Trans Remembrance: Colonialism and Trans Resistance

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

——–

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



Lesbian Visibility: Couples, Families and Lesbian Maternity Homes

Washington D.C., April 26, 2023– On the International Lesbian Visibility Day, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) believes it is necessary to talk about the visibility of family diversity made up of lesbians and non-binary lesbians, either with or without children, the right to love outside of the heterosexual framework, and still enjoy the legal protection of the State.

Although international law recognizes that all people are equal before the law,[1] the legal protection for same-sex couples, in terms of equality, is not the same. The inability to marry, adopt, and be recognized as a family due to lesbophobia and structural discrimination keeps lesbians and their children unprotected.

According to Statista, in Latin America, equal marriage is legal only in seven countries and in some Mexican states. In the case of Cuba, following the adoption of the new Family Code, persons of the same sex could marry and adopt, however, lesbians remain invisible. “There are articles and laws that address diversity, but we continue to be discriminate. My partner Kirenia Núñez and I have been together for seven years, and in all that time we have suffered lesbophobic violence. We have been violated for being activists and for being lesbians in a country where the state doesn’t really recognize us,” said María Matienzo, a Cuban writer who was forced to leave the island.

Up until 2008 in Nicaragua, the “crime of sodomy” was enforced in Article 204 of the Criminal Code, which criminalized same-sex relations with sentences of up to three years in prison.

Despite the repeal of this Article, lesbian women and non-binary lesbians of Nicaragua are exposed to religious fundamentalisms, hate speech, machismo, and a lack of protection by the State. The Nicaraguan Constitution does not recognize the right to self-determination with respect to gender identity or equal marriage, which makes it impossible to form families of lesbian parents, having or adopting children, and inheriting as a surviving spouse.

When States do not legally recognize or protect lesbian families, they leave them without access to other rights such as inheritance, social security, widowhood or divorce pensions, custody or adoption of children, housing, employment, credit, visits to hospitals and prisons, among others. In addition, this helplessness extends to their children and their most fundamental rights such as recognizing their two mothers and bearing their surnames.

In Peru, Jenny Trujillo and Darling Delfín, two lesbians married in Mexico, are suing the Peruvian State before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) because the National Registry of Identification and Civil Status (RENIEC), since 2016, refuses to register them as mothers on their son’s National Identity Card (DNI) even though the Judiciary ordered him to do so.

Last year, after five years of being discriminated against as lesbians and mothers, Jenny and Darling went to international courts with a petition and request for precautionary measures to guarantee: a life without discrimination, the best interests for their son, free development of personality, personal freedom, among others.

Although equal marriage does not exist in Peru, Article 2050 of the Civil Code and the Constitution provide recognition of marriages and rights acquired abroad. “We have faith that soon more lesbian mothers will be able to have their sons or daughters recognized and protected by the Peruvian State, and that there will no longer be the need to leave our country to seek legal recognition,” says Jenny Trujillo.

In the case of Colombia, there was an equal marriage law that recognized same-sex unions; however, institutional obstacles persisted that discriminated against women, not only because they were lesbians but also because they were of African descent. “Families of lesbian parents made up of black women exist. We are tasked with mothering from a place of love, respect, and empathy. We often encounter institutional barriers that do not recognize us as mothers of our children, that make us invisible, that do not allow us to enjoy the rights that we as mothers have. The families of lesbian black women are here, and we want to be visible,” says Sami Arizabaleta, activist and director of the Afro-Descendant Foundation for Social and Sexual Diversity – Somos Identidad.

Advisory Opinion 24/17 of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on the International Protection of Same-Sex Relationships is clear when it indicates that the American Convention does not establish a closed concept of the family. Not even one model is protected. For this reason, “the rights resulting from affective relationships between couples are usually protected by the Convention through the Family Institute and the Family Life Institute.”[2]

States must fulfil their obligations regarding the principle of equality and non-discrimination provided in Article 24 of the American Convention on Human Rights, which is elaborated extensively in General Comment No. 20 of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Considering this, Race and Equality raises some recommendations for States on measures to protect the rights of lesbians:

  • Guarantee the right to a family and the civil rights of lesbians and GBTI+ people through the legal recognition of lesbian mothers and diverse families.
  • Guarantee access to equal marriage and maintain unrestricted respect for rights acquired abroad.
  • Develop mechanisms that prevent the criminalization of lesbian mothers in processes of custody of their children.
  • Strengthen training programs for State officials to guarantee dignified treatment of lesbians and GBTI+ people in public services.
  • Implement Comprehensive Sexual Education policies that guarantee respect for sexual diversity and gender identities.
  • Register, document, and analyze violence against lesbians and GBTI+ people to formulate policies that respond to their needs.
  • Guarantee access to justice. Investigate and punish discrimination and crimes committed against lesbians and GBTI+ people.
  • Promote access for lesbians and GBTI+ people.
  • Create accessible political spaces and positions of power to guarantee the right to political participation without violence and with the representation of identities.
  • Implement assistance programs for cases of violence due to prejudice in and out of the home.

Note: In Brazil, there are two specific dates for the lesbian movement: August 19, Lesbian Pride Day, and August 29, Lesbian Visibility Day. Therefore, the Brazilian Lesbian Movement feels represented by these dates that contemplate the struggle and history of Brazilian lesbian women.

[1] Art. 24 of the American Convention on Human Rights.

[2] Art. 174 of OC 24/17 of the Inter-American Court

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/

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