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Paraguayan police clash with LGBT advocates

At least 10 injured during protest ahead of OAS meeting

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Paraguay, gay news, Washington Blade

Paraguay, gay news, Washington Blade

Paraguayan police on Monday clashed with LGBT rights advocates who protested in the South American country’s capital. (Photo by Felipe Mendez; courtesy Creative Commons)

At least 10 LGBT rights advocates were injured on Monday during a protest in the Paraguayan capital that took place ahead of the start of the Organization of American States’ annual meeting.

Officers with the Paraguayan National Police clashed with members of Somosgay and Lesvos — two LGBT advocacy organizations in the landlocked South American country — in Asunción as they protested President Horacio Cartés’ decision to oppose a proposed OAS declaration that would have indicated support of “diverse families.”

A video that Somosgay posted to YouTube shows protesters waiving rainbow flags before police in riot gear approached and struck some of them with batons. The clip also shows two journalists who appear to have been injured during the confrontation.

Sergio López of Somosgay told the Washington Blade during a Skype interview from Asunción on Monday that a pregnant woman was among those injured.

“We suffered repression by the national police,” said López.

The clashes took place as a much larger group of anti-gay protesters gathered outside the hotel where the three-day OAS meeting began on Tuesday under the banner “development through social inclusion.”

A police spokesperson acknowledged to a Paraguayan radio station that clashes took place between the officers who were protecting the anti-gay protesters and the LGBT rights advocates. He said members of Somosgay and Lesvos provoked the officers to respond.

“Some 60 gay people appeared out of nowhere,” said the spokesperson as Hoy, a Paraguayan newspaper, reported. “We spoke with them, they understood, they passed and we again asked them to disperse but they did not want to do so. We insisted a lot, spoke with them a lot, we then sent in a platoon to divide them, but they became aggressive when the blue helmets (riot police) came.”

López described the protest to the Blade as “peaceful.”

Caribe Afirmativo, a Colombian LGBT advocacy group whose members are attending the OAS meeting in the Paraguayan capital, was quick to condemn the police.

“Caribe Afirmativo rejects the attacks by the police who victimized our colleagues with the organization Somosgay of Paraguay a few hours ago,” said the group on its Facebook page. “They were protesting in a peaceful way in front of the venue where we are meeting.”

Esteban Paulón, president of the LGBT Federation of Argentina, told the Blade that a member of his organization is attending the OAS meeting in Asunción. It remains unclear whether she attended the protest.

“We emphatically reject these acts of homophobic violence in Paraguay,” Paulón told the Blade.

LGBT Paraguayans lack basic legal protections found in neighboring Argentina and other South American countries.

López and Somosgay CEO Simón Cazal petitioned a Paraguayan judge to register their Argentina marriage, but she denied their request last year.

Somosgay in 2013 opened Paraguay’s first men’s health clinic in Asunción, but Cazal told the Blade the landlocked South American country has limited resources to combat HIV/AIDS among at-risk groups. Discrimination and violence against trans Paraguayans remains pervasive.

An OAS spokesperson declined to comment on the clashes.

A member of an anti-LGBT group earlier on Tuesday posted a picture to Facebook from a forum that said “groups from the gay and abortion lobby attack and offend while our life and family delegation presents our document.” López told the Blade that he and other advocates had planned to meet with officials to discuss the protest.

The OAS adopted an anti-discrimination resolution that includes sexual orientation and gender identity and expression during its 2013 meeting that took place in Guatemala.

Caribe Afirmativo called upon the OAS to condemn the clashes between police and protesters. The group also urged the Paraguayan government to punish the officers who were involved.

“Unfortunately the Paraguay of President Cartés casts a negative light over a continent that wants to advance towards more equality,” said Paulón. “We clearly support the organizations Somosgay and Lesvos and we commit our resources to built together with them an egalitarian Latin America.”

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Botswana government to abide by decriminalization ruling

Mokgweetsi Masisi met with LGBTQ activists on Monday

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(Public domain photo)

Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi on Monday said his government will abide by a ruling that decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations in his country.

Masisi said he would implement the Botswana High Court’s 2019 ruling against sections of the Batswana Penal Code that criminalized homosexuality.

The Batswana government appealed the High Court ruling. The Botswana Court of Appeals last November upheld it.

Agence France-Presse reported Masisi invited representatives of Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO), a Batswana LGBTQ rights group that challenged the criminalization law with the support of the Southern Africa Litigation Center, to meet with him at his office in Gaborone, the Batswana capital.

“We demand and expect anybody to respect the decisions of our court,” Masisi told LEGABIBO members, according to Agence France-Presse.

Botswana remains one of only a handful of countries that have decriminalized homosexuality.

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World

Global Equality Caucus hires former El Salvador National Assembly candidate

Erick Iván Ortiz received more than 10,000 votes in 2021

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Erick Iván Ortiz (Foto cortesía de Erick Iván Ortiz)

A group of LGBTQ elected officials from around the world that fights discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity has hired an openly gay man who ran for the El Salvador National Assembly last year.

Erick Iván Ortiz will oversee the Global Equality Caucus’ work throughout Latin America.

This work will specifically focus on Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Peru. Two events that are scheduled to take place in Mexico City in April and Buenos Aires in May will mark the official launch of the Global Equality Caucus’ efforts in the region.

“The idea at the end of the day is to confront the threats from anti-rights groups that can be identified,” Ortiz told the Washington Blade during a recent interview in the Salvadoran capital of San Salvador.

Ortiz, who is a member of Nuestro Tiempo, a new Salvadoran political party, received 10,615 votes when he ran for National Assembly in 2021. Ortiz would have been the first openly gay man elected to the country’s legislative body if he had won.

Editor’s note: The Blade on Monday published a Spanish version of this story that El Salvador Correspondent Ernesto Valle wrote.

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World

Election in India’s most popular state seen as crucial LGBTQ rights test

Right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party currently governs Uttar Pradesh

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(Bigstock photo)

India’s most populous state and a battleground for Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold the election in seven phases in February as the Election Commission of India has announced.

The Uttar Pradesh election is the key prize in India’s parliamentary election as the state holds 80 parliamentary seats, the most in the country. Uttar Pradesh’s LGBTQ community and LGBTQ people from across the country have been eyeing this election because it can play a crucial role in policy changes for the community in India.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a right-wing nationalist party, is ruling Uttar Pradesh. The party is also ruling the country under Modi, but it has not been supportive of same-sex marriage.

“We are not a minority anymore. The community is thriving in the state,” said Lovpreet, a Lucknow-based activist who works for transgender rights in Uttar Pradesh. “If the current government is not going to give us the right for same-sex marriage, we should remove the government in this election.”

The ruling party is yet to release its election manifesto, but the party is not considering listing LGBTQ issues in it.

A newly married same-sex couple from New York last year applied for an OCI (overseas citizen of India) Card, which would have allowed them multiple entries and a multi-purpose life-long visa to visit India, but the country did not recognize them as legally married and refused to issue it to them.

The couple filed a petition in Delhi High Court. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who is the central government’s legal representative, stated in response to the petition that marriage is permissible between a “biological male” and “biological female” and the government therefore cannot issue an OCI Card to their spouse.

Although India struck down a colonial-era law that criminalized homosexuality in 2018, there is still no law for same-sex marriage. The LGBTQ community has been demanding for years that political parties legalize same-sex marriage, but the issue is yet to appear in any party’s manifesto.

Lovpreet, who lives in Uttar Pradesh, believes that BJP is doing some good, like forming a trans advisory board last September.

“BJP is slowly moving towards being LGBTQ friendly, and if given the time and opportunity, it can do some good in the future,” said Lovpreet.

The Indian National Congress (INC), a leading central left-wing party, is also fielding its candidate in the state election, but the party does not see LGBTQ issues as important.

Dr. Shashi Tharoor, an MP and chair of All India Professionals Congress, the INC’s professional wing, refused multiple requests to speak on the legalization of same-sex marriage. The INC last week released its manifesto for the Uttar Pradesh election, but there were no promises for the LGBTQ community.

Former Defense Minister Jitendra Singh, an INC member who will set the party’s agenda ahead of the Uttar Pradesh election, also refused to speak about the legalization of same-sex marriage and other LGBTQ issues in the state and the country.

Ram Gopal Yadav, the leader of the left-wing socialist Samajwadi Party and the head of the Council of States (Rajya Sabha), the upper house of the Indian Parliament, in 2013 while speaking with the media explicitly said that homosexuality is “unethical and immoral.” But the Samajwadi Party has recently changed its tone regarding the community.

“With every aspect, whether it is farmers, whether it is women, whether it is children or the LGBTQ community, there will be continuous policy measures of the party that are progressive and liberal,” said Samajwadi Party spokesperson Ghanshyam Tiwari. “When the government is progressive and not bounded by dogma, then every issue related to any community has to be looked at in a manner that gives equal opportunity and be empathetic towards them. The more vulnerable the community is, the greater government needs to do,” he added further. 

The Mayawati Prabhu Das-led Bahujan Samaj Party, a national party that is running in the Uttar Pradesh election, has emerged as an LGBTQ ally. The party, however, has not released its election manifesto and it is yet to be seen if it will include LGBTQ issues.

There is no political party in Uttar Pradesh or the country with significant LGBTQ representation.

Tiwari in a statement to the Washington Blade said there is no plan yet for the Samajwadi Party to field candidates from the community in the upcoming election, but the party can consider it for the upcoming parliamentary election.

“The central government is not decriminalizing same-sex marriage. They are looking at the conservative vote bank,” said Preeti Sharma Menon, a spokesperson of the Aam Aadmi Party.

Aam Admi Party is a national party in the country. The party had fielded candidates in previous Uttar Pradesh elections but had no significant luck.

“To appease conservative voters, the ruling party, the BJP, is not taking steps to legalize same-sex marriage,” Menon added further.

The Aam Aadmi Party in the previous parliamentary election had a trans candidate from Uttar Pradesh. The party has expressed its desire to field other candidates in the state’s election from the community.

The BJP is ruling both the country and the Uttar Pradesh with no intention to support or address LGBTQ issues.

Senior BJP leader Sudhir Mungantiwar from the state of Maharashtra last year made several homophobic comments in Parliament. The party did not punish him, nor did other political parties condemn his statements.

It is yet to be seen how this election impacts policies of different political parties for the LGBTQ community in the upcoming parliamentary election of the country.

Mohit Kumar (Ankush) is a freelance reporter who has covered different stories that include the 2020 election in the U.S. and women’s rights issues. He has also covered NASA, the European Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency and loves to help people. Mohit is on Twitter at @MohitKopinion and can be reached at [email protected].

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