task with society because we are not extraterrestrials, we are people like any other person.” Pamela is a renowned professional guitarist in Peru, who through her talent and fame has contributed to making visible and raising awareness about her identity as a trans lesbian.

The contribution of lesbian women to the visibilization, the occupation of public spaces, and the discussion on the best way to live have been carried out from different spheres, collectively and individually, to advance towards a more just society.

In this sense, it is the responsibility of the States to implement concrete measures to guarantee a life of dignity for lesbians and the full exercise of their human rights:

  • Implement Comprehensive Sexual Education policies under a human rights approach to recognize and respect sexual diversity and gender identities.
  • Guarantee the dignified treatment of lesbian women in all public and private services in the country through the strengthening of training programs for authorities, justice operators, public officials, and administrative staff, and the adaptation of care protocols.
  • Record, document, and analyze violence against lesbians to better illustrate situations of violence and, subsequently, formulate prevention and care policies.
  • Guarantee access to justice through the investigation and punishment of discrimination and crimes committed against lesbian women. Likewise, develop mechanisms to avoid the criminalization of lesbian mothers in custody processes for their children.
  • Guarantee and defend the civil rights and family rights of lesbians through access to marriage equality and legal recognition for lesbian mothers and diverse families. In this sense, it is also necessary to respect rights acquired abroad.
  • Promote lesbians’ access to political spaces and positions of power to guarantee the right to non-violent political participation and the representation of identities.

[1] Red de Organizaciones de Lesbianas y Mujeres Bisexuales en América Latina y El Caribe – LESLAC

[2] Triple Jornada (2004). Más allá de la opción sexual. Disponible en https://www.jornada.com.mx/2004/09/06/informacion/73_encuentro_lesbi.htm

[3] Comunidad de Madrid (2019). Estudio sobre las causas de la invisibilidad y la doble discriminación que sufre el colectivo de lesbianas en la Comunidad de Madrid. Disponible en https://www.comunidad.madrid/sites/default/files/doc/estudio_lebianas.pdf

Trans Visibility Day: access to healthcare is a human right, not a privilege

Washington D.C., 31 March 2024.- On International Transgender Day of Visibility, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) recognizes that trans people, trans non-binary people, and gender diverse people continue to face strong institutional, social, and economic barriers in the exercise of their right to healthcare, while even more people who are racialized, impoverished, migrants or sex workers.

According to the thematic report on trans people and people of diverse gender identitiy and their economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights from the Inter-American Comission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Special Rappertour on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights (SRESCER), the lack of legal and social recognition of the gender identity of trans people, non-binary trans people, and gender diverse people vulnerabilizes their human rights, and much of time puts them in risky situtations.

Even in Latin American countries that enjoy gender identity recognition legislation, the lack of comprehensive implementation, investment, awareness and training of authorities and health officials continue to produce situations of discrimination and violence. In Brazil, for example, “we have the Comprehensive National LGBTQIA+ Health Policy which is a fundamental document and we have the Gender Modficiation Process which is very necessary for the specific demands of trans people. However, it is crucial that the government allocates more investments so that the service really reaches all the people who need it”, says Yara Cavalcante, from ANTRA.

Some of the prejudices against the right to healthcare of trans, trans non-binary and gender-diverse people have to do with the impossibility of accessing health services due to their gender identity and the exposure to unsafe, unsupervised, and even clandestine methods of body modification (hormonal processes, surgical interventions). “In Peru, transmasculine people do not have access to specialized services such as hormone therapy, treatment follow-up or gender affirming surgeries; and many must choose to seek alternatives in the private sector, which is expensive and not accessible to all, so many end up self-medicating with inappropriate medications and putting their health at risk”, says Bruno Montenegro, trans man, founder of Fraternidad Trans Masculina Perú.

Likewise, the lack of knowledge of health workers about the specific health needs of transgender people, mistreatment and pathologization in health services linked to prejudice and stigma -also related to HIV cases- generate anxiety, fear and lack of motivation to return to the health centers. On the other hand, medical personnel who are neither trained nor sensitized to attend to the needs of transgender people can lead to misdiagnosis and mistreatment. In the worst cases, they may incur in negligence, often committing torture, as in the case of so-called “conversion therapies” in mental health centers, as pointed out by the testimonies in the report: Bodies and resistances that transgress the pandemic: transmasculinities and AFAB non-binary people in Peru (2020).

Other factors that impacts the access trans people have to healthcare services is a lack of resources. In countries like Cuba, for example, shortages of hormonal products is one problem the population faces. “Testosterone is sometimes in short supply. At times we have to go one to five months without treatment,” stressed Carlos Hernández, a Cuban trans man that coordinates the independent social project Por Siempre Trans.

In addition to all this, which has its origins in the hegemonic cisgender model, no major medical advance has considered trans people as an objective and specific population. As Mateo Rodrigo of Hombres Trans Diversos de Bolivia points out, “hormonal treatments and other medical procedures to which trans people have access were not originally created for trans people. Nor is there sufficient academic production that studies the long-term repercussions of these treatments on the health of trans people.”

Faced with these situations of violation and concerns of trans counterparts around the right to healthcare, Mi Salud Transmasculina Importa was born, which is a project with a regional scope managed by Fraternidad Trans Masculina de Perú, Fraternidad Trans Masculina de Ecuador, Rosa Rabiosa de Perú, Hombres Trans Diversos de Bolivia, and the Instituto Brasilero de Transmasculinidades – IBRAT of Brazil, with the support from Race and Equality. This space also has the objective to support the integral wellbeing of the transmasculine population of Latin America through information and communication.

For all of the above reasons, Race and Equality recalls that States have the obligation to ensure access to health care for all people without discrimination. In this regard, it highlights the following recommendations on the right to access to healthcare for trans, non-binary trans and gender-diverse people, which were set forth by the IACHR in the Report on Trans and Gender-Diverse People and their Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights (2020):

  • Promote the training of medical personnel on the needs of transgender people.
  • Combat prejudice and binary male and female stereotypes in access to health services.
  • Establish directives or protocols for the care of trans patients.
  • Guarantee health protocols for gender affirming care, including psychological, endocrinological, and surgical care.
  • Gender affirming care should be based on free, prior and informed consent and move towards being free of charge.
  • Prohibit and sanction activities that offer “therapies” to “modify,” “re-orient,” or “cure” people’s gender identity.

Trans Remembrance: Colonialism and Trans Resistance

Washington D.C., November 20, 2022 – Today, on Trans Remembrance Day, it is important to reflect on the memory of transgender and gender-diverse persons, their memory-building process, and the struggle to recover their stories and memories that were erased by colonialism. Therefore, the Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights (Race and Equality) joins in commemorating this date and asks various transgender and gender-diverse activists in Latin America about what colonialism represents in trans memory and how they reclaim their history.

The Independent Expert, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, recently presented the final report of his mandate focused on the impact of colonialism as one of the fundamental causes of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (A/78/227), and how this has led to the creation of a stigmatized and binary memory of transgender populations in Latin America.

Latin American history is full of examples of how the region always preserves its memories and seeks new ways of remembering. In recent years, transgender and LGBTI+ persons, in general, have been fighting to recover, redefine, and remember their history. Furthermore, after armed conflicts and dictatorships that resulted in the erasure of human rights violations against the LGBTI+ persons, fulfilling this task of reclaiming memory takes us back to the beginning of the violent processes that stripped identities from many peoples during colonial occupation.

As the report indicates, colonization was a process of imposing systems of differentiation, hierarchy, and domination by a colonizing power over indigenous peoples. It also suggests that, after the decolonization process, a kind of continuation of the colonial project persists, which continues to discriminate against and harm transgender people. Before colonization, many communities did not use a binary gender approach or correlate anatomy with gender identity. Social hierarchies were not gender-dependent, and in certain communities, people had fluid gender identities, alternating between masculine and feminine roles. There were various sexual behaviors and gender expression fluidity, including homosexual relationships, transgender identities, and cross-dressing.[1]

As a result of colonialism spreading strict binary standards, gender identity-based violence plagues the region. Today, we see alarming figures from the Transgender Murder Monitoring (TMM) of Transgender Europe (TGEU), which indicates that between October 1, 2022, and September 30, 2023, there were 320 murders worldwide, of which 235 occurred in Latin America and the Caribbean.[2]

Bicky Bohórquez, from her experience as a Black transgender woman and activist for the Afro-descendant Foundation for Social and Sexual Diversities – Somos Identidad, mentions that the imposition of cis-heteronormative religiosity is one of the colonial manifestations that persist in Colombia.

“Religious conversion, the imposition of rigid gender binaries on colonized peoples, and the criminalization of sexual and gender diversity were strategies of colonial oppression,” as stated in the report, in line with Athiany Larios, a transgender feminist woman and human rights activist from Nicaragua, who says, “Colonialism is as relevant as ever. Many so-called experts and psychologists disqualify our feelings and label us as aberrant madmen with almost demonic ideas. We have been educated and taught under a misogynistic, macho, patriarchal scheme of what it means to be a man or a woman.”

In the case of Peru, although the artistry of the Moche and Chimu cultures depicted homosexual and affective behaviors as part of their daily lives, today, same-gender relationships in Peru are discriminated against.

One revealing aspect is that part of the repercussions left by colonialism—as stated in the Independent Expert’s report—is the acronym LGBTI, which cannot fully capture the diversity of sexualities and genders experienced by people in the sexual diversity community. Additionally, in some countries, laws like those used by colonial powers to impose binary gender norms are still in effect.

“We are nothing; they always censor us. When we look for jobs, they tell us there are none. And if they accept us, we have to dress as they say, as if God had brought us into this world. Personally, I disagree with the laws and the things that happen in this country regarding transgender persons. We, like everyone else, are human beings. We think, we have dreams, and desires to be heard,” says Carlos Hernández, a Cuban transgender man who coordinates the independent social project Por Siempre Trans.

In this regard, Race and Equality makes the following recommendations to States to respect and guarantee the rights of all transgender people:

  • Adopt the necessary laws and policies to change the name and gender on official identification documents to ensure the recognition, respect, and inclusion of transgender and gender-diverse persons in line with the standards of Advisory Opinion 24/17.
  • Systematically collect data on acts of violence and murders against transgender and gender-diverse persons, disaggregated by gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnic-racial identity, and age.
  • Implement a public policy with a gender perspective in investigations into violence and murders against transgender and gender-diverse persons, respecting the individual’s chosen name, gender identity, and establishing guarantees of non-recurrence.
  • Monitor and publicly penalize transphobic discourses reproduced in public and private institutions and in the media that promote discrimination and violence against transgender and gender-diverse populations.

[1] UN (2023). Report A/78/227. Available at: https://www.ohchr.org/en/documents/thematic-reports/a78227-protection-against-violence-and-discrimination-based-sexual

[2] Transgender Europe’s Trans Murder Monitoring (TMM) 2023. Available at: https://transrespect.org/es/trans-murder-monitoring-2023/

Civil society welcomes the appointment of Graeme Reid as the third UN Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, celebrates the achievements of Victor Madrigal-Borloz in the role

Geneva, 13 October 2023.- The President of the UN Human Rights Council has appointed Graeme Reid as the incoming holder of the mandate of the Independent Expert on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). 

The appointment was made today at the United Nations Human Rights Council, after his nomination was proposed last month by the President of the 47 government member body charged with overseeing human rights around the globe. Graeme Reid will take on the role on 1 November 2023.

An anthropologist and researcher from South Africa, Reid – who currently serves as the Director of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch – is the third person to ever be appointed to hold the United Nations mandate dedicated to addressing specific human rights violations against LGBT and gender-diverse persons, following Vitit Muntarbhorn from Thailand (2016-2017) and Victor Madrigal-Borloz from Costa Rica (2017-2023).

Civil society organisations worldwide welcomed the decision: “Billions of people continue to live in societies with laws and societal attitudes that put LGBTI persons in danger,” said XYZ organisations worldwide. “With his extensive experience in advocacy and academic spaces alike, and his keen dedication to listening to the voices of grassroots human rights defenders, we trust Reid will be able to further build bridges and remind States of their obligations towards people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities across the globe. As civil society, we look forward to constructive engagement with the new mandate holder.”

The appointment comes at the end of a months-long application process. 23 candidates went through shortlisting, with interviews and final appointment then overseen by Member States of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Earlier this month organisations worldwide had expressed their regret on the lack of women and non-binary persons in the short-list of candidates recommended by the Consultative Group, as highlighted during the recent session of the Human Rights Council. “Ensuring participation and representation of women is crucial to reflect the diverse realities of women’s lives,” organisations pointed out. 

In June 2022, the Human Rights Council successfully renewed the mandate of the Independent Expert on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The renewal recognized and reaffirmed the vital importance of the maintenance of this mandate, as LGBT communities around the world continue to be subject to violence and discrimination on the basis of their SOGI.

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the outgoing mandate holder, continues in the role until the end of the month. “Today we also want to celebrate everything that has been achieved over the last six years,” civil society organisations concluded. “Thanks to Víctor Madrigal-Borloz and his work, the world has heard more about the impact of criminalisation of same-sex relations between consenting adults, the need to legally recognise a person’s gender, the barriers to social inclusion and the importance of collecting data related to LGBT lives, the harm caused by so-called ‘conversion therapy’, and more. Madrigal-Borloz has also cast a light on good practices to prevent discrimination, and conducted visits to Georgia, Mozambique, Tunisia, Ukraine, the United States and United Kingdom, building bridges between civil society, political and religious authorities. At a time in which anti-rights forces are more vocal by the minute, and are increasingly targeting our communities as a part of a larger attack against gender equality, it is critical that the mandate’s work continues and is supported by States and civil society alike.”

 

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/

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.

 

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

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

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

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

Dialogue with the muxhe community

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

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

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

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

Meetings with civil society

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

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

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

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

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

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

LGBTI+ Political Leaders

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

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

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

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

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

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