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LGBTQ lawmakers in Latin America pledge to end conversion therapy in region

Agreement signed at Global Equality Caucus meeting in Argentina

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The Global Equality Caucus held a meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from May 16-17, 2022. (Photo courtesy of the Global Equality Caucus)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Openly LGBTQ lawmakers from across Latin America who gathered in Argentina’s capital last week agreed to work together to ban so-called conversion therapy in the region.

The second meeting of the Global Equality Caucus’ Latin America chapter took place in Buenos Aires. Those who attended agreed the effort to ban conversion therapy in the region would begin in countries where openly LGBTQ people have been elected to public office and where allies can be identified.

“Efforts to correct sexual orientation and gender identity (ECOSIG), also misnamed ‘conversion therapies,’ lack scientific support and are based on prejudices contrary to the human dignity of all people,” reads the document signed at the end of the meeting. “The practice of ECOSIG has been widely spread and institutionalized in our region, outside the law, which represents a threat to all LGBTI+ people and, especially, to the youngest members of the LGBTI+ community.”

Erick Iván Ortiz, who oversees the Global Equality Caucus’ work in Latin America, told the Washington Blade that “this is a pact that we also signed in Mexico and implies the commitment of legislators to advance laws and public policies that allow us to eradicate once and for all, these misnamed conversion therapies”.

According to the Global Equality Caucus representative, the meeting served “to demonstrate that congresses, national governments and local governments can and should work together to advance the rights of LGBTI people and how Argentina and Mexico are good examples and good practices.” Ortiz also stressed that from now on they will be able to face any threat from anti-LGBTQ groups in Latin America, “who seek to roll back, paralyze progress or simply deny our rights.

“What we need is a coordinated response from those of us who are and will remain in the struggle to advance the rights of LGBTI people,” said Ortiz.

The first part of the launch of the Global Equality Caucus’ Latin America chapter took place in Mexico City on April 1-2. The second meeting took place in Argentina from May 16-17.

Mercosur Parliamentarian María Luisa Storani, Argentine National Assemblyman Maximiliano Ferraro, Argentine National Sen. Guadalupe Tagliaferri, Peruvian Congresswoman Susel Paredes and Guatemalan Congressman Aldo Dávila, among others, attended the Buenos Aires meeting.

“The meeting met the expectations we had of having the opportunity to show the good practices and legislative and public policy experiences that Argentina has,” Ortiz stressed. “This is particularly important because they are experiences that come from the global south that are already, in the case of the gender identity law, a decade old and that have left significant changes in the realities of many LGBTI people.”

The Global Equality Caucus pointed out launch’s objectives are to share experiences and create a peer-to-peer learning process. The group at the same time also wants to form and strengthen networks among LGBTQ lawmakers and allies throughout Latin America and to build a working agenda on LGBTQ rights issues in the region.

Dávila, who is the first openly gay man and first person with HIV elected to the Guatemalan Congress, spoke with the Blade at the end of the meeting.

“It was fantastic,” he said. “We were able to identify the gaps that have been there forever and the need to get more members of the community into elected office, it’s key. We need to work more together to push for changes in favor of LGBTQ people.”

For him, the most important agreement “is the creation of law initiatives together.”

“In that sense, we agreed to launch law initiatives that are closely related,” said Dávila. “For example, we will fight to ban the misnamed conversion therapies and we will do it jointly in June. That will be an important step if we do it all together in the region, I think we will send a great message of union.”

Mexico City Assemblyman Temístocles Villanueva, who participated in the first Global Equality Caucus meeting in his country, had a similar opinion.

Villanueva explained to the Blade that “it was an event for the construction of the public, political and legislative agenda in the field of human rights of people of sexual diversity, having given priority to the search for bridges for cooperation, joining national and international actors.”

“We have focused on the need to share and transmit the Latin American experience for the struggle, recognition and defense of LGBTTTI+ rights through international platforms such as the caucus, connecting local work with regional and transnational cooperation networks for the defense of central causes,” added Villanueva.

Ortiz said “the next step is the construction of a consensus agenda, based on the inputs gathered in Mexico and Argentina, which will allow us to build a shared agenda that we can promote in a coordinated and articulated manner with the different members of the network.”

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Latin America

U.S. announces more funding to fight HIV/AIDS in Latin America

Jill Biden made announcement on Saturday in Panama

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Former Panamanian first lady Lorena Castillo and UNAIDS in 2017 launched a campaign to fight discrimination against Panamanians with HIV/AIDS. Panama will receive $12.2 million in new PEPFAR funding to further combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Latin America. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

First lady Jill Biden on Saturday announced the U.S. will provide an additional $80.9 million to the fight against HIV/AIDS in Latin America.

Biden during a visit to Casa Hogar el Buen Samaritano, a shelter for people with HIV/AIDS in Panama City, said the State Department will earmark an additional $80.9 million for President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief-funded work in Latin America. A Panamanian activist with whom the Washington Blade spoke said LGBTQ people were among those who met with the first lady during her visit.

Pope Francis visited the shelter in 2019.

“I’m glad we have the opportunity to talk about how the United States and Panama can work together to combat HIV,” said the first lady.

Michael LaRosa, the first lady’s spokesperson, noted Panama will receive $12.2 million of the $80.9 million in PEPFAR funding.

“This funding, pending Congressional notification, will support expanded HIV/AIDS services and treatment,” said LaRosa.

UNAIDS statistics indicate an estimated 31,000 Panamanians were living with HIV/AIDS in 2020. The first lady’s office notes the country in 2020 had the highest number of “newly notificated cases of HIV/AIDS” in Central America.

The first lady visited Panama as part of a trip that included stops in Ecuador and Costa Rica.

The Summit of the Americas will take place next month in Los Angeles. The U.S. Agency for International Development and PEPFAR in April announced they delivered more than 18 million doses of antiretroviral drugs for Ukrainians with HIV/AIDS.

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