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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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US ambassador to UN calls for repeal of criminalization laws

Linda Thomas-Greenfield spoke at U.N. LGBTI Core Group event

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U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield (Photo courtesy of the U.S. State Department; public domain)

United States Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield is among those who participated in a Wednesday event on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly that highlighted efforts to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations.

Thomas-Greenfield in her remarks during the largely virtual U.N. LGBTI Core Group event noted consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in more than 70 countries.

“For millions of people it is illegal for them to be who they are, to love who they love. We need to repeal and eliminate these laws,” she said. “For our part, the United States is using our diplomacy, our foreign assistance and every tool we have to protect human rights, empower civil society and support local LGBTQI movements.”

The U.S. is one of 35 countries that are members of the Core Group.

Wednesday’s event also highlighted efforts to decriminalize transgender people and repeal laws that specifically target them.

“We need more countries to join this committed group,” said Thomas-Greenfield. “Together, let’s do everything we can to protect human rights and promote equality for all.”

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo; Nepalese Ambassador to the U.N. Amrit Bahadur Rai; New Zealand Ambassador to the U.N. Craig Hawke; Australian Permanent U.N. Representative Mitch Fifield; Brazilian Ambassador to the U.N. Rolando Costa Filho; Canadian Ambassador to the U.N. Robert Keith Rae; Assistant U.N. Secretary General for Strategic Coordination Volker Türk; Argentine Foreign Affairs Minister Santiago Cafiero; Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Tom de Bruijn; Japanese Foreign Minister Jun Shimmi; Norwegian Foreign Affairs Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide; Salvadoran Foreign Affairs Minister Alexandra Hill Tinoco; Costa Rican Vice Multicultural Affairs Minister Christian Guillermet-Fernández; Finnish Foreign Affairs Ministry Johanna Sumuvuori; Nick Herbert of the British House of Lords; European Union Equality Commissioner Helena Dalli; Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister Ann Linde; Icelandic Foreign Affairs Minister Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson; Maltese Equality, Research, Innovation and the Coordination of Post COVID-19 Strategy Minister Owen Bonnici; Mexican Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights Undersecretary Martha Delgado; Italian Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Benedetto Della Vedova; Chilean Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Carolina Valdivia; German MP Michael Roth; Irish State for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora Minister Colm Brophy and Danish Development and Nordic Cooperation Minister Flemming Møller Mortensen participated in the event that Reuters U.N. Bureau Chief Michelle Nichols emceed.

Acting OutRight Action International Executive Director Maria Sjödin and activists from Bhutan, Botswana, Guyana, Mozambique, Angola, Panamá and India took part. Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ issues, and Nikkie de Jager, a Dutch U.N. goodwill ambassador known as NikkieTutorials who is trans, also participated.

“Decriminalization is a very basic demand,” said Sjödin. “Given how many countries have these laws on the books, it is still a priority.”

Herbert, who is British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s LGBTQ envoy, noted consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in 35 of the Commonwealth’s 54 countries. Herbert also announced the U.K. will give an additional $2.75 million to “support LGBT+ individuals in Commonwealth countries, including to those seeking to address outdated legislation that discriminates against women, girls and LGBT+ individuals.”

“We are clear that tackling discrimination is only one part of the issue,” said Herbert. “We must encourage countries as well to put in place laws that protect their LGBTI citizens going forward.”

President Biden in February signed a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promote LGBTQ rights abroad. The decriminalization of consensual same-sex sexual relation is one of the White House’s five global LGBTQ rights priorities.

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Immigration Equality condemns deportation of Haitian migrants, asylum seekers

Prominent activist found dead in Port-au-Prince home in 2019

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Hurricane Matthew, gay news, Washington Blade
Hurricane Matthew damage near Jérémie, Haiti in 2016. Immigration Equality has condemned the deportation of Haitian migrants and asylum seekers from the U.S. (Photo courtesy of Reginald Dupont/Fondation SEROvie)

Immigration Equality on Wednesday sharply criticized the Biden administration over the deportation of Haitian migrants and asylum seekers from the U.S.

“Over 10,000 Haitian migrants and asylum seekers are waiting at America’s doorstep, but the Biden administration won’t uphold their basic right to ask for protection,” said Immigration Equality Legal Director Bridget Crawford in a press release. “This is blatantly illegal and morally reprehensible. Many of these people are asylum seekers who face grave danger if returned to Haiti. They have traveled thousands of miles to escape a country torn apart by devastating earthquakes and political turmoil.”

The White House in recent days has been struggling to respond to the influx of Haitian migrants and asylum seekers in Del Rio, Texas, which is across the Rio Grande from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico. Pictures of U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback chasing and whipping Haitians have sparked widespread outrage.

Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule that closed the Southern border to most migrants and asylum seekers because of the pandemic, remains in place. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has begun to deport Haitian migrants and asylum seekers from Texas.

Immigration Equality in its press release notes Charlot Jeudy, a member of Kouraj, a Haitian LGBTQ rights group, was found dead inside his home in Port-au-Prince, the country’s capital, in 2019.

Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity remain commonplace in Haiti.

President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination on July 7 and an 7.2 magnitude earthquake on Aug. 14 that left scores of people dead and displaced hundreds of thousands of others have caused additional turmoil in Haiti, which is the Western Hemisphere’ poorest country.

A 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas in 2010 killed an estimated 200,000 people.

Fondation SEROvie, a Haitian HIV/AIDS service organization, contributed to relief efforts after Hurricane Matthew caused widespread damage on the country’s Tiburon Peninsula in 2016. Last month’s earthquake struck in the same area.

“For LGBTQ people in particular, expulsion means returning to a society that rejects them. They are frequent targets of violence and sexual assault, including by the police,” said Crawford. “The country is fundamentally unsafe for the queer and transgender community.”

“Instead of welcoming Haitian asylum seekers as the U.S. should, the Biden administration is sending them back to life-threatening conditions,” added Crawford. “We call on the administration to halt the deportation flights immediately and end Title 42 in its entirety. The disturbing images of border agents on horseback chasing down terrified Haitian migrants go against the administration’s professed ideals. Shame on the Biden administration for embracing this xenophobic and illegal Trump-era policy and mistreating vulnerable migrants.”

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Biden highlights LGBTQ rights in UN General Assembly speech

President noted crackdowns in Chechnya, Cameroon

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President Biden addresses the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 21, 2021. (Screen capture via NBC News)

President Biden on Tuesday in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly spoke in support of LGBTQ rights around the world.

“We all must defend the rights of LGBTQI individuals so they can live and love openly without fear,” he said.

Biden in his speech specifically cited anti-LGBTQ crackdowns in Chechnya and Cameroon. He spoke after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who is a vocal opponent of LGBTQ rights, addressed the General Assembly.

“As we pursue diplomacy across the board, the United States will champion the democratic values that go to the very heart of who we are as a nation and a people: freedom, equality, opportunity and a belief in the universal rights of all people,” said Biden.

The White House earlier this year released a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad.

The decriminalization of consensual same-sex sexual relations and protecting LGBTQ migrants and asylum seekers are two of the administration’s five priorities in its efforts to promote LGBTQ rights abroad. Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week expressed concern over the fate of LGBTQ Afghans who remain in their country after the Taliban regained control of it, but it remains unclear how many of them the U.S. has been able to evacuate.

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