Press Release

IACHR acknowledges recent steps taken by several OAS Member States to further equality for LGBTI persons

November 21, 2013

Washington, D.C. – In parallel to troubling information on the levels of discrimination and violence perpetrated against lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex (LGBTI) persons in the hemisphere, the IACHR received promising news about the progress made in the furtherance of equality for LGBTI persons in the Americas, during the months of August, September and October of 2013.

The Inter-American Commission welcomes several initiatives which promote and recognize the rights of trans persons. In Argentina, trans women were transferred to women’s prisons facilities. In the United States, local legislation was enacted in the District of Columbia facilitating the modification of trans persons’ birth certificates to reflect their gender identities, and legislation was passed by the state of California to allow transgender children to be able to use restrooms and compete in sports based on their gender identity. Finally, in Peru, an administrative agency fined a nightclub that had denied access to a trans woman because of her gender identity. The IACHR welcomes these steps by some OAS Member States and encourages them to continue adopting measures to further ensure the right to equality and non-discrimination of trans persons.

The Commission would like to highlight and welcome several statements made by State officials from countries in which consensual relationships between same-sex adult persons is still criminalized. In particular, the IACHR was pleased to receive information about a statement delivered by the Belize Prime Minister, Dean Oliver Barrow, indicating that although the Government of Belize would respect religious positions about homosexuality, “what [the] Government cannot do is to shirk its duty to ensure that all citizens, without exception, enjoy the full protection of the law”. The IACHR also welcomes the statement delivered by the St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister, Denzil Douglas, speaking against discrimination and stigmatization of LGBTI persons. Furthermore, the IACHR highlights that the Minister of Justice in Jamaica condemned the killing of a trans teenager, Dwayne Jones, and called upon Jamaicans to “embrace the principle of respect for the basic human rights of all persons”. The IACHR praises the commitment of State officials that take a public stance in favor of equality in contexts in which prejudice, discrimination and violence against LGBTI persons are widespread. Moreover, the IACHR encourages Members States to seriously consider the possibility of decriminalizing same-sex conduct and diverse gender identities/expressions, and to advance law reforms as a means to respect, protect and guarantee the right to equality and non-discrimination of LGBTI persons, and those perceived as such.

Additionally, given the persistence of violence and discrimination against LGBTI persons in other regions of the world, the IACHR welcomes the statement made by Canada’s Immigration Minister on the consideration given to LGBTI asylum seekers who fear persecution based on their sexual orientation or their gender identity in their country of origin or habitual residence.

With respect to same sex unions during the months of August to October 2013, the IACHR welcomes the entry into force of same sex marriage in Uruguay and in the states of Minnesota and Rhode Island, United States; the enactment of civil unions in Jalisco, Mexico, and the celebration of same sex marriages in Colombia and in the US state of New Jersey.

The Commission has also been informed of several other encouraging initiatives that took place across the hemisphere between August and October. In Costa Rica, certain provisions of the Criminal Code which imposed security measures to persons based on their sexual orientation were abrogated. In Ecuador, a special health care center aimed at LGBTI persons was created. Moreover, in Brazil, LGBTI persons deprived of their liberty were accommodated in safe common areas in several prisons. Furthermore, in Argentina, judicial courts granted the first cases of adoption to same-sex couples and ordered the restitution of a young child to her lesbian mother after the girl had been held by her grandparents “to prevent her from being raised by two mothers”.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 89/13