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USAID-supported gay training to take place in Colombia

Bogotá gathering is LGBT Global Development Partnership’s first

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Colombia, Bogota, gay news, Washington Blade

El Capitolio Nacional in Bogotá, Colombia (Photo by Rikimedia via Wikimedia Commons)

The first training as part of a USAID-backed public-private partnership designed to promote LGBT rights around the world will take place in the Colombian capital from May 30-June 2.

Advocates from across Colombia are expected to attend the Bogotá training that is designed to teach participants how to become involved in the country’s political process. The Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute and the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice will conduct the four-day seminar with Colombia Diversa, a nationwide LGBT advocacy group, as part of the LGBT Global Development Partnership that will contribute $11 million over the next four years to activist groups in neighboring Ecuador and other developing countries.

Colombia Diversa Executive Director Marcela Sánchez on Thursday will also moderate a panel on the role out public officials play in the advancement of LGBT rights in Colombia and the United States. Bogotá City Council member Angélica Lozano; Tatiana Piñeros, a transgender woman whom Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro appointed last year to run the Colombian capital’s social welfare agency; Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute President Chuck Wolfe and Francisco Herrero, director of the Democratic National Institute, a group that encourages underrepresented groups to become involved in the South American country’s political process, are scheduled to take part.

“I hope there will be an opportunity to have a conversation about opportunities for LGBT people to be involved in their government,” Wolfe told the Washington Blade before he traveled to Bogotá.

Chuck Wolfe, gay news, gay politics dc, Victory Fund

Victory Institute President Chuck Wolfe is among those who will travel to Colombia. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The training will take place less than a week after Vice President Biden met with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in Bogotá during a six-day trip that also brought him to Trinidad and Tobago and Brazil.

Biden’s office did not return the Blade’s request for comment on whether the vice president discussed LGBT-specific issues with Santos. A senior administration official who briefed reporters before the trip said the Obama administration’s objective “is to work with our partners across the hemisphere to promote a hemisphere that’s middle class, secure and democratic.”

“They each have a government that share our democratic values, that are focused on delivering for their citizens and on working as partners to advance common interests across the region and around the world,” the official said.

Marriage debate provides training backdrop

The Colombian Senate in April struck down a bill that would have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The same chamber in 2007 defeated a measure that would have allowed gays and lesbians to enter into civil unions; but the country’s Constitutional Court in three separate rulings later that year and in 2008 extended property, social security and other rights to same-sex couples. The tribunal in 2009 ruled gays and lesbians who live together must receive the same rights that unmarried heterosexual couples receive under Colombian law.

The Constitutional Court in 2011 ruled the country’s Congress must pass legislation within two years that extends the same benefits heterosexuals receive through marriage to same-sex couples. They can legally register their relationships on June 20 if lawmakers fail to act on this judicial mandate.

Lawmakers in the South American country in 2011 also passed a new anti-discrimination law that includes sexual orientation.

Colombia was also among the countries that helped secure passage of the United Nations’ first-ever resolution in support of LGBT rights earlier in the same year.

Anti-LGBT violence remains pervasive

Colombia Diversa estimates 58 of the reported 280 LGBT Colombians who were murdered between 2010-2011 were killed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. A report from the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Transgender Women (REDLACTRANS) notes 61 trans women in Colombia have been reported killed between 2005-2011.

Federico Ruíz Mora of the Santamaría Fundación, a group based in Cali that advocates on behalf of trans women, told the Blade last month while he and other Colombian LGBT rights activists and officials visited the United States that local police often exacerbate the problem.

USAID in 2009 began to work with the Colombian National Police on how to more effectively engage the country’s LGBT advocacy organizations. Law enforcement personnel from Colombia, Sweden and the United Kingdom took part in a 2010 seminar the agency and the Swedish Embassy co-sponsored on how police can better interact with LGBT Colombians.

Colombia Diversa and the Santamaría Fundación has also received USAID grants and other support to expand their efforts to document anti-LGBT violence and work with authorities to better prosecute the perpetrators.

Dan Baer, deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the U.S. State Department, acknowledged to the Blade during an interview on Tuesday that trans Colombians in particular face “very serious violence.” He added the Colombian government’s protection of freedom of association that allows LGBT advocacy groups and other non-governmental organizations to operate freely allows it to adequately respond to the problem.

“That makes a huge difference because you have the facts out in the open,” Baer said. “The challenge is just implementing policies that deliver full protections.”

While applauding the Colombian government’s efforts to address anti-LGBT violence, he conceded “there are more steps that they could take.”

“That’s a conversation that’s happening principally between domestic NGOs and the government,” Baer said. “There are very committed people I’ve met with in the Colombian government for whom this is a priority issue.”

Santos’ spokesperson Pedro Ignacio Camacho Ramírez told the Blade in an e-mail on Tuesday his country remains committed to protecting the rights of LGBT people.

“Colombia is a nation founded upon the inherent dignity of every human being,” he said. “In this sense, we understand that it is a priority for the country to move forward with the construction of politics and spaces that contribute to the development of the right to equality without discrimination in support of groups like the LGBTI community with special constitutional protection.”

Editor’s note: Blade reporter Michael K. Lavers will speak to training participants in Bogotá on Saturday.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Todd Tif Fernandez

    May 30, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    This is sort of amusing – the idea that the U.S. has something to teach other countries – like Colombia – where legal non-discrimination protections are stronger than here – and the top Court has declared marriage discrimination unconstitutional. Meanwhile, 8 gay people were bashed in NYC and one killed, shot point blank on Christopher street. And the idea that "out" elected officials are helpful is also laughable, given Senator Baldwin's failure to say anything as UAFA was bashed in Congress, while DNC Senators did the bashing, and the LGBT Congressional Congress (6 out gay folks) are entirely absent in the public debate, and NONE of the gay elected officials will even file a bill for full federal LGBT equality. Of course, the State Dept. has the right idea to try to foster these conversations. But bringing in the U.S. model – which has failed to deliver here where we lag behind many countries including Colombia – is just more American elitism, and proof that the government, money, and our movement – and now foreign grants and programs – are all so tightly intertwined that we'll never get the ACTION we need here at home, because our movement is part of the system of oppression and feeding off of it. Of course we can't very well do this work in Africa – where it's needed more – because our hands are so unclean here ourselves – it would be the ultimate in hypocritical foreign policy, which of course, is not a new thing by any means.

  2. Ce Gzz

    June 6, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    double speech? when is about LGBT rights there is "human dignity to be recognized" but when we are talking about babies in the womb..there are no rights? Countries in South America are in more need of other projects than LGBT training. Leave us alone!

  3. Müller Pretorius

    July 3, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    We must all live according the Bible as the only true Word of God Allmighty; Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

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World

Puerto Rico activists condemn police raid on LGBTQ-friendly bar

More than 20 officers descended on Loverbar near the University of Puerto Rico

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Lovebar (Photo via Twitter)

Activists in Puerto Rico have condemned a police raid on an LGBTQ-friendly bar that took place on Thursday night.

Local media reports indicate more than 20 officers with the San Juan Municipal Police Department entered Loverbar, which is near the campus of the University of Puerto Rico, at around 11 p.m.

A video posted to social media shows that some of the officers who entered the bar were armed with what appear to be shot guns.

Media reports cite local authorities who said Loverbar did not have the necessary permits to operate as a bar, and the officers arrived there to fine them. San Juan Mayor Miguel Romero in a statement said officers fined Loverbar and seven other businesses in the city on Thursday for either not having the necessary permits or excessive noise.

“The Municipal Police of San Juan led by Miguel Romero intervened last night with a queer bar,” tweeted Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para [email protected], a Puerto Rican LGBTQ advocacy group. “This reminds us of a time when LGBTQI+ people were prosecuted, criminalized and villified.”

“We won’t tolerate homophobia and transphobia in San Juan,” added Serrano.

Comité Amplio Para la Búsqueda de Equidad (CABE), another Puerto Rican LGBTQ advocacy group, has called for an “exhaustive and independent investigation into the excessive use of force and intimidation by the Municipal Police of San Juan last night” at Loverbar.

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World

Argentina becomes first Latin America country to issue non-binary IDs

Country remains at forefront of trans, gender non-conforming rights

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Argentina on Wednesday became the first country in Latin America to issue ID cards that are specifically for non-binary people.

President Alberto Fernández issued a decree that allows non-binary Argentines to choose an “X” gender marker on their National Identity Document or DNI.

“The recognition of the gender identity of people who identify themselves outside gender binary norms is a big advance for the entire society, because it puts to an end the mandatory imposition of ‘male’ or ‘female’ categories,” reads Fernández’s decree. “The decree implements the rights recognized under the Gender Identity Law, interpreting its scope beyond binaryism.”

The Gender Rights Law that took effect in 2012, among other things, allows Argentines to legally change their gender without medical intervention. Fernández last September signed a decree that requires at least 1 percent of all jobs in the country’s public sector to go to transgender people.

Marcela Romero, a Buenos Aires-based trans activist who is also a member of REDLACTRANS (The Latin America and Caribbean Network of Transgender People) Executive Board, in a statement said the decree “once again positions Argentina” as a world leader in extending rights to gender non-conforming people.

Mariano Ruiz, another Argentine LGBTQ rights activist, echoed Romero.

“The recognition of the identity of non-binary people by the State leaves no doubt about the interpretation of the Gender Identity Law,” Ruiz told the Washington Blade on Wednesday.

Ruiz also noted the public sector employment law is named after two trans activists — Diana Sacayán, who was killed in 2016, and Lohana Berlina, who died in 2012.

“Once again and after the recent approval of the Diana Sacayán-Lohana Berlina Labor Quota Law, the Argentine government has shown its firm commitment to sexual and gender diversity and sets the course for where the Latin America region should go,” said Ruiz. “We hope that this is only the beginning and we will soon have a new law against discriminatory acts, a comprehensive law for trans people and a new law for HIV and viral hepatitis.”

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World

Chilean Senate approves marriage equality bill

President Sebastián Piñera has urged lawmakers to support measure

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Chilean Senate on Wednesday by a 28-14 vote margin approved a bill that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The vote took place less than a month after President Sebastián Piñera announced he supports marriage equality and urged lawmakers in the South American country to quickly act on the issue. The bill now goes to the Chilean House of Representatives.

The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (Movilh), a Chilean LGBTQ advocacy group, described the vote as a “triumph of justice and equality.”

“The Senate, four years after of processing, finally approves and dispatches (the) marriage equality (bill),” tweeted the organization. “The end of discrimination against same-sex partners and same-sex parents is near. A better path for new generations.”

Lorena Recabarren, undersecretary for human rights in Chile’s Justice Ministry, in a statement applauded Piñera for his position in support of the bill. Recabarren stressed the president will continue to urge members of the House of Representatives to quickly approve it.

“Our goal is that this bill gets done as soon as possible and will be signed into law for everyone in our country,” she said.

Same-sex couples have been able to enter into civil unions in Chile since 2015.

Movilh in 2012 filed a lawsuit with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of three same-sex couples who were seeking marriage rights in the country. The group entered into an agreement with the Chilean government over marriage equality and adoption rights for same-sex couples, but withdrew from it last October.

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