Monday, June 16, 2008

OAS renews hope with “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity” resolution

In the framework of the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Charter of the Organization of American States, the 38th General Assembly of the OAS approved by consensus the resolution AG/RES-2435(XXXVIII-O/08) “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity”(see below), presented by the Brazilian delegation.s
After 3 days of intense negotiation and an impressive diplomatic mobilization, for the first time in the history of the hemisphere the words sexual orientation and gender identity appear on an official document approved by consensus by the 34 countries of the Americas. This text recognizes the serious human rights violations faced by individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. This unprecedented document in the region was the result of consensus, including the English-speaking Caribbean countries whose legislation still criminalize consensual sexual activity between adults of the same sex.
Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) joinsthe Caribbean Forum for Liberation of Allo-sexualities and Genders (CARIFLAG) in welcoming the resolution and notes the good intentions of American and particularly Caribbean states regarding the issue of homophobic violence. The organisations hope that with time and a process of education, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the rights of all citizens to freedoms without distinction to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status will be affirmed and protected. In this regard, SASOD and CARIFLAG sees the resolution as renewing hope that the dialogue on violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity can be advanced within a framework where the basic rights of all citizens of the Americas, including gays and lesbians in the Caribbean, to live in free, fair and life-affirming societies are recognised.
The resolution represents a step forward in the working process for the approval of an Inter-American Convention against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance, whose negotiation will continue next year. The current draft already includes sexual orientation and gender identity and expression as protected categories.
These achievements are the results of a collective working process started at the end of 2006 by Global Rights, Mulabi - Espacio Latinoamericano de Sexualidades y Derechos and IGLHRC – Latin America and the Caribbean (International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission), aiming at strengthening the participation of the regional Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Travesti and Inter-sex (LGBTTTI) movement as component of the civil society within the OAS.
In this frame, from the 29th to the 31st of May, more than 20 activists of different sexual orientations and gender identities and expressions from 16 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean met in Medellín to work on a strategy for participation and visibility in this quintessential moment of the political life of the OAS. This event was possible thanks to the support of Global Fund for Women, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, IGLHRC, Global Rights and MULABI.
On May 31st the informal dialogue between the Secretary General of the OAS José Miguel Insulza and civil society took place: within this space the LGBTTTI groups had the chance to intervene three times, and one of the interventions was applauded by the audience. The Secretary General took in great account the issues raised by the activists, underlining the question of the resolution presented by Brazil and the importance of the participation of the representatives of our Coalition in this process.
Fourteen year-old Camilo Rojas of Colombia, read the declaration of the Coalition (see the text below). The document, making reference to the topic of the Assembly “Youth and democratic values”, highlighted the situation of human rights violation suffered by LGBTTTI children and youth. The declaration obtained the applause of the civil society participants as well as the official delegations, and was circulated in English and Spanish to the heads of delegations.
AG/RES. 2435 (XXXVIII-O/08)
Members of the LGBTTTI movement and allies attending the 38th session of the General Assembly of the OAS:
Belissa Andia (Instituto Runa – Secretaría Trans ILGA, Peru)
Caleb Orozco (United Belize Advocacy Movement, Belize)
Camila Zabala (Aireana, Paraguay)
Camilo Rojas, Sentimos Diverso, Colombia)
Cindy Loren (GATTA, Brazil)
Claudia Spellmant (Colectivo Travesti de San Pedro Sula, Honduras)
Edmilson Medeiros (Red Afro LGBT y Articulação Politica das Juventudes Negras, Brazil)
Germán Rincón Perfetti (Asociación. Lideres en acción, Colombia)
Javier Minnota Minnota (AfroAmérica XXI, Colombia)
July Betances (Colectiva Mujer y Salud, Dominican Republic)
Marcelo Ferreyra (IGLHRC, Argentina)
Marina Bernal (Mulabi, Mexico-Colombia)
Michel Riquelme (Organización de Transexuales por la Dignidad de la Diversidad, Chile)
Natasha Jiménez (Mulabi, Costa Rica)
Sandra Montealegre (Mesa Joven por la Diversidad Sexual, Colombia)
Sara Hoyos (Independent Activist, Colombia)
Silvia Martínez (Red LAC/Trans, Nicaragua)
Stefano Fabeni (Global Rights, USA)
Tamara Adrian (DIVERLEX, Venezuela)
Tatiana Cordero (Taller Comunicación Mujer, Ecuador)
Maurice Tomlinson (Jamaica AIDS Support for Life, Jamaica)
(Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination SASOD, Guyana)
(Adopted at the fourth plenary session, held on June 3, 2008)
That the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in that Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status;
That the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man establishes that every human being has the right to life, liberty, and the security of the person;
CONSIDERING that the OAS Charter proclaims that the historic mission of America is to offer to man a land of liberty and a favorable environment for the development of his personality and the realization of his just aspirations;
REAFFIRMING the principles of universality, indivisibility, and interdependence of human rights; and
TAKING NOTE with concern acts of violence and related human rights violations perpetrated against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity,
1. To express concern about acts of violence and related human rights violations committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
2. To request that the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs (CAJP) include on its agenda, before the thirty-ninth regular session of the General Assembly, the topic of “Human rights, sexual orientation, and gender identity.”
3. To request the Permanent Council to report to the General Assembly at its thirty-ninth regular session on the implementation of this resolution, the execution of which shall be subject to the resources allocated in the program-budget of the Organization and other resources.

Mister Secretary General, Ministers, Members of the Official Delegations, Civil Society Representatives,
We, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, travesti, transsexual, transgender and intersex organizations, convened in Medellin, Colombia on May 29, 30 and 31, 2008, in accordance with directives established by the General Assembly of the OAS in its resolutions AG/RES.2092(XXXV-O/05); CP/RES.759(1217/99); 840(1361/03); AG/RES.1707(XXX-O/00) and AG/RES.1915(XXXIII-O/03), which determine a regulatory framework to enhance and strengthen civil society participation in OAS activities and in the Summit of the Americas process, are concerned that in the draft declaration of Medellín “Youth and democratic values” there are no references to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, even though they were part of the recommendations from the civil society meeting in Washington, from the 10th to the 14th of March, 2008.
Our reality as youth is characterized by the violation of the right to life; we are victims of torture, genital mutilations, forced medical surgery and sexual violence. Our rights to health, education, identity, work and participation are denied. We are constantly victims of stigmatization and exclusion in our families and in society as a whole. Our visibility and the right to our social and legal identities are also denied. All these rights violations are caused by social, cultural and religious prejudices that destroy our dignity as citizens.
All our rights are systematically violated in all countries of the hemisphere.
Since this reality contradicts the essence of the democratic values of the OAS, we recommend:
  • That Member States recognize the existence of diversity in sexual orientation, gender identity and expression among young persons. This includes recognizing the rights to change name and sex in our legal documents without requiring genital mutilation.
  • That Member States promote the respect for diversity in sexual orientation, gender identity and expression in education and media to build a just, equitable and inclusive society.
  • That Member States ensure, especially to youth, full access to education, health, employment and occupation without discrimination; in case of rights violations within families and communities of origin to provide services sensitive to the needs of young persons
  • That Member States repeal all criminalizing and discriminatory legislation, and promote cultural, social and institutional changes which are aimed at preventing and punishing discrimination and violence, and thereby fully guaranteeing our rights.
  • That the General Assembly approves the draft Resolution CP/CAJP-2626/08 “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” presented by the Brazilian Delegation, whose initiative we fully endorse. At the same time we urge all Member States to support the above mentioned resolution.
  • That the General Assembly approves the draft Resolution AG/doc4794/08 “Draft Inter-American Convention against Racism and all Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance” and that Member States commit themselves to finalizing the negotiation of the draft accepting the substantive progress achieved during the past year.
We believe that, as long as discrimination and intolerance against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, travesti, transsexuals, transgenders and intersex continue unpunished in our societies, there will neither be democratic values for youth, nor will there be democracy for all.
[1] The link to see the video is: