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Colombia LGBT activist discusses challenges

Caribe Afirmativo Director Wilson Castañeda Castro attended Bogotá training

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Wilson Castañera, Colombia, Caribe Afirmativo, gay news, Washington Blade

Wilson Castañera, Colombia, Caribe Afirmativo, gay news, Washington Blade

Wilson Castañeda Castro of the Colombian LBGT advocacy group Caribe Afirmativo. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

BOGOTÁ, Colombia – An advocate from Colombia’s Caribbean coast told the Washington Blade on Friday that discrimination and violence continue to pose a serious threat to the region’s LGBT residents.

“The Caribbean is a region of a high cultural diversity,” Caribe Afirmativo Director Wilson Castañeda Castro said during the USAID-backed Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute and Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice training that he and roughly 30 other activists from across the country are attending in the Colombian capital of Bogotá. “You find a very pluralistic cultural dynamic, but it goes against the recognition of sexual diversity.”

Friends of a gay activist of Cuban descent who was murdered in Cartagena in 2007 founded Caribe Afirmativo after his death.

The organization that also works in the cities of Barranquilla, Valledupar, Urabá, Sincelejo and Montería documents the impact that violence and the armed conflict that began in Colombia in the 1960s has had on the region’s LGBT population. It also seeks to educate the public about sexual minorities, organize LGBT people and highlight homophobic and transphobic politicians.

“The governments in these areas are very homophobic governments,” Castañeda said. “This agenda seeks commitments from them with respect to the LGBT community.”

He said his group continues to confront the sexual exploitation of young gay men of Afro-Caribbean descent due to increased tourism in Cartagena and Santa Marta. Caribe Afirmativo also works with many transgender women who have been displaced because of violence and those who have been threatened because they are open about their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

“It is a region full of challenges,” he said.

Castañeda further noted he feels the centralized Colombian government does not understand “this is a dynamic country made up of many regions.” He added life for LGBT people who live outside Bogotá remains difficult because of a lack of support from local officials and a lack of community engagement and visibility.

“We have not found a government that will help us address these goals,” Castañeda said.

Castañeda criticizes government for remaining silent on LGBT issues

The country’s highest court in 2011 ruled same-sex couples can legally register their relationships in two years if Colombian lawmakers don’t pass a bill that would extend to them the same benefits heterosexuals receive through marriage. The tribunal’s deadline is June 20, but the Colombian Senate last month overwhelmingly rejected a measure that would have allowed gays and lesbians to tie the knot.

Colombian lawmakers in 2011 passed a new anti-discrimination law that includes sexual orientation.

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

Castañeda acknowledged to the Blade that LGBT-specific advances have taken place over the last four years. He also criticized President Juan Manuel Santos’ government for remaining silent on same-sex marriage, anti-LGBT violence and other issues.

“It is inconsistent that the government wanted to remain silent when we are talking about the vulnerability of rights,” Castañeda said.

Castañeda, who visited D.C. and two other U.S. cities in April with a group of other Colombian LGBT rights advocates on a State Department-sponsored trip, noted the strong ties between the two countries. He added he and other advocates can continue to learn from LGBT rights advocates in the United States.

“In Colombia the LGBT community remains one of the most marginalized communities,” he said. “The U.S. visit allowed us to see first-hand experiences, situations, specific examples of people and institutions and organizations. We can take some of what we experienced [there] and apply it here in Colombia.”

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Openly gay man elected to Honduran congress

Víctor Grajeda will serve as Congresswoman-elect Silvia Ayala’s substitute

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Victor Grajeda (Foto cortesía de Víctor Grajeda)

An openly gay man in Honduras made history on Sunday when he won a seat in the country’s Congress.

Grajeda will serve alongside Congresswoman-elect Silvia Ayala of the leftist Free Party (Partido Libre), who represents Cortés department in which the city of San Pedro Sula is located, as her substitute.

Reportar sin Miedo, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Honduras, and Agencia Presentes, reported Grajeda received more than 100,000 votes. Grajeda is one of five openly LGBTQ candidates who ran for Congress.

“I am looking to open spaces and eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity,” said Grajeda.

Tegucigalpa Mayor Nasry Asfura, a member of outgoing President Juan Orlando Hernández’s ruling National Party (Partido Nacional), on Tuesday conceded defeat to President-elect Xiomara Castro of the Free Party.

Castro’s husband, former President Manuel Zelaya, was ousted from power in a 2009 coup.

Activists with whom the Blade has spoken say LGBTQ Hondurans continue to flee the country and migrate to the U.S. in order to escape rampant violence and discrimination and a lack of employment and educational opportunities. Castro, among other things, has publicly endorsed marriage rights for same-sex couples in Honduras.

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Canadian government introduces bill to ban conversion therapy

Prime minister says discredited practice as ‘discriminatory and degrading’

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(Public domain photo)

The Canadian government on Monday introduced a bill that would ban so-called conversion therapy in the country.

The bill that Attorney General David Lametti and Women and Gender Equality and Youth Minister Marci Ien introduced would amend Canada’s Criminal Code to specifically ban:

  • Causing another person to undergo conversion therapy
  • Removing a minor from Canada to subject them to conversion therapy abroad
  • Profiting from providing conversion therapy
  • Advertising or promoting conversion therapy

A press release the Canadian government issued said the bill would allow courts “to order the seizure of conversion therapy advertisements or to order their removal from computer systems or the internet.”

“The pain and trauma caused by conversion therapy practices continue to have a devastating impact on LGBTQ2 communities across Canada,” said Ien. “Our government is focused on promoting equality rights and tackling discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit people. Criminalizing this practice upholds basic human rights, while also ensuring that every Canadian is free to live their authentic lives.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a tweet said conversion therapy “is discriminatory and degrading, and has had devastating impacts on LGBTQ2 Canadians.”

“It has no place in our country,” he said.

Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault, who previously advised Trudeau on LGBTQ issues, also applauded the bill’s introduction.

“Conversion ‘therapy’ is akin to torture,” said Boissonnault. “I encourage all of my colleagues in the House (of Commons), to support this bill that will move to criminalize conversion therapy in Canada once and for all.”

Trudeau, who won re-election in September, has previously called for a prohibition of the widely discredited practice. The Canadian Senate earlier this year tabled a separate conversion therapy ban bill.

The House of Commons on Wednesday unanimously approved the recently introduced bill. It now goes to the Senate.

Canada would join Malta and a handful of countries that ban conversion therapy.

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Hungarian lawmakers back LGBTQ rights referendum

Prime minister under fire for ongoing crackdown

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The Hungarian Parliament (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Hungarian lawmakers on Tuesday approved a resolution that paves the way for a referendum on LGBTQ issues.

Reuters noted Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who is running for re-election in 2022, earlier this year proposed a referendum on a law that that bans the promotion of homosexuality and sex-reassignment surgery to minors in Hungary.

“The Hungarian government proposes that citizens should have a chance to express their stance on the issues of gender propaganda,” Deputy Minister Balázs Orbán told Hungarian MPs, according to Reuters. “We are committed. We believe that we … have to say no to LGBTQ propaganda in schools carried out with the help of NGOs and media, without parental consent.”

Orbán continues to face criticism over his government’s efforts to curtail LGBTQ rights in Hungary.

Lawmakers late last year amended the country’s constitution to define family as “based on marriage and the parent-child relation” with “the mother is a woman, the father a man” and effectively banned same-sex couples from adopting children. Hungarian MPs in April 2020 approved a bill that bans transgender and intersex people from legally changing their gender.

Hungary in August issued a decree that restricted the sale of children’s books with LGBTQ-specific themes.

The European Commission in July announced legal action against Hungary after the law that will go before voters took effect.

Orbán in September said Brussels has withheld funds for the country’s pandemic recovery plan because of his government’s anti-LGBTQ policies. An EU spokesperson said LGBTQ issues did not factor into the decision to withhold the money.

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