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In Latin America and the Caribbean, we work with local partners to respond when there are human rights crises; we conduct research and document human rights abuses; we provide training to help build the capacity of local activists to pursue structural and institutional change. Overall, we work to combat negative stereotypes and prejudice and to prevent discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Human rights protections for LGBTIQ people have undergone fundamental and positive transformations in Latin America and the Caribbean in recent years. We have witnessed the legalization of same-sex marriage in several countries; the inclusion of sexual orientation and/or gender identity as protected categories in some domestic anti-discrimination laws; the passing of a landmark law on gender identity in Argentina; the issuing of a presidential decree in Colombia concerning gender assignment on official identification documents; the first-ever decision from the Inter-American Human Rights Court affirming child custody rights by a lesbian, and the appointment of a special rapporteur for LGBTIQ people at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. These hard-won advances have also produced a backlash and political pressures from conservative groups to restrict rights. Negative stereotypes have been reinforced in cultural settings, which has ignited violence and discrimination. To address these challenges, we work to: Respond when serious human rights violations affect LGBTIQ people by issuing action alerts and in some cases, by providing emergency security assistance to human rights defenders at risk. Conduct research and document human rights abuses, including reports exposing rights violations in Chile, Colombia and Guatemala, among others. In partnership with local civil society, we have exposed negative stereotyping perpetuated through the media and documented advances and obstacles to the recognition and enjoyment of transgender rights in Chile, Colombia, and Costa Rica. Pursue structural and institutional change by engaging in national, regional and international advocacy to challenge discriminatory laws, attitudes and perceptions. For instance, we have worked with the National Prosecutor’s Office in Colombia to support structural changes in investigating violence based on prejudice against LGBTI individuals. We have supported partners in Chile working to advance a gender identity bill and protocols for trans children and youth. Provide training, capacity building, and political space for strategizing. Our staff conducts human rights training sessions to strengthen the capacity of local groups and individual activists to carry out advocacy and documentation. We have conducted trainings on violence against lesbians and trans women in the Caribbean; on violence ignited by prejudice for prosecutors and judicial police in Colombia; on advocacy work at the Inter-American and UN systems in the region, and on safety and security for LGBTIQ young people.  

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    (New York) –OutRight Action International paid tribute this week to Mirka Negroni, a respected activist and OutRight staff alumni who had wide-ranging experience on LGBT and reproductive rights, sexual health and sexuality, and AIDS-focused policy and advocacy for Latino and Latin American populations. Negroni died suddenly on Oct. 7 while working in Honduras for UNAIDS Director Interpais para Honduras y Nicaragua, ONUSIDA.

    Negroni had a wide-ranging career for 20+ years as an advocate for LGBT and reproductive rights. She was also an advocate promoting policies to reduce discrimination based on HIV-AIDS and worked n fundraising, education, and research. She worked in the United States and in Latin America for both non-profits and government agencies.

    During her career, she held positions with the American Red Cross in Puerto Rico; as a Latin America specialist for OutRight Action International from 1996-99 (then as the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission); at Hispanics in Philanthropy; as a country manager in Mexico for a USAID health initiative and as executive director of La Raza Information Center in 1995. She wrote articles about HIV/AIDS in Mexico and Central America, was a guest lecturer at the School of Public Health in Mexico and developed education and training programs on sexual health and sexuality at San Francisco State University.

    Current and former staff of OutRight commented on Mirka Negroni’s contributions to LGBTI rights.

    Jessica Stern, executive director of OutRight Action International, said: “Mirka built the foundation beneath our Latin America advocacy and programs. All of us stand on the shoulders of the activists who came before us, and there’s no question that Mirka elevated the potential for our understanding of and contributions to LGBTI communities in Latin America.”

    Mirka at Celebration of Courage

    Julie Dorf, founder of OutRight Action International and now senior advisor to the Council for Global Equality, said: “Mirka was an electrifying force anywhere she was present. The combination of her smarts, her energy, and her relationships made her a fantastic colleague and friend. She will be so deeply missed in our movement and in all the lives she touched, including mine.”

    Dusty Araujo, who formerly ran the asylum program at OutRight, recalled his first meeting with Negroni in 1997. “She was already a star in the firmament of LGBT/HIV human rights and as a feminist. Mirka already had a trajectory, and was well known and loved by many not only in the USA but also throughout Latin America. I learned a lot of my politics from her and watched her be such a diplomat in new and exciting ways with activists from all places and with different agendas. Her energy, love for life, giving of herself, and the huge sparkle that she was will be so missed by all who knew her.”

    Kagendo Murungi, a former staff member at OutRight Action International, said: The ease with which Mirka found ways to elevate the basic human condition, political analysis, and spiritual state of every person with whom she worked ensured our love for her. Mirka’s passion, urgency and dedication infused us with a cultural appreciation of Latin America and a sharper analysis of LGBTQI human rights and HIV/AIDS issues. This special love that she practiced daily, along with the joy that she emanated embodied Mirka’s feminist, sex positive, and inclusive approach to liberation.”

    Sydney Levy, also a former staff member at OutRight, wrote: “She will be remembered for her charisma, her sense of humor, and her commitment for Latin American and Latino LGBT rights.”

    OutRight is planning a memorial tribute for Mirka Negroni in December in New York.

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    Para Publicación Inmediata

    Jueves, November, 5, 2015

    Contacto: María Mercedes Gómez, 347.732.5317
    mgomez@outrightinternational.org

    En la tarde del 4 de noviembre, la Corte Constitucional se pronunció, una vez más, para garantizar la igualdad de las parejas del mismo sexo en Colombia. Con una votación de 6 contra 2, la Corte declaró que la orientación sexual no puede ser un criterio para determinar la idoneidad de una pareja o una persona para adoptar. Con esta decisión, la corte dió via libre a la adopción conjunta.

    “Esta decisión, finalmente, y después de un largo proceso, garantiza la igualdad de las parejas del mismo sexo para ampliar sus familias, de los niños y niñas que ya las forman y de quienes podrán ahora ser parte de ellas con plenos derechos y protecciones.” dice María Mercedes Gómez, coordinadora regional para América Latina y el Caribe de OutRight.

    En 2014, la Corte Constitucional garantizó los derechos de una pareja de madres lesbianas a adoptar el hijo biológico de una de ellas y en febrero de 2015, el mismo tribunal ratificó los derechos de adopción por parejas del mismo sexo a la adopción consentida, es decir, cuando la solicitud recayera en el hijo biológico de su compañero o compañera permanente. Estas decisiones, sin embargo, fueron agridulces porque garantizaban la adopción individual y daban protección a los hijos/as biológicos de una pareja, pero desconocían que en Colombia hay muchas familias diversas en las que ya conviven niños y niñas adoptados, y que, hasta ayer, no tenían acceso al goce pleno de sus derechos. No se trataba sólo de una limitación, injusta, hacia los planes futuros de parejas del mismo sexo que quieren una familia con hijos/as, sino de los derechos fundamentales de niños y niñas que estaban siendo violados y ahora son reconocidos y garantizados. La decisión de ayer puso punto final a estas discriminaciones. Las reacciones de los activistas LGBT y de sus aliados no se hicieron esperar: Marcela Sánchez, directora ejecutiva de Colombia Diversa, habló con OutRight al respecto:

    “Esta decisión nos plantea un compromiso como sociedad, la Corte dió el primer paso, ahora es nuestra tarea seguir trabajando para erradicar los prejuicios y los miedos ligados a las personas lesbianas, gay, bisexuales y trans.”

    Así mismo Mauricio Albarracín, activista de Colombia Diversa nos dijo:

    “Esta decisión significa el fin de una era de discriminación, el inicio de un periodo de igualdad que todavía no está garantizado, que todavía nos exige trabajo, pero, al fin y al cabo, un momento de cambio. Yo creo que esta decisión nos abre una lucha nueva y unas preguntas nuevas.”

    También la senadora del Partido Verde Claudia López, nos expresó:

    “Estoy convencida de que los avances en el derecho nos permiten avances en lo social y lo cultural. La promesa fundamental de un Estado democrático es que todos vamos a ser valorados y tratados como iguales ante la ley y ante el Estado. Y lo que es incredible es que todavía tengamos que dar esa batalla tan elemental. Pero ganarla tiene un valor, no sólo legal sino simbólico y politico muy importante que estoy segura nos va abrir caminos para vencer el prejuicio y realmente construir igualdad.”

    Nos unimos a la celebración de esta victoria, sin duda un resultado del esfuerzo colectivo de muchos años y confiamos en que los espacios de igualdad en Colombia sean una realidad para nuestras familias y nuestrxs niñxs.


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    Video still of a kiss with onlookers

    Dear Supporter,

    This week, ahead of Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20, OutRight is releasing the first in a series of 8 short videos that challenge people of conscience to examine bigotry and exclusion—the twin evils we must overcome to advance human rights for everyone, everywhere.

    The first two to be released are part of a series of five videos in Spanish titled ?Y Tu Que Ves (“And you? What do you see?”), which turns the lens on transgender rights with an emotional appeal to reject prejudice that “sickens and kills.” The other films in the series asks viewers to examine the roots of prejudice that specifically targets gays and lesbians.

    “We can do something now,” the narrator pleads. “Let’s stop being ‘them.’ When now we can be a part of ‘us.’

    Even today, when we live in times more sensitive than ever to hate-based violence, anti-transgender prejudice and hatred has claimed the life of more than one person every month over the last decade. This trend shows no sign of abating.

    As an OutRight supporter, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that LGBTI people are subjected to hostile, oppressive and unconscionable laws in more than 75 countries spanning five continents that make it difficult or impossible for them to live safely and openly.

    While we work to change repressive laws around the globe, videos like these commissioned by Maria Mercedes Gomez, OutRight’s Latin America program coordinator, and Shehnilla Mohamed, Africa program coordinator, help us raise awareness about the roots of bigotry and spread a counter message against hatred. Also, this week, OutRight is releasing the first of three videos that examine the political, social and economic exclusion of LGBTIQ Africans.

     
     
    "We Must be Visible, Our Voices Heard" - The Political Cost of Exclusion
     

    The “Cost of Exclusion” series features prominent African LGBTIQ activists and notable political figures: Melanie Judge of South Africa; Chesterfield Samba of Zimbabwe; Edwin Cameron, a justice of the South African Constitutional Court, the country’s highest court, and an advocate on behalf of HIV/AIDS; and Zakhele Mbhele, South Africa’s first openly gay member of Parliament.

    The majority of LGBTIQ Africans are invisible in their larger cultures and many live in fear of being discovered. Invisible, that is, until some politician decides to incite violence or enact a repressive law to distract from their own failures. OutRight’s video series aims to lift the veil of invisibility and raise awareness on the consequences of exclusion.

    The final Africa video on economic exclusion will be released around International Human Rights Day December 10 to coincide with the United Nations’ annual LGBTIQ rights event. The theme this year is also economic exclusion.

    If you will be in New York City on December 10, we invite you to join us for the UN special event. You can register online: http://www.outsummit.org/human-rights-day/

    With warm regards,

     


    Jessica Stern,
    Executive Director
    OutRight Action International

     


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    In a major victory for intersex rights, the Chilean Ministry of Health has ordered the suspension of "normalizing" treatments for intersex children, including irreversible surgery, until they reach an age when they can make decisions on their own.

    “This executive order that came before any existing legislation on the topic shows a deep commitment by the Chilean government to the human rights of intersex people.” said María Mercedes Gómez, Regional Program Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean at OutRight. “It means intersex children will have the freedom to choose their own path in life and are not subject to irreversible and mutilating interventions.. "Progress of this kind would not be possible without the incredible work of activists. They deserve our congratulations and support."

    Activists such as Andrés Rivera Duarte and Camilo Godoy from the Observatorio de Legislación y Derechos Humanos were the force behind this important step. In October 2015, OutRight and the Observatorio presented a shadow report before the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in Geneva. The report urged that the situation for trans and intersex children be addressed as “a cross-cutting issue relevant to substantive rights protection.”

    The CRC, in the concluding observations, reviewed the report’s recommendations and expressed its concern on the rights of intersex children:

    “… the Committee is seriously concerned about cases of medically unnecessary and irreversible surgery and other treatment on intersex children, without their informed consent, which can cause severe suffering, and the lack of redress and compensation in such cases.”

    Resources:

     


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    Original quote from article:

    “En su búsqueda de la verdad, los periodistas deben proveer el contexto de los contenidos para garantizar precisión y evitar la simplificación de las historias”, señala María Mercedes Gómez, coordinadora regional para América Latina y el Caribe de la organización OutRight Action International.

    English:

    "In their search for the truth, journalists should provide context for the contents to ensure accuracy and avoid simplification of the stories," said Maria Mercedes Gomez, regional coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean of the organization outright Action International.

    Read the full story in Spanish »

    About the website 'Sentiido.' It is a digital media new outlet focus on opinions and analysis on sexual diversity and gender (LGBTI). It is also a space for participation, debate and strengthening freedom of expression.


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    OutRight has developed security training as part of its core mission to support LGBTIQ activists as they build a growing movement for dignity, equality and justice.

    For three days during the first week in March, OutRight experts Kevin Schumacher and María Mercedes Gómez will bring together 21 LGBTIQ activists in Guatemala for three days of comprehensive security training. The group will explore a range of security issues covering:

    • digital,
    • political,
    • societal and
    • personal.

    Their goal will be to emerge with an understanding of:

    • security needs,
    • create security plans for the nine organizations they represent,
    • and identify the tools and resources they need to put the plans into action.

    “We will support each individual activist by helping them understand how to assess their risks, what security precautions they need to take, and how to manage them,” said Schumacher, who previously led a security training for activists in Tunisia and is planning an upcoming training in Turkey.

    This is the first training OutRight has conducted in Guatemala, where activists have experienced violence, robberies in their offices and other crimes.

    LGBTI people are subjected to hostile, oppressive and unconscionable laws in countries spanning five continents that make it difficult or impossible for them to live safely and openly in their communities. This oppression ranges from imprisonment to violence and, in some cases, death. In too many places, authorities commit these atrocities themselves and victims have no recourse.

    In the weeks leading to the Guatemala training, participating activists responded to a questionnaire about the specific threats they face and the security precautions they want to put in place. Schumacher and Gómez will work with each group to create recommendations designed to meet their needs and help implement them.

    “Our goal is to be sensitive to and analyze activists’ needs and to help them design security plans that are relevant to their needs.” ~ Schumacher

    Schumacher, who coordinates the organization’s Middle East and North Africa work, and Gómez, its Latin America and Carribbean work, want to help activists understand security as a broad concept. As they tackle topics from digital security to violence and threats to individuals, they also will look at the political environment in which they operate, and help assess layers of protection, from individuals and their organizations to intra-organizational and societal dealings.

    Gómez noted that violence against women in particular remains high in Guatemala, despite an overall reduction in violence there. Between January and October of last year, more than 56,000 cases of violent crimes against women were recorded by the Ministry of Justice.

    Homophobia and transphobia are the connective link to violence against LGBTI people, she said.

    “We cannot transform the situation overall in the country. We cannot bring about change overnight. But we can start the conversation and give them tools to confront violence. It’s more about giving them the support they need to build their own resources.” ~ Gómez

    OutRight has invited Gabriela Tuch and Catalina Lleras to lead a session in the training. Tuch, a Guatemalan lawyer is the ombudsperson for sexual diversity in Guatemala, and Catalina Lleras is the Human Rights Officer at the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Guatemala City.


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    Contributed by: 

    April 15, 2016 -- The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) published a landmark decision of 4 to 2 votes ruling that the Colombian State is accountable for the violation of denying Ángel Alberto Duque, a HIV positive gay man, his right to equality and not to be discriminated against.

    There are now two IACHR rulings on lgbti rights : Atala Riffo and daughters vs. Chile
     and --this one-- Duque vs. Colombia. Duque vs. Colombia is the first to rule on same- sex partnerships. The potential impact of this decision on regional jurisprudence and on the international human rights system is enormous.

    In 2002, the private pension fund –Colfondos– denied to Mr. Duque the pension of his deceased partner of 10 years, Jhon Óscar Jiménez. Colfondos based its response on the fact that, under Colombian legislation on social security at the time, the union of two persons of the same sex was not legally recognized as basis for provision of beneficiary status to the surviving spouse. A judge dismissed the petition, arguing similarly to Colfondos’. The judge stated,

    “No violation of fundamental constitutional rights was committed...since the survivor’s pension is intended to protect the family...formed by the union of a man and a woman, the only beings capable of preserving the species through procreation...a homosexual union does not, in itself, constitute a family…”

    Germán Rincón Perfetti, a LGBTI activist and a lawyer for Mr. Duque’s case for the last 12 years, brought the case to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights in 2011.

    The Commission made recommendations to the Colombia State to remedy Mr. Duque’s situation. As the State failed to implement the recommendations, in 2014, the Commission sent the case to the Court that granted the review. Rincón Perfetti and the Comisión Colombiana de Juristas were Mr. Duque’s lawyers before the High Court.

    Outright (IGLHRC) signed two Amici Curie (with the University of Texas Law School and Leitner Center for Justice and International Law at Fordham University) to support Duque's claim.

    Regarding the relevance of this ruling Mr. Rincón says,

    “This is a guarantee for same-sex couples globally and a strong wake up call to discriminatory religious fundamentalisms”

    The Court has ordered the Colombian State to start paying the pension within three months and retroactively for 13 years plus $10,000 US dollars for immaterial injuries.

    The decision also mandates to disseminate the summary of the decision in the Official Newspaper, a national circulating newspaper and to upload the full sentence on its official web page for at least a year.

    For further information contact:
    Germán Rincón Perfetti
    rinconperfettigerman@gmail.com
    Cell 57-315-3719383

    To see the full sentence in Spanish :
    http://www.corteidh.or.cr/docs/casos/articulos/seriec_310_esp.pdf


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    united and strong caribbean conference

    United and Strong Inc. Saint Lucia invites applications from advocates for lesbian, bisexual and transgender women working in the Caribbean, to attend the third annual Caribbean Women and Sexual Diversity Conference.

    The 3rd CWSDC will be held in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago from 5th – 10th October, 2015, in collaboration with WOMANTRA and CariFLAGS. As LBT women issues are recognized as integral in human rights advocacy, the Caribbean Women and Sexual Diversity Conference will further address these, build leadership skills of LBT women and engage in strategic planning to develop their advocacy. Participants will benefit from extensive opportunities to develop networks and collaboration.

    Español: https://unitedandstrongstlucia.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/cwsdc-2015-sp.pdf

    For more information about the conference, and to apply, visit https://unitedandstrongstlucia.wordpress.com/2015/08/12/call-for-applica...


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    More than 50 stakeholders from throughout the Caribbean gathered to discuss women’s rights and to advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality this week at the Palms at Pelican Cove on St. Croix.

    The fourth Caribbean Women and Sexual Diversity Conference included presentations by internationally recognized speakers and frank discussions by panel participants, many of whom were educators and administrators.

    Kenita Placide of the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Quality started the conference four years ago in Curacao. She said the purpose is “creating and empowering, learning and teaching each other.”

    Read more » http://stthomassource.com/content/news/local-news/2016/10/06/women-s-sexuality-conference-advocates-lgbt-rights


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    In collaboration with country-level civil society partners, OutRight Action International engaged on a research initiative to review the state of transgender rights in Latin America, more specifically in Chile, Colombia, and Costa Rica. The research resulted in the production of three briefing papers which highlight the overall human rights situation for trans individuals in each country, notably the state of legal gender recognition, and access to education, work, and health care. The briefing papers reveal a complex legal and social environment for trans people where progressive developments are taking place yet obstacles continue to persist. The purpose of the initiative is to expose country conditions and provide tangible recommendations for state authorities to ensure greater respect for the human rights of transgender citizens in law, policy, and practice.

    Policies and Protection

    The briefing papers document that all three countries have reasonably robust human rights frameworks and have ratified the main international human rights treaties and conventions. The countries also have key protections for human rights in their respective constitutions, though not all have specific mention of anti-discrimination based on gender identity. Colombia, sets the bar for inclusion and protection of the three countries. Through its jurisprudence, the Constitutional Court of Colombia has protected the interests of trans citizens by establishing gender identity as a prohibited ground of discrimination, and developing the right to the free development of personality and self-determination to choose one’s own gender identity.

    The Chilean government is currently also supporting a more robust gender identity bill. This bill, if passed, will ensure gender identity is recognized and will help guarantee equality before the law for trans people, including the protection from discrimination. At the moment, a much more extensive process is necessary to obtain legal gender recognition, including psychological and psychiatric diagnoses and certificates attesting surgical or pharmacological treatments. In Costa Rica, the right to legal gender recognition is not yet recognized in law, policy, or practice. However, there have been some positive developments, including the ability of trans individuals to be photographed in their prefered gender for identification documents.

    The briefing papers find that while all three governments engagement in gender identity issues are on a positive trajectory, the reality for trans people on the ground remains challenging and social discrimination is pervasive.

    Discrimination in Education Persists

    One arena where trans citizens face serious challenges is in the education system. Infringements to trans students’ rights in the education system includes the obligation to wear school uniforms and participate in school activities according to the individual’s assigned birth gender. Severe institutional and peer bullying, especially of trans women, forces many trans students to leave school. Furthermore, some educational institutions are unwelcoming of trans students, and students are being met with a lack of understanding and little will from the institution to combat harassment. As a consequence, many trans students feel a need to abandon their education, having long term impacts on their employment prospects and financial stability.

    Despite these difficulties, there is progress. For example, a number of schools in Chile have been working towards implementing policies of inclusion, and measures have been taken by government entities in Colombia to improve conditions for trans people in the education system. This is also the case in Costa Rica where national guidelines have been developed aimed at preventing discrimination in schools. Generally, well-intentioned regulations are in place, but they must be effective and enforced to have impacts on the quality of life of trans students.

    Difficulties in Securing Employment

    Another area where trans individuals face barriers is in the employment sector, where there appears to be less protective policies for trans workers and not enough government will to influence change. The briefing paper finds that while Costa Rica’s Labor Code prohibits discrimination, gender identity is not specifically enumerated as a grounds of discrimination, and there are no policies for promoting employment for trans people. In Chile, neither public policies nor company owners do much to ensure access to work for trans individuals. In Colombia, trans people’s rights to decent and productive work is undermined by discrimination, and legal and administrative barriers to employment, such as the need to show documentation of military service, required of all Colombian males above the age of eighteen. Especially for trans women, finding work in Chile and Colombia is difficult due to negative social attitudes and stigma. Stigma coupled with barriers to education mean that trans individuals are forced into low-skilled or high-risk jobs such as hairdressing or sex work. Trans individuals who are able to enter the formal labor market are subject to inhospitable work environments, including harassment by colleagues and the need to alter their appearance and behavior to be accepted in the workplace. As a result of these conditions, many trans people are denied the opportunity to meaningfully contribute to the economy and develop their professional capacities.

    Barriers to Accessing Services

    The briefing papers also explore barriers to healthcare for trans individuals. Highlighting that official processes and policies are in place to advance and protect the right to health for trans people, but policies can be strengthened to improve the quality and access to services for trans citizens. In all three countries, trans patients continue to face prejudice in the medical system, especially when dealing with health personnel who are not sensitized to the needs of trans individuals. This leads healthcare workers to subject trans individuals to mistreatment and humiliation, such as wearing two pairs of gloves instead of one when examining trans patients. Many trans individuals also experience significant difficulty in accessing gender confirmation surgery and hormonal treatments due to long and strenuous approval processes and due to a lack of adequate financial resources. As a consequence, many trans people do not receive the services that are fundamental to their mental and physical health needs. Often due to these barriers, trans individuals acquire hormones and other medical needs through unmonitored channels and self-medicate, leading to potential complications and adverse health effects. Furthermore, the briefing papers find that in Chile and Costa Rica social conflation of trans individuals with the spread of the HIV/AIDS epidemic negatively impacts social perception and treatment of the trans community.

    Recommendations

    Overall, all three countries can improve the human rights and equality of trans citizens by enforcing existing policies and passing protective legislation, where they are lacking. OutRight concludes the briefing papers with recommendations to states with tangible actions to improve the human right situation for trans individuals. These include:

    1. Depathologize gender identity, and eliminate pathologization as a requirement to access transition and gender affirming procedures;
    2. Take all necessary legislative, administrative and other measures to eliminate and prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity in public and private employment, including in relation to vocational training, recruitment, promotion, dismissal, conditions of employment and remuneration;
    3. Ensure that laws and policies provide adequate protection for students, staff and teachers of different gender identities against all forms of social exclusion and violence within the school environment, including bullying and harassment; and
    4. Overcome the obstacles faced by trans men and trans women in terms of safe transitioning, by guaranteeing the necessary financial and human resources for access to gender reaffirming processes for this population. The State should also invest in training for healthcare professionals to ensure their capacity to deal with such processes.

     


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    Contributed by: 

    In Chile, the proposed gender recognition bill continues to be at a standstill. Proposed in 2013, the bill continues to be the subject of debate and amendment, particularly concerning its scope of the protection to guarantee the rights of trans children. OutRight’s briefing paper “Mapping Trans Rights in Chile” recognizes that trans children are among the most vulnerable sector of the population and should have the right to access the gender recognition bill.

    Discrimination in the Education System

    Trans children face a multitude of barriers in education, where discrimination manifests itself through institutional and peer bullying, as well as in the constant demands to conform to gender stereotypes and behaviors: the obligation to wear male or female uniforms and to undertake male or female activities. Trans children are often prevented from, or face obstacles while, registering for schools. OutRight’s briefing paper highlights that even when trans children are able to register, school authorities are insensitive or unknowledgeable about trans issues, preventing them from ensuring the well-being and safety of trans students. This fuels cases of arbitrary discrimination, a legal protection guaranteed by Chile’s anti-discrimination law, which articulates that no individual should be subject to discrimination due to their gender, or for any other social or personal condition. Parents of trans children have reported schools for arbitrary discrimination for failing to respect the rights and gender identity of their trans child. In February 2016, an educational establishment was fined for the first time in Chile for not recognizing a student’s gender identity.

    Healthcare Barriers

    Trans children also face barriers in healthcare. Healthcare professionals are not sensitized to the needs of trans children and often perpetuate disrespectful practices towards patients, including the failure to call trans individuals by their prefered names. The failure to recognize the identities of trans children impacts each child when they need to go to the school infirmary, use the bathroom, get admitted into the hospital, or receive any other public service.

    Divergent Policies for Trans Children and Trans Adults

    In the legal system, trans children face different obstacles than trans adults. The originally proposed gender recognition bill did not regulate the possibility of children to claim their right to gender identity; since the conception of the bill, articles have been added with intent to address the possibility of amending the birth certificates of children and minors through a special procedure in family court.

    Unlike trans children, adults seeking to claim their right to gender identity, by rectifying their sex and name in the Civil Registry and identification documents, are able to do so through an administrative process, where the will of the petitioner is sufficient claim. However children and minors must undergo a judicial process in family court. This is a much more complicated and lengthy process. The process is as follows: within two weeks of a petition being filed, a judge summons the child or teenager to a hearing and designates a guardian ad litem to represent the minor during the procedures. During the hearing, the child or teenager ratifies the facts and grounds on which the petition is made, after which the judge makes a decision.

    Lack of Agency Given to Trans Children

    By placing the decision in the hands of a family judge, the process does not recognize the agency of the child nor the capacity of children to exercise their rights. In essence, this policy does not respect the principle of progressive autonomy, which recognizes that a child or teenager can exercise their rights, including the right to decide their gender identity, for themselves. Aligning policies so that trans children can also access gender identity recognition through an administrative process is one of the recommendations OutRight makes in its briefing paper.

    Recommendations

    The Chilean government should enact a gender identity bill that provides equal and accessible policies to trans children and teenagers with those afforded to trans adults.

    OutRight’s briefing paper highlights the following recommendations:

    • Depathologize gender identity, and eliminate pathologization as a requirement to access transition and gender reassignment medical procedures;
    • Amend the Anti-Discrimination Law to bring it in line with Chile’s international human rights obligations, removing the hierarchy of rights;
    • Provide explicit legal protection against discrimination on grounds of gender identity and expression in all areas;
    • The Ministry of Education should create a Sexual Diversity Unit, in charge of protocols, policies, training, follow-up and monitoring on respect for gender identity in educational institutions;
    • Develop Learning Resource Centers to enhance teachers’ understanding of gender identity issues and to respect the rights and dignity of trans students.

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    Contributed by: 

    The government of Costa Rica has made recent strides toward ensuring human rights protections for trans citizens, such as enacting an executive decree in 2015 to eliminate discrimination against the “sexually diverse” population. However the right to legal gender recognition is not yet codified in law, policy, or practice. Recent developments regarding the ability of trans individuals to be photographed as they identify on government identification documents show positive improvements, yet OutRight’s briefing paper “Mapping Trans Rights in Costa Rica” reveals systematic inconsistencies and the conflation of sexual orientation and gender identity in policy.

    Some Progressive Legislation to Self-identification

    In 2010, the Costa Rican Supreme Electoral Tribunal passed a decree known colloquially as the Photograph Regulation allowing trans people to match the photo on their identification document (ID) with their self-image. For example, trans women are able to be dressed in traditionally feminine clothing and to wear makeup in identification photos. Previously, trans citizens were required to present themselves according to their registered birth sex on government issued IDs. Officials in charge of receiving and entering the data provided by the applicants, and those in charge of reviewing applications, are responsible for ensuring that the photos represent the person’s self-image. Individual biases on the part of authorities and lack of awareness often impedes trans individuals from accessing this right.

    The Right to a Name

    The Costa Rican Civil Code guarantees every person the right to a name; to name himself or herself, and to be named in accordance to how they self-identify. While it is legal to change one’s name on identification documents, it is a costly and difficult process that most people cannot afford. The process requires hiring a lawyer and presenting medical certificates identifying that the individual has gender dysphoria, a concession that disrespects the lived experiences of trans people and one that many trans people are unwilling to make. Furthermore, on identification documents, the name the person has adopted, their social name, can only appear under the field of “Known as.” The “Known as” field is a space to add a pseudonym when the pseudonym has become as important as the name of the individual.

    Conflation of “Sexual Orientation” and “Gender Identity” Leads to Issues in Accessing Rights

    OutRight’s briefing paper also highlights conflation of the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in various policies, with the use of the term “sexual identity.” The Photograph Regulation does not use the categories of “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.” Instead, the Regulation uses the terms “self-portrayal” and “personal portrayal,” which seem to indicate gender expression.  The articles of the Regulation however use the wording “sexual identity” to refer to this right, defined as “a sense of belonging to one sex or another.” The wording dangerously conflates the two terms “sex” and “gender” as synonyms. Gender identity is “a person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender,” which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned at birth. It also does not necessarily correspond to a person’s expression of gender such as dress, speech, and mannerisms nor does it necessarily correspond to their personal sense of the body, which could be shown through freely chosen body modifications by medical, surgical, or other means.

    Legal confusion between a person’s sexual orientation and his/her/their gender identity, for example referring to a trans person as gay or lesbian, risks excluding certain groups from human rights protections when anti-discrimination laws include one category but not the other.

    Recommendations

    Based on our research findings, OutRight provides Costa Rican authorities with the following recommendations:

    • Enact a gender recognition law that protects the right to change one’s name or gender to coincide with the self-image and gender identity with which one identifies,
    • Put in place explicit legal protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.
    • Provide all state employees clear guidance and training to understand, recognize, and distinguish between sexual orientation and gender identity in order to end discrimination.
     

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    En Chile, el proyecto de ley de identidad de género continúa estancado (aún en trámite legislativo). Propuesto en 2013, el proyecto de ley sigue siendo objeto de debates y modificaciones (reformas), particularmente en lo relativo al alcance de la protección (y los procedimientos) para garantizar los derechos de los niños y niñas trans. El documento informativo de OutRight “Cartografía de derechos trans en Chile” reconoce que los niños y niñas trans se encuentran entre los sectores más vulnerables de la población y deben tener derecho a acceder al proyecto de ley de reconocimiento legal de género.

    Discriminación en el sistema educativo

    Los niños y niñas trans se enfrentan a una multitud de barreras en el sistema educativo donde la discriminación se manifiesta a través del bullying (intimidación) institucional y de los compañeros, así como en las demandas constantes de ajustarse a los estereotipos y conductas/comportamientos de género: la obligación de usar uniformes para hombre o para mujer y de realizar actividades masculinas o femeninas. A menudo a los niños y niñas trans se les impide, o enfrentan obstáculos para, registrarse en colegios. El documento informativo de OutRight destaca que incluso cuando los niños y niñas trans pueden registrarse, las autoridades escolares carecen de sensibilidad o son poco conocedoras (no saben lo suficiente) de las cuestiones y temas trans, lo que les impide garantizar el bienestar y la seguridad de los estudiantes trans en los establecimientos educativos. Esto fomenta (provoca) casos de discriminación arbitraria, una protección legal garantizada por la Ley Antidiscriminación de Chile, la cual enuncia que ningún individuo debe ser objeto de discriminación por razón de su género, o por cualquier otra condición o circunstancia social o personal. Los padres de niños y niñas trans han reportado y denunciado colegios por casos de discriminación arbitraria, por no respetar los derechos y la identidad de géneros de sus hijos trans. En Febrero de 2016 fue sancionado por primera vez un establecimiento educativo en Chile, precisamente por no reconocer la identidad de género de un estudiante.

    Barreras en la atención médica

    Los niños y niñas trans también enfrentan barreras en la atención médica. Los profesionales de la salud no están sensibilizados con las necesidades de los niños y niñas trans y con frecuencia perpetúan prácticas irrespetuosas hacia los pacientes trans, incluyendo el hecho de no llamarlos por sus nombres de preferencia. La falta de reconocimiento de la identidad (de género) de los niños y niñas trans afecta a cada niño cuando necesitan ir a la enfermería del colegio, usar el baño, ser admitido o ingresado en el hospital o recibir cualquier otro servicio público.

    Políticas divergentes para niños y niñas trans y adultos trans

    En el sistema jurídico, los niños y niñas trans enfrentan obstáculos distintos a aquellos que enfrentan los adultos trans. El proyecto de ley de reconocimiento legal de género originalmente propuesto no regulaba la posibilidad de que los niños y niñas trans ejercieran su derecho a la identidad de género; desde su concepción, al proyecto de ley se han añadido nuevos artículos con la intención de abordar la posibilidad de rectificar las partidas de nacimiento de personas trans menores de edad a través de un procedimiento especial ante los tribunales de familia.

    A diferencia de los niños y niñas trans, los adultos que buscan ejercer su derecho a la identidad de género, mediante la rectificación de sexo y el cambio de nombre en el Registro Civil y en los documentos de identidad, pueden hacerlo a través un procedimiento administrativo, en el cual la voluntad del solicitante o peticionario es suficiente para procesar la rectificación. Sin embargo, esta opción no es aplicable a los menores de edad, quienes deben someterse a un proceso judicial ante el tribunal de familia. Este es un proceso mucho más largo y complicado. El proceso es el siguiente: dentro de las dos semanas de presentada la petición (y recibida la solicitud), un juez cita al niño, niña o adolescente a una audiencia y designa a un curador/tutor ad litem para representar al menor durante los procedimientos. Durante la audiencia, el niño, niña o adolescente ratifica los hechos y fundamentos en base a los que se hace la solicitud (y que constan en la misma), después de lo cual el juez toma una decisión.

    Falta de agencia personal (capacidad de tomar decisiones/actuar con autonomía) dada a los niños trans

    Al poner en manos de un juez de familia la decisión sobre el derecho del niño, niña o adolescente a la identidad de género, el proceso no reconoce la agencia personal de niños y adolescentes ni la capacidad de los mismos de ejercer sus derechos. En esencia, esta política no respeta el principio de autonomía progresiva, el cual reconoce que el niño, niña o adolescente puede ejercer sus derechos por sí mismos, incluyendo el derecho a la identidad de género. Alinear las políticas (existentes) para que los niños y niñas trans puedan también acceder a una rectificación de nombre y sexo por vía administrativa y así ejercer su derecho al reconocimiento de la identidad de género, es una de recomendaciones que hace OutRight en su documento informativo.

    Recomendaciones

    El gobierno Chileno debe promulgar un proyecto de ley de identidad de género que provea (proporcione) políticas igualitarias y accesibles a los niños, niñas y adolescentes trans conjuntamente con aquellas que se otorgan a los adultos trans.

    El documento informativo de OutRight destaca las siguientes recomendaciones:

    • Despatologizar la identidad de género, y eliminar la patologización como requisito para acceder a procedimientos de transición y de afirmación de género;
    • Enmendar la Ley Antidiscriminación para que esté en línea con la legislación internacional 
sobre derechos humanos, eliminando la jerarquía de derechos;
    • Prestar protección legal explícita contra la discriminación basada en la identidad y expresión de género en todas las áreas;
    • El Ministerio de Educación debe crear una Unidad de Diversidad Sexual, encargada de los protocolos, políticas públicas, capacitaciones, seguimiento y monitoreo del respeto de la identidad de género en las instituciones educativas;
    • Desarrollar mediante Centros de Perfeccionamiento, un programa de capacitación de profesores encaminado a mejorar su comprensión y entendimiento sobre cuestiones de identidad de género y el respeto hacia los derechos y dignidad de los estudiantes trans.

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    Recientemente, OutRight Action International llevó a cabo una iniciativa de investigación a los fines de evaluar las políticas de (existentes en) Colombia para la protección de los derechos de las personas trans y considera que la realidad para las personas trans en Colombia es contradictoria: Colombia tiene algunas de las leyes más progresivas/progresistas del mundo en materia de antidiscriminación y reconocimiento de identidad de género, y al mismo tiempo tiene algunas de las tasas de asesinatos y violencia contra la comunidad trans más altas del mundo y el estigma contra la comunidad trans es alto.  

    Protecciones legislativas

    Colombia está entre los líderes de América Latina en materia de legislación y políticas de protección de los derechos de las personas trans. Un sólido marco de derechos humanos, una Constitución progresiva y jurisprudencia positiva de la Corte Constitucional han contribuido a este progreso. Específicamente, la Corte Constitucional protege los intereses de las personas trans mediante el desarrollo jurisprudencial de tres derechos: el derecho a la igualdad; el derecho a la salud; y el derecho al libre desarrollo de la personalidad para incluir el derecho a elegir la identidad propia. Además, la identidad de género es un motivo prohibido de discriminación.

    La política Colombiana del libre desarrollo de la personalidad es progresiva en el sentido de que reconoce la capacidad que tienen todas las personas para realizarse individual y autónomamente, sin imposiciones de ningún tipo y sin controles injustificados o impedimentos por parte del Estado. En 2015, El Ministerio de Interior y el Ministerio de Justicia de Colombia aprobaron el Decreto 1227 de 2015, que modifica la ley que regula el registro civil en Colombia, permitiendo el cambio de sexo en los documentos de identidad para mayores de 18 años con la simple declaración de voluntad de la persona.

    Barreras para acceder a los derechos y servicios

    Sin embargo, como muestra el documento informativo de OutRight Action International, “Cartografía de derechos trans en Colombia, la realidad para las personas trans es también una de dificultades. A pesar del hecho de que la Corte Constitucional ha desarrollado jurisprudencia para proteger a las personas trans de la discriminación, las autoridades judiciales y administrativas a menudo anteponen sus opiniones prejuiciosas a la aplicación de la ley o ignoran (desconocen) las necesidades y derechos de los ciudadanos trans. Además, si bien el Decreto 1227 permite la rectificación del sexo en los documentos de identidad, el sistema de salud del país aún no permite a las personas trans acceder a transformaciones corporales ni a tratamientos hormonales sin primero someterse a un proceso de patologización.

    Implicaciones de la conscripción militar

    Las personas trans también enfrentan barreras significativas a sus derechos civiles vinculadas a las políticas de Colombia sobre reclutamiento (servicio militar) obligatorio para hombres mayores de 18 años. Todos los varones colombianos están obligados a someterse al servicio militar, y una vez cumplida esta obligación reciben una libreta militar. La libreta militar es un requisito documental para todos los hombres que quieren celebrar contratos con cualquier entidad pública, para ingresar a la carrera administrativa y para tomar posesión de cargos públicos. Esto pone a las mujeres trans en una situación precaria, ya que el reclutamiento se basa en el sexo asignado al nacer y no en su identidad de género. Aquellos que son llamados/citados para el servicio militar son posteriormente obligados a someterse a un examen médico en un habitación (un salón) con otros hombres, lo que puede ser humillante, y puede llevar a la divulgación forzada de la identidad trans de la persona. Muchas mujeres trans también pueden ser obligadas a pagar una cuota de exención militar, por ser clasificadas como no aptas para servir debido a su identidad de género; una suma que es a menudo más de lo que pueden pagar. No tener una libreta militar a su vez afecta la capacidad de las personas trans para acceder al empleo e impacta su calidad de vida.

    Barreras en el acceso al empleo

    Además de la libreta militar, las mujeres trans enfrentan limitaciones en términos de los espacios en los que se pueden desarrollar profesionalmente debido a los estereotipos negativos existentes en Colombia, y perpetuados por los medios de comunicación. De acuerdo con el testimonio de una mujer trans en el documento informativo de OutRight, el trabajo sexual o de peluquería resultan ser la única opción para ella, ya que enfrentaría barreras de discriminación si, por ejemplo, intentara trabaja como profesora. Estudios destacados en el documento informativo revelan que el 79% de las personas trans han sido discriminadas en su lugar de trabajo; sólo el 5.3% de ellas han firmado un contrato laboral; y el 40% de ellas han sido forzadas a vestirse y a actuar de manera diferente en el lugar de trabajo. Debido a los estereotipos negativos que sobre las personas trans se han formado y consolidado en Colombia, muchas personas trans se encuentran en funciones o puestos de trabajos transexualizados, como el trabajo sexual o la labor de estilista/peluquería, que son inseguras, no proporcionan beneficios (son de baja remuneración y no otorgan ningún tipo de prestaciones o seguridad social) y prohíben/impiden la movilidad hacia otros espacios de trabajo.

    Recomendaciones

    El gobierno colombiano se encuentra continuamente trabajando para atender y abordar las preocupaciones de los ciudadanos trans y ha puesto en marcha programas para incrementar el acceso al empleo y a los servicios de salud para las personas trans. Sin embargo, aún queda mucho por hacer para garantizar que los derechos humanos de las personas trans sean plenamente respetados en el país. OutRight Action International realiza recomendaciones al gobierno colombiano, así como a otras entidades, sobre cómo las políticas nacionales pueden alinearse mejor con principios internacionales de derechos humanos y para que en consecuencia pueda mejorar la calidad de vida de los ciudadanos trans. Estas recomendaciones incluyen:

    • Desarrollar e implementar una política integrada de sensibilización para incrementar la sensibilización pública frente a las identidades transgénero y los problemas y necesidades de las personas transgénero.
    • Partiendo del Principio 12 de los Principios de Yogyakarta, tomar todas las medidas legislativas, administrativas y de otra naturaleza necesarias para eliminar y prohibir la discriminación con base en la identidad de género en empleos públicos y privados, incluyendo en relación con la formación profesional, reclutamiento, ascensos, despidos, condiciones de empleo y remuneración; y 

    • Eliminar la patologización, la psiquiatrización y la esterilización forzada como requisitos para acceder a procedimientos médicos de transición y de afirmación de género. 


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    Recientemente el gobierno de Costa Rica ha dado pasos importante para asegurar la protección de los derechos humanos de los ciudadanos trans, como promulgar un decreto ejecutivo en 2015 para eliminar la discriminación contra la población “sexualmente diversa”. Sin embargo el derecho al reconocimiento legal de género aún no ha sido reconocido en la legislación, en las políticas ni en la práctica. Desarrollos recientes como la adopción de políticas que permiten a las personas trans ser fotografiadas en su género preferido, de manera que aparezcan representadas como se sienten identificadas en su documento de identidad, muestran avances positivos, sin embargo, el documento informativo de OutRight “Cartografía de derechos trans en Costa Rica” revela inconsistencias sistemáticas y la confusión de la orientación sexual y la identidad de género en las políticas.

    Algunas leyes progresistas para la auto-identificación

    En 2010, el Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones de Costa Rica aprobó un decreto conocido coloquialmente como “Reglamento de Fotografía” que permite a las personas trans conciliar la imagen que tienen de sí mismas con la que aparece en su documento de identidad. Por ejemplo, las mujeres trans pueden aparecer en la foto de su documento de identidad vistiendo ropa considerada tradicionalmente femenina y usar maquillaje. Anteriormente, los ciudadanos trans debían presentarse de acuerdo con el sexo (asignado al momento de nacer) registrado en los documento de identificación emitidos por el gobierno. Los funcionarios encargados de recibir e ingresar los datos suministrados por los solicitantes (de un documento de identidad), así como los encargados de revisar las solicitudes, son responsables de velar por que las fotos (que figuran en los documentos de identidad) representen la imagen que de sí mismas tiene las personas. Los prejuicios personales por parte de las autoridades y la falta de sensibilización y de conocimiento a menudo impiden a las personas trans acceder a este derecho.

    El derecho a un nombre

    El Código Civil de Costa Rica garantiza a toda persona el derecho a (tener) un nombre; a nombrarse (a sí mismo) y a ser nombrado de acuerdo con quien se siente que es y quiere ser (a cómo de auto-identifica). Aunque el cambio de nombre en los documentos de identidad es posible legalmente, es un proceso costoso y difícil que la mayoría de las personas no pueden solventar. El proceso requiere contratar a un abogado y presentar certificados médicos que establezcan/determinen que el individuo tiene disforia de género, una concesión que irrespeta las experiencias vividas por las personas trans y que muchas personas trans están poco dispuestas a hacer. Además, en los documentos de identificación, el nombre que la persona ha adoptado, su nombre social, solo puede aparecer bajo la figura del “conocido como”. El campo de “conocido como” es un espacio para añadir un pseudónimo en el documento de identidad, cuando dicho pseudónimo ha adquirido la misma importancia que el nombre del individuo.

    La confusión de “orientación sexual” e “identidad de género” conduce a problemas en el acceso a los derechos

    El documento informativo de OutRight también destaca la confusión de los términos “orientación sexual” e “identidad de género” en varias políticas, con el uso del término “identidad sexual”. El Reglamento de Fotografía no emplea las categorías de “orientación sexual” ni “identidad de género”. En cambio, el Reglamento utiliza los términos “auto-representación” (autopercepción) y “representación personal”, que parecen indicar o denotar la expresión de género. Sin embargo, el texto del Reglamento usa la expresión “identidad sexual” para referirse a este derecho, definido como “el sentimiento de pertenencia a uno u otro sexo”. Esta expresión, la introducción de este término en el texto del Reglamento, mezcla (combina) peligrosamente los términos “sexo” y “género” como sinónimos. La identidad de género se refiere “a la experiencia de género, interna e individual, que cada persona siente profundamente”, que puede o no corresponder con el sexo asignado al momento de nacer. Ésta tampoco corresponde necesariamente con la expresión de género de una persona como la vestimenta, el modo de hablar y los modales, ni corresponde necesariamente con su sentido personal sobre el cuerpo, que puede demostrarse mediante modificaciones corporales libremente elegidas por medios médicos, quirúrgicos o de otra naturaleza.

    La confusión legal entre la orientación sexual de una persona y su identidad de género, por ejemplo, referirse a una persona trans como gay o lesbiana, o cuando las leyes antidiscriminación incluyen una categoría pero no la otra, incrementa el riesgo de excluir a ciertos grupos de la protección de sus derechos humanos.

    Recomendaciones

    En base a los resultados de nuestra investigación, OutRight presenta a las autoridades costarricenses la siguientes recomendaciones:

    • Promulgar una ley de reconocimiento de género que proteja el derecho a cambiar/rectificar el nombre y/o género de modo que coincidan con la imagen propia y la identidad de género con la que una persona se identifica.  
    • Implementar protecciones legales explícitas contra la discriminación basada en la orientación sexual, identidad de género y expresión de género.
    • Proporcionar orientación clara y formación a todos los empleados del Estado para comprender, reconocer y distinguir entre la orientación sexual y la identidad de género a los fines de terminar con la discriminación.

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    Available translations:   español   |   русский   |   français

    This briefing paper illustrates how Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3, Ensure Healthy Lives and Promote Well-Being for All at All Ages, is relevant to the specific health needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people. The paper highlights existing data pertinent to the health and well-being of LGBTI people across seven targets within this Goal, as well as relevant data gaps. The paper then makes a series of recommendations regarding what type of data and indicators Member States should report in order to effectively monitor progress on LGBTI health needs and ensure implementation of SDG 3 is truly universal and in line with the SDGs principle of “leave no one behind.”

    Data regarding LGBTI health needs are inadequate and incomplete across the globe, but the data that is available suggest that LGBTI people’s health is consistently poorer than the general population. Discrimination, violence, criminalization, and social exclusion are the social determinants for poor health outcomes. While LGBTI people share common experiences of marginalization based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC), many also face intersecting forms of discrimination based on gender, age, race, ethnicity, ability, class, socioeconomic status, migration status, and other factors that drive exclusion.

    Of particular concern is the disproportionate burden of HIV among gay and bisexual men and transwomen, and across LGBTI populations: poor mental health, higher prevalence of alcohol and substance abuse, lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services, and inadequate funding for effective interventions. In addition, health workers often lack technical capacity and sensitivity to effectively address the needs of LGBTI people, making access to needed services exceedingly difficult.

    Collecting accurate and complete data disaggregated by SOGIESC will allow for the formation of evidence-based laws and policies that serve to promote and protect LGBTI people’s right to health. Community-based and LGBTI-led organizations are crucial in collecting these data. Community-based organizations are also best positioned to provide safe, non-judgmental health care to LGBTI people. Improving the health and well-being of LGBTI people must be grounded in human rights approaches that respect autonomy, bodily integrity, and self-determination. Laws, policies, and practices that directly or indirectly criminalize consensual same-sex behavior and self-determination of gender identity must be repealed to eliminate barriers to LGBTI people realizing their right to health.

    Civil society, UN agencies, and Member States must work together to ensure accurate and comprehensive reporting on LGBTI health and well-being in development programming. This is necessary to fulfill State obligations to the principle of “leave no one behind” in Agenda 2030.


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    Paola Paredes is an Ecuadorian photographer known for her focus on LGBTIQ topics. Her previous work includes Unveiled, a photo series documenting her coming out to her parents in a three-hour conversation. Paredes’ most recent photography project Until You Change, a photo series portraying the conditions in conversion clinics, has drawn international attention. The project is based on interviews with three women who spent time in the clinics—pseudo-medical facilities meant to “cure” LGBTIQ people of their homosexuality.

    The photo series recreates what it is like inside these facilities, where cameras are not allowed. While technically outlawed under Ecuadorian law, hundreds of conversion clinics continue to operate as drug and alcohol addiction clinics. They subject residents to severe mistreatment, including force feeding, physical punishments, and corrective rape.

    Paredes continues to focus her activism on the issue of conversion clinics. She, along with her organization Sinergia Lab and LGBT rights group Causana, has started fundraising for an educational campaign to raise awareness in Ecuador about the abuses at these clinics and about homosexuality in general. We spoke to Paredes about the process behind the photos, the overlap of art and activism, and her plans for the educational campaign.

    (Interview responses have been edited for length and clarity.)

    Rachel Alatalo (RA): Ecuador is one of the few countries in the world that has explicitly outlawed conversion clinics, yet your project has made it clear the practice continues in the country under the guise of alcohol and drug addiction clinics. Have you seen any movement from the government toward better enforcing the law in the wake of your campaign?

    Paola Paredes (Paredes): Yes, I would say that I have seen a bit of movement after my project, definitely. I have been very fortunate to have this project covered by the media quite extensively and become viral. I’ve had the Ministry of Health, which is the regulating entity in charge of closing down and regulating these drug and alcohol clinics if they violate rules, for example housing homosexuals, contact me. The contacted me and they wanted me to brush them up on my investigation and we had a meeting together with Causana, which is the activist group that I mentioned in my video. They kind of reestablished collaborating relationships to kind of start—because the issue has died down in the past three or four years. So they want to reactivate it.

    So I definitely have seen because of the campaign that things are starting to move and the activist organization has also told me that they’ve been getting a lot of emails. I’m very, very happy that the project has been able to start the debate again. Now, there’s still tremendous work to be done, and it doesn’t even scratch the surface but yes, something has started to move.


    From photo essay - see full series

    Rachel Alatalo (RA): Have you followed up with the sources you interviewed during your research for Until You Change? How have they been affected by the campaign?

    Paola Paredes (Paredes): I interviewed three girls. I kept a very close relationship with one of them through interview process I had with her for six months. With the other two girls it was just one evening that we spent a couple hours together and for them it was a very transactional process—they basically conceded for an interview. Usually these victims that come out of the clinics don’t really want to talk about it anymore and they want to move on, so with these two girls it was very “I’ll tell you what I know and then I want to move on.” With these two girls I really didn’t continue our relationship, because it did seem like they really didn’t want to continue to have a relationship.

    With the girl that I had a much more thorough interview, she did see the project and was very affected by it. She was definitely the person I was most nervous showing it to. When she saw the images she thought I did a very good job conveying the sentiment of their experience inside the clinics, which made me very happy to hear. So she was very much happy with the images.

    Now, I can’t really say about the campaign, because I’ve written to her recently—and she’s not a person who’s on social media that much lately—so I haven’t really heard from her, but as far as I knew she was very content with the project. Also, she’s very adamant in keeping her anonymity, so she would never relate herself to the project. Or I think that a part of her doesn’t want keep reading these stories, because she did convey to me during the project she just wanted to move on and she didn’t want to talk about it or see anything. So that’s why we don’t really talk about it anymore, because I don’t want to keep reminding her of the experience of her trauma.

    RA: Are you still in touch with the actors you worked with while shooting? How has the process of shooting—that is, acting out difficult scenes as authentically as possible—affected you and the actors and friends you worked with?

    Paredes: Yes, I’m definitely still in touch with the actors because they’re actually very good friends of mine. Two of them I’ve been friends with for ten years, so they’re very very involved in my life. I would say definitely it was very hard. We all had to do preparations for these characters, especially me because I prepared for around two months. With them we just had a two or three week process, while I had a much much longer, thorough—I definitely went into preparing for this character into digging up some emotional—as you call it in acting, emotional access and emotional memory. And some Stanislavsky methods which is drama acting, and using things that have happened to you in your past and recalling those memories, projecting them on scene or on camera. And with my theatre director we also did a lot of exercises to draw on these very dark characters. So personally I can say for me it was extremely hard.

    If you see the making-of video, which is on my website, there’s scenes where I’m really struggling because they were extremely violent scenes to recreate. So with the actors we really got into those characters. I know my actor José—he did the male therapist—for him it was also very hard. He had to get into this character who is sort of kind of sadistic kind of role, and he’s also a very, very dedicated actor. We would have violent scenes where it would end up being so intense and so real because it was basically us acting out these violent scenes and me just having an assistant photographer that I would direct being “shoot this,” “can you shoot this scene.” I remember one particular scene, after we finished the four of us were almost crying and we had to kind of hug because filming those scenes was extremely, extremely hard.

    So I would say yes, as far as an acting exercise it was hard for me and it was hard for my actors and I would say that it took me a few months—even I’m still processing a lot of the things I had to open up. And sometimes I think, if it was hard for me, I can’t imagine what it would have been like for people that actually had to live these situations.

    New Until You Change Video from Paola Paredes on Vimeo

    RA: We noticed the campaign includes theatrical therapy and a documentary film component. What do you see as the overlap between art and activism? Are the two always connected for you?

    Paredes: It turns out yes. I’ve been finding things out about myself with my projects, and now I think I’ve found art and activism do go hand-in-hand. I think art has a power of communication if used correctly and if used strategically to reach people. I think that for me they definitely go together. It’s also been very hard for me because it’s a big responsibility to join both of them. And I hope that the work I continue to do will be both of them linked. I think that art at times— for artists— or this is just my perception can be a bit selfish, and I think that at times like we’re living now I think it is our responsibility to use our creativity and talent to do important projects.

    I have this idea for theatrical therapy. It’s called theatre of the oppressed and it’s this very interesting theatre technique where you go out and use theatre as a form of therapy to the people that you are presenting it to. So you put them in these social situations and you ask them how they would react, and they switch roles with the actors and they are made to put themselves in certain positions. So it’s kind of forcing the public to interact with theatre and interact in these situations. I have this idea that in part of the campaign I would use this type of theatrical therapy to advocate for this issue and talk about homosexuality. And maybe we would do a short film about the clinics or stuff like that. So we have a lot of ideas.


    From photo essay - see full series

    RA: How did you first hear of Sinergia Lab and Causana? What has it been like incorporating other groups into this larger campaign, especially in comparison to your personal photography projects?

    Paredes: Sinergia is actually the initiative I have with my best friend. She’s the girl I mentioned in the last question who’s also a very very talented artist. With her husband and two other friends we have from collaborating we funded it together. We’ve always been allies in our creative work and always there for each other and we work together really well. It’s a thing she started and I joined her when I moved back to Ecuador.

    And Causana is an LGBT organization that advocates for gay rights and has been in the fight for closing down these conversion clinics for about six years now. They’ve been really, really there. They’re the organization that has probably been the most involved and has the most information, so I teamed up with them as soon as I got to Ecuador. I told them about my project, I told them about my interests, and since then we’ve been collaborating. It’s been interesting for me to incorporate other groups because I usually work alone, but it’s also been very fulfilling to have other organizations involved in my work and wanting to work together.

    RA: We would love to hear more about your educational campaign. What is the best-case scenario of the campaign?

    Paredes: Honestly, it would be to raise enough money. $50,000 is actually a very humble budget for what we would need. The best case scenario is that we would be able to raise more than that. Unfortunately, it has not gone as I had hoped, so maybe with your help I can raise a bit more. Basically, the scenario is where we could raise a bit more and then we could start doing it. I would team up with more people—I’ve already had some people who are interested in working me me: lawyers and documentary filmmakers, and we would get people on board. And I think that if we would raise the money we would sit down like I explained in my video and develop a campaign strategy which would take us four or five months, and then we would just start implementing it and see if we could get other sponsors and other people interested in our campaign.

    Basically it’s a funding problem, as it always is. We can’t really do anything if we don’t have any funds, but if we do we have the best disposition. I work with another amazing, very creative, talented friend who also a very gifted artist and communications specialist and it would be just an honor to work together for this campaign.

    RA: How can other human rights groups assist with the situation in Ecuador or in other countries with conversion clinics?

    Paredes: I think it’s basically just finding out how to get involved. It is basically just getting in contact with me and establishing a dialogue. Maybe here it’s different than it would be in other countries—I think we can learn from each other’s experience. I think I can also help campaigns with communication strategies and artistic strategies if they want to implement it in their own countries.

    I think anything starts with a dialogue and the willingness to help each other. If I know this, then maybe I can help you with this.

    Where the law fails to protect its citizens, awareness—and the understanding and compassion it breeds—is necessary to create change. Paredes’ campaign would work to end the taboo around homosexuality and encourage society to view LGBTIQ people as humans deserving of rights. As Paredes mentions, the campaign cannot succeed without proper funding. To learn more about the educational campaign and how you can support it, click here.


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