By Wilson Castañeda Castro
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The formal signing of the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC in the city of Cartagena on Sept. 26 put an end to the armed conflict and ushered in a new generation of peace that will be decided by the people on Oct. 2. The said plebiscite for peace is expected to receive massive support from LGBTI people.
The armed Colombian conflict has affected the civilian population over more than five decades. It has caused more than 8 million victims and countless human rights violations throughout the country. Given this context, Caribe Afirmativo has documented two very specific things that have occurred toward LGBTI people. It was the armed conflict that initiated the recognition of their rights on the part of the State, especially through rulings of the Constitutional Court, but there has also been a situation where violence against people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities has been exacerbated.
Therefore, the peace agreement that has been reached, after four years of conversations between the government and the FARC-EP, one of the continent’s oldest guerrilla groups, is an achievement for civil society because it opens the possibility of putting an end to the violence that has encompassed every part of the country and to begin to build a Colombia free of violence. In this sense, LGBT people are an important component as members of civil society that have been a part of the peace movements, like it was with Planeta Paz at the end of the ‘90s. Besides different contributions from social, cultural and political spheres in the country, through which they have contributed in these places, they can build a strong civil society that is free of violence. All of this is recognized in the deal, where the gendered focus transverses all the points and agreements that have been achieved, recognizing the grave consequences the conflict has had against LGBTI people and the need to achieve a society free of discrimination and with equal rights for everyone.
This gendered approach has been taken into account with the participation of civil society during the negotiations to bring about the agreement where distinct organizations, leaders, Caribe Afirmativo among them, in February 2015 shared some of the experiences that LGBT people had within the context of the conflict, the contributions they have historically made for peace and the reflections that they have had in a Colombian society that has not accepted diversity for many years. But in order to achieve a peace that reaches the whole country and all of its people, you need to remove those stereotypes and prejudices that have allowed marginalization, discrimination and violence against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity for which armed groups are responsible through their violent actions.
Thus, we at Caribe Afirmativo think that the peace agreement will allow for the construction of a more inclusive Colombia, where not only violence from the internal armed conflict will cease, but state institutional and political guidelines for the recognition of the rights of LGBTI people, promoting spaces of participation where a peace can be constructed from the territories that recognize the rights of all people who are afforded rights will be established. This historic opportunity will also allow civil society to learn the importance and contributions of LGBTI people in the country, removing all of those conceptions that have seen diversity as an obstacle and at the same time it will begin to guarantee a Colombia where people can exercise their full citizenship without any limitation.
Wilson Castañeda Castro is director of Caribe Afirmativo, a Colombian LGBT advocacy group.