Monday, March 19, 2018

VACANCY: Legal Officer

VACANCY: #SASOD is looking for a full-time Legal Officer to work on our Community Paralegal Services Initiative under our Human Rights Programme. Eligible candidates must have a Bachelor of Laws Degree. Email for terms of reference. Start date is April 3, 2018.

VACANCY: SWAG Coordinator

VACANCY: #SASOD #Women's Arm #Guyana is looking for a vibrant #feminist to serve as part-time #SWAG Coordinator. Eligible candidates must have at least a Diploma from an accredited university. Email for terms of reference. Expected start date is April 3, 2018.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


The Coalition of LGBTTTI Organizations of Latin America and the Caribbean that work within the framework of the OAS,[1] composed of the undersigned organizations, commend the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for the recognition of the human rights of transgender persons and same-sex couples, as affirmed in its Advisory Opinion 24/17 dated November 24, 2017 and published on January 9, 2018.

With this historic Opinion, the Inter-American Court recognizes that the human rights obligations of States vis-à-vis the principles of equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, include the obligation to recognize families composed of same-sex couples and the right to gender identity. This Opinion reinforces the urgent need of States in the region to adopt measures to ensure both formal and substantial equality of persons with non-normative or diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions in the Americas.

The Advisory Opinion of the Court reaffirms what the social organizations of the LGBT movement have been promoting for decades in the countries of the region: that we are rights’ bearers, and that the States owe us the full recognition, guarantee and respect of our rights without discrimination.

We congratulate the Inter-American Court for categorically stating that States must guarantee the right to rectify gender or sex markers, name, and image in official records and/or identity documents, in accordance with individuals’ self-perceived gender identity. In its Opinion, the Court specified the requirements for this process, including that it must be based solely on the free and informed consent of the person requesting the change.
We congratulate the Inter-American Court for categorically stating that it is necessary for States to guarantee same-sex couples the same rights of different sex couples, including the right to marriage, to ensure the protection of all the rights of families composed of same-sex couples, without discrimination.
We urge all OAS Member States to take measures to promote the legislative, administrative and judicial reforms necessary to bring their legal systems, interpretations and practices in line with the standards established in Advisory Opinion No. 24, issued by the Inter-American Court.
The Coalition of LGBTTTI organizations from Latin America and the Caribbean working within the framework of the OAS has decided to publish along with this press release, a summary of the Advisory Opinion, with the aim of highlighting some of the main standards that have been developed by the Inter-American Court. The Advisory Opinion includes standards that have been advocated by non-governmental organizations that are part of this Coalition for decades in the countries of the region, with varying degrees of success.
SUMMARY of Advisory Opinion 24/17 issued by the I/A Court of Human Rights, dated November 24, 2017 - Gender Identity, and Equality and Non-Discrimination of Same-Sex Couples[2]
The State of Costa Rica requested an Advisory Opinion to the Inter-American Court so the highest regional court could interpret the American Convention on Human Rights, in light of the rights of LGBT people.
In January 2017, sixteen organizations belonging to this Coalition of LGBTTTI Organizations of Latin America and the Caribbean working within the framework of the OAS (“LGBTTTI Coalition”) presented a brief of amicus curiae to the Inter-American Court (“Court”). Several human rights defenders from the organizations belonging to this Coalition also presented oral arguments during the hearings before the Court that were held in Costa Rica in May 2017.
In the proceedings before the Court, several OAS Member States presented observations: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama and Uruguay. A large number of stakeholders also submitted observations, such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, several state entities, international associations, academic institutions and non-governmental organizations.
Below we highlight some excerpts from Advisory Opinion 24/17 (not the official translation),[3] containing the main standards developed by the Court.

On the lack of consensus in some countries on guaranteeing the human rights of LGBT people, the Court affirms that the lack of a consensus in some countries on the need to respect the rights of certain groups or persons because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, whether real or imputed, cannot be considered a valid argument to deny or restrict their human rights or to perpetuate and reproduce the historical and structural discrimination that these groups or individuals have suffered (para. 83).
On the prohibition of discrimination against LGBT people, the Court stated that
ü  a right that is recognized to someone cannot be denied or restricted to anyone, and under no circumstances, can this denial or restriction be based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Otherwise, this would violate Article 1.1. of the American Convention. The Inter-American instrument prohibits discrimination, in general, including on the basis of categories such as sexual orientation and gender identity. These categories cannot be used to deny or restrict any of the rights established in the Convention (para. 84).

ü  Any discriminatory norm, act or practice based on a person's sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression is prohibited under the Convention. Consequently, no norm, decision or practice at the domestic level, coming either from state authorities or from individuals, can diminish or restrict, in any way, the rights of a person based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression (para. 78).
Regarding discriminatory discourses and attitudes against LGBT people, the Court affirmed: discriminatory discourses and the resulting attitudes that stem from these, based on the stereotypes of heteronormativity and cisnormativity, with different degrees of radicalization, end up generating homophobia, lesbophobia and transphobia that drive hate crimes (para. 47).
Regarding "gender expression", the Court stated that: perception-based discrimination has the effect or purpose of preventing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the person subject to such discrimination, regardless of whether that person identifies with a certain category. In this regard, it must be understood that gender expression is a protected category under Article 1.1 of the American Convention (para. 79).
Furthermore, the Court affirms that States as guarantors of all rights, must respect and guarantee the coexistence of individuals with different gender identities and expressions, and sexual orientations. As such, States should ensure that all individuals can live and develop with dignity and are granted the same respect to which all people are entitled to (para. 100).
The Inter-American Court recognizes the right to gender identity based on the human rights enshrined in the American Convention, including: dignity, private and family life, personal autonomy, the principle of the free development of personality, personal liberty, identity, freedom of expression, legal personality, name, and equality and non-discrimination.
Thus, the Court affirms that States must guarantee people’s gender identity, as this is key to the full enjoyment of other human rights (para. 113). In the trend, the Court establishes that, in accordance with the principle of equality and non-discrimination, it is not reasonable to establish different treatment between cisgender and transgender people who intend to carry out corrections in the official registries and their identity documents (para. 131).
Obligation of States regarding requirements to ensure recognition of peoples’ gender identity
In its decision, the Inter-American Court affirms that:

1.   The rectification of the registries and/or identity documents in accordance with someone’s self-perceived gender identity (rectification of the gender or sex marker, modification of the name and adaptation of the image) constitutes a human right protected by the American Convention.

2.       States, in accordance with Article 2 of the American Convention, are obliged to recognize, regulate and establish the appropriate procedures to ensure that people interested in rectifying their gender or sex marker, changing their name and adapting their image in official records and/or in the identity documents, can do so in accordance with their self-perceived gender identity. As such, States must ensure that they have access -without interference by the public authorities or by third parties- to a procedure that complies with the following requirements: (a) a procedure focused on the full adaptation of the self-perceived gender identity; (b) based solely on the free and informed consent of the person without requirements such as medical and/or psychological certifications, surgical and/or hormonal interventions or others that may be unreasonable or pathologizing; (c) must be confidential; (d) changes, corrections or adjustments made in accordance with the gender identity, should not be reflected in the records, and/or identity documents; (e) it must be expeditious and, in as much as possible, free; (f) the procedure that best complies with these requirements is the administrative or notarial procedure. States can also provide an administrative proceeding, in parallel, so interested persons have a choice.
Likewise, the Court indicates that States should make efforts so that persons interested in
having their self-perceived gender identity recognized in the registries and in their identity documents are not subject to “unreasonable burdens.” People requesting this change do not have to undertake several proceedings before a variety of authorities so that their gender identity is reflected in all relevant registries and official documents (para. 124).
Regarding the requirement of good behavior certificates or police records, the Court is of the view that while this requirement may have a legitimate purpose so the procedure is not used to evade justice, it can also be considered a disproportionate restriction on the interested party, to the extent that a State’s obligation -the harmonization of State records which register identity data- is transferred unreasonably to the applicant of the procedure. The protection of third parties and public order must be guaranteed through different legal mechanisms that do not imply, allow or result in the impairment, violation or sacrifice of people’s fundamental rights. Otherwise, the essential core of the rights to the free development of the personality, the right to privacy, the right to personal and sexual identity, the right to health, and, consequently, the right to health, would be completely affected, and as a result, this would also hinder people’s dignity and their right to equality and non-discrimination (para. 132).

Sex and gender are part of the construction of someone’s identity
The Inter-American Court has affirmed that sex, as well as gender, are part of the construction of someone’s identity resulting from each person’s free and autonomous decision, regardless of their genitalia (para. 94). In more detail, the Court affirmed that sex, as well as the socially constructed identities and attributes assigned to biological differences around the sex assigned at birth, far from constituting objective and immutable components that individualize someone, ... end up being traits that depend on each person’s subjectivity and are linked to each person’s construction of their self-perceived gender identity, which is related to the free development of personality, sexual self-determination and the right to privacy. Therefore, transgender people are bearers of legally protected interests, which under no circumstances can be subject to restrictions for the simple fact that the social conglomerate does not agree with certain lifestyles, as a result of fears, stereotypes, and social and moral prejudices lacking reasonable grounds (para. 95)

Link between the recognition of gender identity and the human rights of trans people
The Court affirms that the lack of recognition of the right to gender identity of transgender people contributes to reinforcing and perpetuating discriminatory behaviors against them (para. 134). Thus, the Court points out that since gender identity is a key element of people’s identity, its recognition by the State is of vital importance to guarantee the full enjoyment of the human rights of transgender people, including protection against violence, torture, ill-treatment, right to health, education, employment, housing, access to social security, as well as the right to freedom of expression, and association. Therefore, the lack of recognition of someone’s identity may imply that the person does not have legal proof of their existence, hindering the full exercise of their rights (para. 98).
Right to recognition of the gender identity of children
In its Advisory Opinion, the I/A Court HR also indicated that the considerations related to the right to gender identity that were developed are also applicable to children who wish to submit applications so that their self-perceived gender identity is recognized in identity documents and official records (para. 154). The Court affirms that any restriction imposed on the full enjoyment of this right through provisions that have the purpose of protecting children, can only be justified in accordance with these principles and should not be disproportionate.
Concerning Article 54 of the Civil Code of Costa Rica
Regarding the interpretation of Article 54 of the Civil Code of Costa Rica, the Court indicated that, by virtue of the “control of conventionality” (control de convencionalidad), this provision must be interpreted in accordance with the standards indicated in the Advisory Opinion. Further, the Court notes that Costa Rica may issue regulations to incorporate the standards indicated in the Advisory Opinion into domestic law.

A restrictive interpretation of the concept of "family" that excludes same-sex couples would frustrate the aim and purpose of the American Convention
The Court reiterated on this occasion that the American Convention does not establish a specific concept of family, and does not protect a particular model of family (para. 174). Further, that the definition of family should not be restricted to the traditional notion of a couple and their children (para. 178). It also affirmed that a family may also consist of persons with different gender identities and/or sexual orientations (para. 179), and that the protection of family ties is not limited to relationships based on marriage (para. 181). The Court points out that as long as there is a will to be related permanently and to form a family, there is a bond that deserves equal rights and equal protection regardless of the sexual orientation of its members (Articles 11.2 and 17 of the American Convention) (para. 225).

While it is true, the Court points out, that Article 17.2 literally recognizes "the right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and to raise a family," such wording is not a restrictive definition of how the marriage is to be understood or how to form a family (para. 182). Moreover, the Court categorically affirms that a restrictive interpretation of the concept of family that excludes the affective bond between same-sex couples from the protection afforded by the inter-American System would frustrate the aim and purpose of the Convention. The Court recalls that the aim and purpose of the American Convention is the protection of the fundamental rights of human beings without distinction (para. 189).
Establishing a different treatment between heterosexual couples and same-sex couples is discriminatory
The Court affirms that establishing a different treatment between different-sex couples and same-sex couples regarding the way in which they form a family -whether through a union or a civil marriage- fails to pass a “strict equality test,” since, in the view of the Court, there is no aim that is acceptable under the Convention for this distinction to be considered necessary or proportional (para. 220).

States must protect the rights derived from same-sex couples
The Court states that the American Convention protects -by virtue of the right to privacy and family life (Article 11.2), as well as the right to the protection of the family (Article 17)- the family bond that can arise from a same-sex relationship. The Court is also of the opinion that all the economic rights that derive from the family bond established by same-sex couples should be protected, without any discrimination, to the same extent as different-sex couples, in accordance with the rights to equality and non-discrimination (Articles 1.1 and 24) (para. 199).
The creation of "new legal figures" for same-sex couples
The Court affirms that creating a legal figure to regulate same-sex couples, with the same effects and rights as marriage, but with a different name, does not make any sense, except to send a social message that highlights the difference in treatment, with the effect of stigmatizing, or at the very least, demonstrating contempt towards same-sex couples. According to this, couples, which according to the stereotype of heteronormativity, were considered "normal," would be legally protected under “marriage.” Meanwhile, those considered “abnormal,” according to the aforementioned stereotype, would be protected under a different institution with identical effects but with a different name. Based on this, for the Court, the existence of two types of solemn unions is not admissible to legally consolidate same-sex and different-sex union, since a distinction based on sexual orientation would be discriminatory, and therefore incompatible with the American Convention (para. 224).
Further, the Court indicates that to guarantee the rights of same-sex couples, establishing new legal figures is not necessary, and therefore, it chooses to extend the existing institutions to same sex couples - including marriage. The Court is of the view that this would be the simplest and most effective way to secure the rights derived from the relationship between same-sex couples (para. 218).
Obligations of States regarding same-sex couples
In this regard, the Court noted that there are various administrative, judicial and legislative measures that can be adopted by States to guarantee the rights of same-sex couples (para. 217).
In relation to countries that still do not recognize same-sex couples their right of access to marriage, they are equally obliged not to violate the norms prohibiting discrimination in this regard, and therefore must guarantee them the same rights derived from marriage, in the understanding that it is always a transitory situation (para. 227).
The Inter-American Court indicates that States must guarantee access to all existing legal systems in order to ensure the protection of all the rights of families composed of same-sex couples, without discrimination with respect to those that are constituted by different-sex couples. For this, it may be necessary for States to modify existing legal figures, through legislative, judicial or administrative measures, to extend them to same-sex couples. States that have institutional difficulties to adapt the existing figures, temporarily, and in good faith promote these reforms, also have the duty to guarantee to same-sex couples, equal enjoyment of rights with respect to different-sex couples, without any discrimination (para. 228).
In relation to the obstacles that States may face in making the modifications at the domestic level in a manner that conforms to the standards established in the Advisory Opinion, the Court recognizes that it is possible that some States must overcome institutional difficulties to adapt their domestic legislation and extend the right of access to the institution of marriage to same-sex couples, and in this regard, urges States to effectively, and in good faith, promote the legislative, administrative and judicial reforms necessary to adapt their domestic law, interpretations and practices (para. 226).
In sum, the Court unanimously affirmed that the State must recognize and guarantee all the rights derived from a family relationship between persons of the same sex. By six votes in favor and one against, the Court indicated that according to Articles 1.1, 2, 11.2, 17 and 24 of the Convention, it is necessary for States to guarantee access to all the existing legal figures in the legal systems, including the right to marriage, to ensure the protection of all the rights of families formed by same-sex couples, without discrimination with respect to those that are constituted by different-sex couples.

What does this Advisory Opinion mean for OAS Member States?
As the Court points out, the objective of Advisory Opinions is to contribute to the States’ compliance with their international human rights obligations, and for them to define and develop human rights public policies (para. 22).

The Inter-American Court affirms that its advisory function constitutes a service that the Court is able to provide to all members of the inter-American system, with the purpose of contributing to the fulfillment of its international commitments on human rights. In this sense, it is of the view that based on the interpretation of the relevant norms, its response to the question posed will be of great importance for the countries of the region insofar as it will make it possible to specify the state obligations in relation to the rights of the LGBTI persons within the framework of their obligations to respect and guarantee human rights to every person under their jurisdiction. This will lead to the determination of the concrete principles and obligations that States must comply with in the area of ​​the right to equality and non-discrimination.

The Inter-American Court is clear in affirming that when a State ratifies an international treaty, such as the American Convention, it obligates all its agencies and branches of government, including the judiciary and the legislative. Thus, violation by a State’s branch of government generates international responsibility for the State as a whole. That is why the Court is of the view that the various state organs must perform "conventionality control", which is applicable to its contentious jurisdiction and also to its advisory jurisdiction (para. 26), regarding the objective of the inter-American human rights system, which is, the protection of fundamental rights of human beings.

The Advisory Opinion of the Court has legal relevance for all OAS Member States, not only for Member States to the American Convention
In relation to OAS Member States that are not parties to the American Convention, the Court affirms that all organs of OAS Member States -including those that are not signatories to the American Convention but which have committed to respecting human rights under the OAS Charter (Article 3(l)) and the Inter-American Democratic Charter (Articles 3, 7, 8 and 9)- are bound by these instruments, which also contribute, and especially preventively, to achieve effective protection and guarantee of human rights and, in particular, they are a guide to be used to solve issues related to the respect and guarantee of human rights within the framework of protection of LGBTI people and thus, to prevent possible violations of human rights (para. 28).

Regarding laws that criminalize same-sex intimacy between consenting adults in private
The Court indicates that there are still several States in the region that criminalize consensual sexual relations between adults of the same sex in private. These laws have been considered by the Court (Case of Flor Freire v. Ecuador, para. 123) and by various international human rights bodies as contrary to international human rights law for violating the rights to equality and non-discrimination as well as the right to privacy. Coupled with this, these types of norms have a negative impact on the quality of health services, discourage people from resorting to these services, and can lead to denial of care or to the absence of services that respond to specific health needs of LGBTI people. In addition, in jurisdictions where sexual behavior is criminalized, preventive measures that should be specifically tailored to these communities are much more likely to be suppressed. Further, the fear of being judged and punished may deter those who engage in same-sex from accessing health services. These problems are exacerbated in the case of people living with HIV/AIDS. In addition, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has found that, because of this type of laws, victims are often reluctant to report acts of violence perpetrated by a family member for fear of the criminal consequences of revealing their sexual orientation.

The text of the Advisory Opinion can be read in full (currently only available in Spanish) here:

The link to the English version will be made available by the I/A Court, here:
Organizations of the LGBTTTI Coalition of Latin America and the Caribbean working within the framework of the OAS:

1.       Argentina - AKAHATÁ Equipo de Trabajo en Sexualidades y Género

2.       Argentina - ATTTA (RedLACTrans)

3.       The Bahamas - The D Marco Organization(RedLACTrans)

4.       Belize - TIA Belize (RedLACTrans)

5.       Belize - United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM)

6.       Bolivia - Red Nacional de Mujeres Trans en Bolivia (REDTREBOL) (RedLACTrans)

7.       Bolivia - Fundación Diversencia

8.       Brazil - Articulação Política das Juventudes Negras

9.       Brazil - Grupo Ativista de Travestis, Transexuais e Amig@s (GATTA)

10.   Brazil - Grupo Esperança

11.   Brazil - Liga Brasileira de Lesbicas (LBL)

12.   Brazil - Rede Nacional de Negr@s e Afros LGBTTT (Rede-afros-lgbts)

13.   Chile - Asociación OTD Organizando Trans Diversidades

14.   Chile - Sindicato Amanda Jofré (RedLACTrans)

15.   Colombia - Asociación Lideres en Acción

16.   Colombia - Colombia Diversa

17.   Colombia - Fundación Santamaría

18.   Colombia - Red Comunitaria Trans (RedLACTrans)

19.   Costa Rica - Mulabi - Espacio Latinoamericano de Sexualidades y Derechos

20.   Costa Rica - TRANSVIDA (RedLACTrans)

21.   Dominica - Dominica Chapter of the Caribbean HIV and AIDS partnership (ChapDominica) 

22.   Ecuador - Asociación Alfil (RedLACTrans)

23.   Ecuador - Taller de Comunicación Mujer

24.   El Salvador - Asociación Aspidh Arcoiris (RedLACTrans)

25.   Grenada - Grenada Chapter of the Caribbean HIV and AIDS Partnership (GrenCHAP)

26.   Guatemala - Organización Trans Reinas de la Noche (OTRANS) (RedLACTrans)

27.   Guyana - Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD)

28.   Honduras – Asociación para una Vida Mejor (APUVIMEH)

29.   Honduras - Colectivo Unidad Color Rosa (RedLACTrans)

30.   Jamaica - J-FLAG

31.   México - Letra S SIDA, Cultura y Vida Cotidiana

32.   México - Red Mexicana de Mujeres Trans (RedLACTrans)

33.   Nicaragua - Red Nicaragüense de Activistas Trans (REDTRANS)

34.   Nicaragua - ODETRANS (RedLACTrans)

35.   Panamá - Asociación Panameña de Personas Trans (RedLACTrans)

36.   Paraguay - Aireana Grupo por los Derechos de las Lesbianas

37.   Paraguay - Asociación Panambi (RedLACTrans)

38.   Paraguay - Asociación Escalando

39.   Perú - Centro de Promoción y Defensa de los Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos (PROMSEX)

40.   Perú - Instituto Runa de Desarrollo y Estudios sobre Género

41.   Perú - Red Trans Perú (RedLACTrans)

42.   Regional - Caribbean Forum for Liberation and Acceptance of Genders and Sexualities (CARIFLAGS)

43.   Regional - Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe de Personas Trans (REDLACTRANS)

44.   Regional - Synergía – Initiatives for Human Rights

45.   Dominican Republic - Colectiva Mujer y Salud

46.   Dominican Republic - Comunidad de Trans Travesti y Trabajadoras Sexuales Dominicana COTRAVETD (RedLACTrans)

47.   St Lucia - United & Strong

48.   Suriname - Women's Way

49.   Trinidad and Tobago - Allies for Justice & Diversity (AJD)

50.   Uruguay - Asociación Trans del Uruguay (ATRU)

51.   Uruguay - Colectivo Ovejas Negras

52.   Venezuela - Venezuela Diversa Asociación Civil

53.   Venezuela - Diversidad e Igualdad a Través de la Ley (DIVERLEX)

[1] The Coalition of LGBTTTI organizations from Latin America and the Caribbean working within the framework of the OAS is a regional network of organizations that promotes visibility and mobilizes around the OAS and its regional system for the protection of human rights, in order to ensure their full and systematic commitment in the protection and promotion of the human rights of LGBTI people in the Americas. It was conceived and promoted in 2006 by local activists, within the framework of the Regional Conference of the Americas - Progress and Challenges of the Plan of Action against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, which took place in July in Brazil. The first meeting of the Coalition was held in Panama, in May 2007, on the occasion of the 37th OAS General Assembly. The Coalition is currently composed of 53 organizations from 27 countries in the Latin American and Caribbean region.
[2] I/A Court HR, Advisory Opinion OC-24/17 - Gender Identity, and Equality and Non-Discrimination of Same-Sex Couples, State Obligations in relation to the change of name, gender identity, and rights derived from a same sex relationship (interpretation and scope of Articles 1.1, 3, 7, 11.2, 13, 17, 18 and 24, in relation to Article 1 of the American Convention on Human Rights), requested by the Republic of Costa Rica, dated November 24, 2017, published on January 9, 2018, available (only in Spanish, at the moment) at: The link to the English version will be made available by the I/A Court, here: This Summary was drafted by Fanny Catalina Gómez Lugo, Synergía – Initiatives for Human Rights and reviewed by the LGBTTTI Coalition.

[3] As of January 30, 2018, the Inter-American Court has yet to release its official English translation of the Advisory Opinion. In this regard, in this Summary of the Advisory Opinion, the LGBTTTI Coalition has translated the excerpts from the Court’s official version in Spanish. As these excerpts are not official quotes, quotation marks have not been included.