Author Archives: George Bernard

About George Bernard

Writer/Reporter - George writes about international law, global politics, and activist movements with an emphasis on effects to decision-making.

Chile Addresses Report on LGBTI rights violations

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), the Organización de Transexuales por la Dignidad y las Diversidad (Organization of Transsexuals for Dignity and Diversity; OTD), and 14 other organizations recently submitted a report on Human Rights Violations of LGBT people in Chile to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. The report by the US-based NGO details flaws in the anti-discrimination law, abuse of gay and trans people in society and prisons, and problems relating to the general lack of dignity in the treatment of LGBTI persons.

The UN HRC also closed a dialogue with the Chilean government about the country’s pursuit of its human rights obligations in many areas.

This follows a resolution Chile signed in June at the Organization of American States (OAS) regarding “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity and Expression” in which the government agreed “to condemn all forms of discrimination against persons by reason of their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression”, and to “eliminate, where they exist, barriers faced by lesbians, gays, and bisexual, transsexual, and intersex (LGBTI) persons in equal access to political participation and in other areas of public life, and to avoid interferences in their private life.” The resolution also urged states to adopt legislation to protect LGBTI people from violence, discrimination, and harassment.

In an IGLHRC press release, Director of Programs Marianne Møllmann said that the government of Chile has been cooperative and engaged with LGBT issues. “Throughout the committee’s dialogue with the Chilean government, it was clear that LGBTI issues are not a fringe concern,” she said. “Until our rights are fully protected, Chile’s human rights record will remain blemished.”
Chile has been on front lines of LGBTI legal progress on the continent. In response to the progress needed, the government promised to:

  • “Push for amendments to the anti-discrimination law to overcome legal uncertainty and to provide for victims reparations;
  • “Support the proposed gender identity law currently before the Chilean Congress;
  • “Create a new gender identity area within the police human rights unit;
  • “Develop and promote a protocol within the Ministry of Health to ensure that infants born with ambiguous genitals (intersex infants) will not be mutilated; and
  • “Develop and promote a protocol within the Ministry of Education to ensure and promote respect for diverse gender identities in all school.”

Director of the OTD, Andrés Ignacio Rivera Duarte, outlined avenues for progress. “We have already developed a protocol on trans diversity in schools for the Ministry of Education, which we have shared with the government,” he said. “We are working on a protocol on respect in treatment of intersex infants that we will be happy to share as well. The moment I am back in Chile, I will reach out to the government to put these commitments on a concrete timeline.”

Peru’s Rights Plan Excludes All Sexual Minorities

Peru has made slow progress in the field of gay rights, and has lagged behind its neighbors in bringing recognition and equality to sexual minorities. Its bordering states Ecuador, Brazil, and Colombia all recognize gay unions or marriage equality. With Chile and Bolivia, all have policies protecting LGBT people from discrimination in the provision of services, and all include queers in hate-crime legislation. Of that group, Brazil alone doesn’t protect against LGBT employment discrimination, yet Peru has had none of these progresses.

Peru remains an island where marriage, civil unions, discrimination protection, and hate-crime protection are reserved for heterosexuals.

The Peruvian debate has been characterized by a brinkmanship between a government unable to reach consensus enough to explicitly include sexual minorities in legislation, and activist groups who see claims that protection can be extended without it as insufficient if not outright insincere.

Early this month the Peruvian federal government led by President Ollanta Humala passed National Human Rights Action Plan of 2014-2016. Complaints quickly arose that LGBT people and groups were excluded from the Plan’s protection. Last week the Minister of Justice, Daniel Figallo, responded to those complaints insisting that LGBT people are included as he called on groups and populations to work against discrimination individually as well.

“No one has been excluded. The country’s main problem is discrimination; there is widespread discrimination at various levels, and we are working against it. Those positions indicating an exclusion are incorrect.”

Daniel Figallo, Minister of Justice

Still, despite his insistence that the Plan implicitly includes sexual minorities, the Plan fails to mention them in any direct way.
Unsurprisingly, rights groups have been unsatisfied with this response. They see this as another in a long line of failures on behalf of the Humala administration to extend the protections of the state to all groups.

In 2013 a hate-crime bill that would have extended protections to queer communities was rejected by a majority coalition of the Gana Peru and Fuerza Popular parties. The same parties blocked a consensus on a following civil-unions law, and the debate was postponed and never revived.

In June of this year the Organization of American States (OAS) passed a resolution regarding “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity and Expression” that included language agreeing to support anti-discrimination legislation and hate-crime recognition, and to avoid interfering in the private lives of LGBT individuals. While Peru signed the resolution, action has yet to be taken toward anti-discrimination and hate-crime laws for LGBT people.

During the debate on the Human Rights Plan 2014-2016, eighteen proposals regarding the LGBT community were rejected or edited before all were ultimately removed.

Uruguayan LGBT amendment fails as UN Adopts ‘Pro-Family’ Resolution

Uruguayan efforts to include a non-hetero-normative passage in a Human Rights Council document failed last week as the United Nations body adopted its resolution on the “Protection of the Family”. The resolution supported by delegations from Uganda, Russia, Egypt, and other global leaders in LGBT-opposition, is part of a growing effort of conservative states to establish and clarify heterosexual foundations in international law, an effort aided significantly as Ugandan Sam Kutesa takes leadership of the General Assembly.

The delegation of Uruguay, a continental and global leader on legal recognition of gay rights, tabled the amendment along with Chile, France, and Ireland. The effort was to clarify that “different cultural, political and social systems various forms of the family exist” in hopes to counteract an affirmation of ‘family’ being used to discriminate against same-sex relationships. The language was rejected during debate.

The document is characteristic of the larger global debate underway in an area with few specific international precedents. These measures may often be largely rhetorical but in international law, they may be used to legitimize further action by either party. At this point delegations are hoping to quietly ‘place dominoes’ early in the process.

The resolution does not call for dramatic action. It requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights prepare a report on the status of the family and instructs the Human Rights Council to convene a “panel discussion” at its next session on the subject. It also does not specifically declare that marriage consists only of a man and a woman — Saudia Arabia and Pakistan had tabled an amendment to add that language, but withdrew it after the Uruguayan amendment was rejected.

The language battle could have significant implications, however. The direction outlined for the High Commissioner’s reports would have influence on every subsequent debate on the subject of the family and analysis in that document of non-hetero-normative family structures and the issues they face could affect the establishment of goals and norms in the future.

Overall, this phase of the process is marked only by frustrated middle-ground progress. The organized international community and the United Nations have an inherent liberal tendency toward a broad understanding of human rights, as shown by the extension of UN staff benefits to same-sex partners this week by order of Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon. Latin American countries have taken an increasingly activist role in this field in recent years but, as for now, revolution is not on the menu.

Argentina’s LGBT Activists Warm Up to Former Enemy

LGBT activists in Argentina have welcomed Pope Francis’s new moves towards reconciliation for the “grave crimes of sexual abuse” committed against children. The President of the Argentine Homosexual Community (CHA) praised Francis’s humble and fiercely-worded homily as “a much need and timely gesture” that he hopes will lead to change in lower levels of the Church. In a private mass for six victims of abuse this week, the Pope lamented the role of “Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves.” In late May, he compared abuse by clergymen as akin to performing ‘satanic mass’.

This strong language is approached with more skepticism in the Pope’s home-country where rights groups are used to a contentious relationship with the man once known as Cardinal Jorge Bergolglio. While LGBT groups are warming up to the Pope’s role in a global debate that is far more conservative than Argentine politics, they are still cautious about how much reform is still needed.

CHA President César Cigliutti encouraged Vatican cooperation with the United Nations but remained skeptical. “In 10 years there were 3,420 priests accused of sexual abuse and only 884 were it removed, representing less than 26 percent,” he said. “We hope that in Argentina the bishops follow the example of the Pope, that they also apologize and meet with victims of abuse.”

The cooperation of bishops has been a characterizing feature of LGBT groups relationship with the Church in Argentina. As the elected president of the Argentine Episcopal Commission, Cardinal Bergoglio was an active but confusing opponent of gay-marriage when Argentina became the first Latin country to federalize equal unions. Groups like the Argentina Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Trans (FALGBT) found themselves matched against the Cardinal in a passionate national debate pitting Vatican ideology against Peronist Catholic rivalry.

The Cardinal was one of the most outspoken opponents during the marriage debate but eventually he publically supported same-sex unions as an alternative to full marriage. However, when he took this pragmatic suggestion to the commission, it was democratically rejected. While remaining an opponent of marriage, he reached out to FALGBT and other LGBT activist groups on behalf of the church, sympathising with gay issues and even calling himself a supporter of ‘gay rights’.
Now, as Pope, Francis is continuing his sympathy for gay issues, even if he remains squarely in support of doctrine. He is opening a two-year debate on LGBT topics as well as other sensitive progressive subjects such as contraceptives and the role of women. While this is unlikely to be revolutionary, Francis still plays an important role as an ally of individual liberalism.

This is where LGBT and other activists in Argentina can find some optimism in perspective. At home, Francis was a rallying force for conservative arguments relative to progressive local politics, but in a global conversation that is much more radical it’s hard to vilify a voice pushing towards center.

As Putin Leaves Argentina, Gay Russians Marry in Buenos Aires

Marina Mironova and Oxana Tomofeeva had been raising their son Nikolai for over a decade in Russia as the policy trend has advanced further against gays.

When authorities eventually threatened to seize Nikolai because of their relationship, the two women left for a better life in Argentina. Now pursuing asylum with the government in Buenos Aires, they finally married last Wednesday as Argentina celebrated the fourth anniversary of its nation-wide legalization of same-sex marriage.

This follows a similar story of a gay couple wedding in February of this year who also sought asylum from Russia, reports the Buenos Aires Herald.

Argentina legalized same-sex marriage for foreigners in 2012, two years after President Christina Fernández Kirchner signed equal marriage for citizens into law. Repression in Russia has amplified since 2013 inaugurated the infamous propaganda law which banned most public activism for LGBT rights.

The anniversary of the 2010 victory has been much celebrated but there is still social backlash against gay peoples and same-sex marriage. Despite this, La Nacion reports over 7,500 gay couples have been married in Argentina since the passage of the law.

This has been in large part due to the efforts of activist groups in Argentina, including the Argentine Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Trans (FALGBT) who was present to celebrate the union of Mironova and Tomofeeva. Claudia Castrosín, vicepresident of the FALGBT said of the marriage

“With much joy and pride we will accompany Marina and Oxana in their marriage. They have escaped the laws that criminalize sexual diversity in Russia for our country’s guarantees of legal equality and the right to be.”

The anniversary comes days after Russian President Vladamir Putin met with President de Kirchner in Buenos Aires. There was protesting in the capital by supporters of Ukrainian sovereignty and LGBT equality, however LGBT topics were not raised.