Press Release

IACHR Welcomes Progress on Human Rights of LGBTI Persons

August 16, 2016

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) welcomes the progress made in recent months with regard to the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex persons (LGBTI), particularly in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, the United States, and Uruguay.

In terms of legislative changes that seek to recognize trans persons’ human rights, the IACHR notes that in February 2016 the National Assembly of Ecuador approved the “Organic Law of Identity and Civil Data Management,” which among other things allows individuals over 18 years of age to change their name on their identity documents and indicate their “gender” instead of “sex.” In addition, on May 21, 2016, the Plurinational Legislative Assembly of Bolivia enacted Law No. 807, the “Gender Identity Law,” which guarantees that trans persons may change their name, sex designation, and image on all identification-related public and private documents, which will allow them to fully exercise their right to their identity in keeping with their gender identity and expression. Also, on August 3, the Human Rights Commission of the Chilean Senate approved changes to a gender identity bill—in the works since May 7, 2013—to give the Civil Registry Service, instead of the courts, jurisdiction over requests to amend the identification documents of trans adults, whether Chilean citizens or foreign nationals with permanent residence in Chile.

The IACHR urges the States in the region to review their current rules and regulations and continue adopting trans-friendly measures that are based on free and informed consent and that do not include pathologizing requirements such as asking for psychological or psychiatric certifications or medical exams.

With regard to violence prevention, Peru’s Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations approved a ministerial resolution on March 31, 2016, establishing a series of guidelines to serve LGBT persons as part of the National Program against Family and Sexual Violence. The IACHR recognizes this as a groundbreaking measure in the region to provide stigma- and discrimination-free service to LGBTI victims of domestic violence.

In terms of prevention of discrimination, the IACHR takes note of a circular (No. 003-2016) issued by Costa Rica’s Ministry of Justice and Peace declaring that ministry to be a space free of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It also orders, among other things, that institutional regulatory instruments that could lead to discriminatory practices be amended, and that protocols for serving sexually diverse prison inmates be developed. The IACHR also welcomes Ecuador’s decision in July 2016 to develop protocols to serve LGBT persons in prison.

In the area of health, the IACHR calls attention to the adoption in Guatemala of the “Strategy for Comprehensive and Differentiated Health Care for Trans Persons in Guatemala 2016-2030,” in November 2015. Meanwhile, on December 22, 2015, Chile’s Sub-secretariat of Public Health issued a circular with instructions to bring an end to unnecessary “normalization” treatments for intersex children, including irreversible genital surgery, until they are old enough to make decisions about their own bodies. On June 9, 2016, Uruguay’s Ministry of Public Health introduced a guide for health professionals that aims to include a sexual diversity perspective at every level of health care. The IACHR welcomes these initiatives and urges the States in the region to adopt effective measures that lead to improved care and access to health services for LGBTI persons, in order to comprehensively ensure their right to health.

With regard to the labor sector, the IACHR notes that in April 2016, the Vice President of the Diversity Commission of Mexico City’s Legislative Assembly urged the Head of Government to instruct city offices to hire trans persons to fill at least 1 percent of staff positions, as long as they have the technical skills and knowledge required to do the job. Meanwhile, on June 30, 2016, the U.S. Department of Defense announced the adoption of new regulations that will allow transgender individuals to serve in the military without discrimination and consistent with their gender identity. These regulations will be implemented gradually over the course of one year. The IACHR welcomes these measures, which are essential steps that seek to encourage trans individuals’ access to public spheres and enable them to more fully exercise their economic and social rights.

As to the educational arena, on June 12, 2016, the Diversity Office of the provincial government of Neuquén, Argentina, arranged for scholarships to be provided to socially vulnerable trans persons so they can finish their studies and receive training in formal job skills. The IACHR believes that such measures constitute essential steps toward full social inclusion for members of the LGBT community, and urges the States to continue adopting these types of measures that encourage access for trans persons to public spheres and formal employment.

Finally, with regard to non-discrimination within the family sphere, the IACHR welcomes Costa Rica’s decision in June 2016 to extend survivor’s benefits to widows or widowers of same-sex partners across all retirement systems under the national budget. In addition, on April 7, 2016, the Constitutional Court of Colombia approved same-sex marriage. Although the official text of the judgment is not yet available, the Court announced its decision in Press Release No 17 on April 28, 2016, stating that “the principles of human dignity, individual freedom, and equality imply that all human beings may enter into civil marriage in keeping with their sexual orientation.” The IACHR applauds these advances and urges the OAS Member States to undertake greater efforts to respect and guarantee the human rights of all persons, including the right to a family, without any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

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. 116/16