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OAS commission calls for Venezuela to protect LGBTQ rights

Country remains embroiled in political, economic crisis

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The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has called for Venezuela to do more to protect LGBTQ people from violence and discrimination.

The report the commission released on Sept. 8 specifically notes six men on May 31, 2020, attacked Jorge Granado in Ciudad Guayana, a city in Bolívar state, because of his sexual orientation. The report also notes Marcy Ávila, an LGBTQ rights activist, has suffered “harassment.”

Violence against transgender Venezuelans remains commonplace in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, and throughout the country.

Yonatan Matheus and Wendell Oviedo, co-founders of Venezuela Diversa, a Venezuelan LGBTQ rights group, received death threats after they publicly urged authorities to investigate the murders of two trans women. Matheus and Oviedo in 2016 fled to New York, and have asked for asylum in the U.S.

Members of Venezuela’s General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence on Jan. 12, 2021, raided the offices of Azul Positivo, an HIV/AIDS service organization in Maracaibo, a city in Zulia state, and arrested President Johan León Reyes and five other staff members. Venezuelan police on Feb. 15, 2019, raided the offices of Fundación Mavid, another HIV/AIDS service organization in Valencia, a city in Carabobo state, and arrested three staffers after they confiscated donated infant formula and medications for people with HIV/AIDS.

“The IACHR reminds the state of Venezuela of its obligation to guarantee the protection of LGBTI persons; address the underlying causes of violence and discrimination against them; as well as act with due diligence to prevent, investigate, adjudicate, sanction and remedy the human rights violations against LGBTI people,” reads the report.

The report also notes the lack of legal protections — including in the country’s hate crimes law — for LGBTQ Venezuelans and adds the country uses Article 565 of the Organic Code of Military Justice and other statutes “to criminalize people based on their real or perceived sexual orientation.”

“For the above, the commission reminds the state of Venezuela of its duty to repeal legal provisions that criminalize, directly or indirectly, the conduct of people based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression,” reads the report.

The report notes trans Venezuelans cannot legally change their gender without medical interventions. Venezuela’s constitution also defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

“The IACHR reiterates to the state its recommendation to legally recognize the unions or the marriage of people of the same gender, affording the same rights conferred to partners of different genders, including economic rights, and all of the rest that derive from that relationship, without distinction by motives of sexual orientation, gender identity,” reads the report.

LGBTQ migrants also targeted

The Organization of American States, which is based in D.C., created the commission in 1959 as a way to promote human rights throughout the Western Hemisphere. It works closely with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to enforce the American Convention on Human Rights.

Venezuela in 2012 officially withdrew from the convention, but the Venezuelan National Assembly in 2019 once again ratified it.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which is based in Costa Rica, in 2018 issued a landmark ruling that recognizes same-sex marriage and trans rights in the Western Hemisphere. The previous White House that same year called for the OAS to suspend Venezuela.

The U.S. is among the countries that continues to recognize Juan Guaidó, a former member of Assemblywoman Tamara Adrián’s party, as Venezuela’s president. The report notes Adrián, who in 2015 became the first openly trans person elected to the National Assembly, but it also highlights the country’s political and economic crisis the pandemic has made even worse.

Tamara Adrián, Venezuelan National Assembly, gay news, Washington Blade
Tamara Adrián (Photo courtesy of Tamara Adrián)

The report cites statistics from the Coordination Platform for Migrants and Refugees from Venezuela that note upwards of 5.4 million Venezuelans had left their country as of November 2020. The report notes the majority of them have sought refuge in Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Chile.

“In relation to the situation of LGTB people who are Venezuelan migrants; this community would face various acts of discrimination; such as barriers to access to the labor market, insults and physical attacks,” it reads.

Matheus welcomed the report.

“The communique the IACHR released in relation to the situation of the rights of LGBTQ people in Venezuela is totally pertinent,” he told the Washington Blade on Friday. “It gives visibility to the more than a dozen murders of LGBTIQ people that have occurred in the country during 2021 that we as organizations have been denouncing.”

Matheus said the report will also “allow us to be able to continue taking actions to get international support over the impact of the complex humanitarian crisis that makes it difficult to access health care, food and other social rights that continue to generate forced migration of LGBTIQ people and activists.” Matheus also cited “the enormous levels of impunity and actions from (Venezuelan) police agencies towards hate crimes and the silence of the Supreme Judicial Court and the National Assembly on issues related to gender identity of trans people, marriage equality and the right to form a family that LGBTIQ people have.”

Matheus told the Blade he also thinks the report will “also motivate” Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ issues, to “speak out about the situation of LGBTIQ people in Venezuela.”

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Two arrested for lesbian couple’s murder, dismemberment in Mexico border city

Julissa Ramírez and Nohemí Medina Martínez killed earlier this month

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From left: Julissa Ramírez and Nohemí Medina Martínez</strong. (Photo via Facebook)

Two people have been arrested in connection with the murder and dismemberment of a lesbian couple in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juárez.

The Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office on Tuesday announced authorities arrested a 25-year-old woman and a 24-year-old man and charged them with aggravated femicide.

Authorities on Jan. 16 found the dismembered body parts of Julissa Ramírez and Nohemí Medina Martínez in plastic bags that had been placed along the Juárez-El Porvenir Highway. The Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office in a press release notes the suspects murdered Ramírez and Medina in a house in Ciudad Juárez’s San Isidro neighborhood on Jan. 15.

Ciudad Juárez, which is located in Mexico’s Chihuahua state, is across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas.

Members of Comité de la Diversidad Sexual de Chihuahua, a local LGBTQ rights group, and Chihuahua Gov. María Eugenia Campos Galván are among those who have expressed outrage over the women’s murders. Activists have also urged local and state authorities to investigate whether the murder was a hate crime based on Ramírez and Medina’s sexual orientation.

Local media reports said nine women — including Ramírez and Medina — were killed in Ciudad Juárez from Jan. 1-15.

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Russia

State Department reiterates concerns over Chechnya human rights record

Anti-LGBTQ crackdown continues to spark outrage

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(Public domain photo)

The State Department on Thursday reiterated its concerns over Chechnya’s human rights record that includes an ongoing anti-LGBTQ crackdown.

“We reject Chechnya Head Ramzan Kadyrov’s baseless attempts to malign human rights defenders and independent journalists and we urge him to end authorities’ targeting of those who dissent, LGBTQI+ persons, members of religious and ethnic minority groups, and others, including through reprisals against their family members,” said spokesperson Ned Price in a statement. “We call on Russian federal authorities to refrain from enabling repressive acts, including acts of transnational repression, originating in Chechnya and to bring those responsible for continuing egregious human rights violations in Chechnya to justice consistent with the law of the Russian Federation and Russia’s international human rights obligations.”

Price in his statement also said the U.S. “is troubled by continuing reports of abductions and arbitrary detentions carried out by authorities in Russia’s Republic of Chechnya, including dozens of reported abductions and arbitrary detentions in recent weeks targeting the relatives of Chechen human rights defenders and dissidents.”

“In addition to cases within Chechnya, there have been numerous instances of individuals being detained in other parts of the Russian Federation and forcibly transferred to Chechnya, such as Zarema Musayeva, the mother of human rights lawyer Abubakar Yangulbayev. Musayeva was taken from Nizhny Novgorod last week,” said Price. “We call for the immediate release of all who have been unjustly detained. We are also concerned by reports that Chechen authorities are using such pressure tactics against the relatives in Chechnya of dissidents living outside the Russian Federation. Such acts, which harm entire families, is an especially pernicious form of repression.”

The anti-LGBTQ crackdown in Chechnya continues to spark worldwide outrage.

Chechen authorities in April 2020 arrested two brothers, Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isaev, after they made a series of posts on Osal Nakh 95, a Telegram channel that Kadyrov’s opponents use. Magamadov and Isaev were reportedly forced to make “apology videos” after they were tortured.

The Russian LGBT Network helped the brothers flee Chechnya, but Russian police last February arrested them in Nizhny Novgorod. Chechen authorities brought them back to Chechnya.

Magamadov and Isaev last month reportedly began a hunger strike after a judge denied their request to have another court hear their case. The Crisis Group “North Caucasus SOS” that represents the brothers said the Supreme Court of Chechnya on Wednesday denied their request for a different venue.  

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Advocacy groups renew calls for U.S. to help LGBTQ Afghans

New report details Taliban abuses

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Two men in Kabul, Afghanistan, in July 2021 (Photo courtesy of Dr. Ahmad Qais Munzahim)

Advocacy groups on Wednesday renewed calls for the U.S. and other countries to do more to help LGBTQ Afghans who remain inside Afghanistan after the Taliban regained control of it.

A report from OutRight Action International and Human Rights Watch that details the plight of LGBTQ Afghans includes a series of recommendations for the U.S. and other “concerned governments.”

– Use any diplomatic leverage to press the Taliban to recognize the rights of everyone in Afghanistan, including LGBT people.

– Recognize that LGBT Afghans face a special risk of persecution in Afghanistan and neighboring countries and expedite their applications for evacuation and resettlement.

– Support and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Afghans in need, and support organizations providing humanitarian assistance, including programs specifically designed to assist LGBT Afghans.

– Ensure that support to organizations working in Afghanistan is directed to organizations that commit to gender-sensitive programming, nondiscrimination, and inclusion of LGBT beneficiaries.

– In engagements with formal and informal civil society groups in Afghanistan, including human rights organizations, women’s rights and feminist organizations, and organizations focused on health, education, or youth, raise concerns about abuses against LGBT Afghans and urge such groups to be inclusive of LGBT Afghans.

– Engage with civil society organizations directly or indirectly addressing LGBT issues in Afghanistan, informal groupings of LGBT people, and community leaders who are well networked within LGBT communities to best help them protect their rights.

The report also includes recommendations for countries from which LGBTQ Afghans have asked for asylum.

– Fully respect the rights of Afghan people who are or are perceived to be LGBT to claim asylum where they can demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution.

– When considering asylum claims and other requests for protection from LGBT Afghans, fully consider all evidence regarding violations of the rights of LGBT people in Afghanistan, who faced severe discrimination previously and especially since the Taliban takeover.

– When considering asylum claims for LGBT Afghans, take into consideration that LGBT individuals often conform to societal norms, such as entering into different sex marriage, in order to survive. Married status should not be taken as an indication of someone not being LGBT.

The report’s other recommendations include calls for international aid organizations inside Afghanistan to “provide targeted and specialized assistance to LGBT people” and for the Taliban to “urgently end any and all forms of discrimination or violence against anyone based on a person’s perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity.”

OutRight Action International and Human Rights Watch released their report less than six months after the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan.

A Taliban judge last July said the group would once again execute gay people if it were to return to power in the country. The report notes a Taliban official later said the group “will not respect the rights of LGBT people.”

The report includes interviews with 60 LGBTQ Afghans inside Afghanistan and in five other countries that OutRight Action International and Human Rights Watch conducted between October and December 2021.

A 20-year-old man with whom the groups spoke said Taliban members “loaded him into a car” at a checkpoint and “took him to another location where four men whipped and then gang raped him over the course of eight hours.” The report notes the man went into hiding, but the Taliban continued to target him and his family.

A lesbian woman with whom OutRight Action International and Human Rights Watch spoke said her parents “arranged for a speedy wedding” with a man before the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan. The report notes her parents beat her when she “tried to refuse to go through with it.”

The woman’s parents, according to the report, paid her husband to take her out of Afghanistan. They now live in another country, and he “beats her nearly every day and will not allow her to leave the house.”

The report also details an incident in which the Taliban beat a transgender woman and “shaved her eyebrows with a razor” before they “dumped her on the street in men’s clothes and without a cellphone.” She had been living with other trans women in an abandoned youth hostel in Kabul, the Afghan capital, when the Taliban regained control of the country.

“Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Afghanistan, and others who do not conform to rigid gender norms, have faced an increasingly desperate situation and grave threats to their safety and lives since the Taliban took full control of the country on Aug. 15, 2021,” reads the report’s summary.

‘More needs to be done’

Two groups of LGBTQ Afghans that three advocacy groups — Stonewall, Rainbow Railroad and Micro Rainbow — evacuated from Afghanistan with the help of the British government arrived in the U.K. last fall. Some of the dozens of Afghan human rights activists who Taylor Hirschberg, a researcher at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health who is also a Hearst Foundation scholar, has been able to help leave the country since the Taliban regained control of it are LGBTQ.

Rainbow Railroad; the Council for Global Equality; the Human Rights Campaign; Immigration Equality; the International Refugee Assistance Project; the Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration in a letter they sent to President Biden last September called for his administration to “prioritize the evacuation and resettlement of vulnerable refugee populations, including LGBTQI people, and ensure that any transitory stay in a third country is indeed temporary by expediting refugee processing.”

Rainbow Railroad Executive Director Kimahli Powell on Wednesday during a webinar on the report noted his organization has “had really encouraging conversations with” Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ rights who was previously OutRight Action International’s executive director, and “her team and with the U.S. government and the Canadian government as well” about the evacuation of LGBTQ Afghans.

“More needs to be done,” said Powell.

Powell added there “are concrete things that we’ve asked to be done within the context of Afghanistan that can be done.”

“It’s encouraging that governments signaled early on that they want to help out Afghans at risk,” he said. “That signaling has led to many folks in Afghanistan who have enough social media to read those messages to ask how (sic) does that look like, including reaching out to us at Rainbow Railroad. And what we’re asking governments to do now is to help us answer that question, help us answer the question as to what we can do to protect people who are still stuck in Afghanistan, help people who are displaced outside of Afghanistan awaiting resettlement and partner with us to do it.”

OutRight Action International Senior Fellow J. Lester Feder echoed Powell.

“Regardless of the identity of the vulnerable people involved, not enough has been done to help vulnerable people,” said Feder during the webinar.

Feder also urged the U.S. government to do more to help LGBTQ Afghans and other vulnerable groups who remain inside the country.

“We know with the amount of support — either with people who had direct connections to the U.S. government or the U.S. military when they left — have been left stranded in Afghanistan,” said Feder.

“People who are supporting and support vulnerable Afghans in the United States need to speak up and show support for the government processing (asylum) cases faster and for more spaces being made available,” he added.

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