“I am optimistic, but cultural changes are slow,” she told the Washington Blade during an interview at her office. “Civil rights fights take time, [but] there is a global movement towards equality.”
Voters elected Lozano, 37, to the Bogotá City Council in 2011.
She was mayor of Bogotá’s Chapinero district, which has a large gay population, from 2005-2008. Lozano has also advised Colombian lawmakers Antonio Navarro Wolff and Íngrid Betancourt Pulecio, whom members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) kidnapped in 2002 while she was campaigning for president. Colombian soldiers in 2008 rescued Betancourt along with three American contractors and 11 others.
Lozano, who also co-founded the left-wing Independent Democratic Pole Party in 2003, told the Blade she experienced some negative reaction over her election. She said the majority of Chapinero residents, however, welcomed it.
“I think that in many areas of the community they saw a professional like anyone who does good work,” she said.
Lozano noted the Bogotá City Council, which has 45 members from 10 political parties, has a “radical” opposition led by two homophobic Christian pastors. She described the political climate as one of “constant confrontation” over LGBT-specific issues.
“I respect that you have rights to your opinion, but this is about the rights of societal inclusion and I think for my colleagues it is very interesting to see the contrast,” Lozano said. “Hate goes against equality, and that for which we work towards equality is not against anyone or their rights.”
Lozano spoke to the Blade less than a week after fellow Bogotá City Councilman Jorge Durán Silva referred to lesbians as “mujerzuelas” or “sluts” during a debate on a transportation bill.
Durán apologized for his comments during an interview with the Colombian radio station Blu Radio, saying he used the word as a joke. LGBT rights advocates on Tuesday gathered outside the Bogotá City Council building to protest the councilman who is now facing charges in connection with the incident.
“You have the right to say that you don’t like lesbians,” Lozano said. “You have every right and it will not offend us. It is your opinion, but you are responsible when it becomes degradation that legitimizes hate.”
Colombia’s Constitutional Court in 2011 ruled same-sex couples can legally register their relationships in two years if the country’s 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.
Lozano noted there have been nine LGBT-specific bills introduced over the last decade, but the country’s lawmakers have not acted upon any of them.
“We don’t expect anything from Congress, but we still introduced the bills that are here today,” she said.
Lozano also spoke to the Blade amid the ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC that are taking place in Cuba.
She noted members of the FARC, paramilitaries and the Colombian army itself targeted, displaced or even killed LGBT people during the conflict that began in the 1960s. She described a gay man from the countryside who had the word “maricón” or “faggot” carved into his stomach as she discussed the need to include LGBT Colombians in any eventual peace agreement.
“We hope that the peace process holds those responsible for committing these atrocities and recognizes the victims of forced displacement and torture,” she said.
Lozano conceded one of the challenges LGBT Colombians continue to face is day-to-day social inequalities in spite of recent legal advances. She remains hopeful the situation will continue to improve.
“We have moved forward relatively quickly,” Lozano said. “I am hopeful that in these next 10 years the movement towards inclusion and respect will have accelerated.”