Press Release

IACHR Notes Recent Good Practices in the Protection of the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons in 5 Countries in the Region

July 25, 2018

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) welcomes progress made in recent months in the region—particularly in Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Canada and Costa Rica—regarding the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons. At the same time, the IACHR voices its concern over persistent threats to the human rights of LGBTI persons that had already been recognized in the region.

In terms of family law, the Commission heard that Ecuador’s Constitutional Court has ruled that a girl with two British mothers who had been born in the South American country should be registered as an Ecuadorian citizen and that the registry office should record the names of her two mothers. The Constitutional Court ruled that the Office of the Director General of Civil Registry, Identification and Personal Documents had violated the rights of the child, and it stated that the constitution protects her rights to [vs1] “an identity and a nationality, as well as the rights to equality, non-discrimination and the protection of the family in its varied forms, in this case made up of her and her two mothers.” The IACHR believes that this decision is important for the recognition of the various types of families that exist in the Americas. The IACHR highlights that the concept of the family cannot be limited by stereotypes based on heteronormative sexual orientations. Instead, it must be understood in its broadest sense, recognizing diverse emotional bonds and protecting the rights of the children and adolescents in such families.

The IACHR further heard about the exercise of the right to gender identity in a decision by the Chilean Supreme Court, which recognized the change of name and gender of a transgender woman without requiring surgery. That decision is in keeping with the Chilean State’s international obligations and with Inter-American standards on the issue. The IACHR stresses that gender identity is not necessarily determined by bodily transformations, surgery or other medical treatments. The Commission therefore urges States in the region to recognize gender identity in administrative procedures based on the given person’s free and informed consent, without imposing stigmatizing and/or pathologizing requirements.

In the context of the right to gender identity, the Inter-American Commission welcomes the decision by Argentinian courts to convict the suspect charged with the death of transgender social activist Diana Sacayán, for the crime of transfemicide aggravated by hatred of the victim’s gender identity. The IACHR notes that this is the first time in the region that the legal concept of transfemicide has been recognized in a court decision. In its Report on Violence against LGBTI Persons in the Americas (2015), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said that violence against LGBTI persons is widespread in the region and that transgender persons are more vulnerable to various forms of violence based on their real or perceived gender identity. The IACHR urges Member States of the OAS to adopt any measures necessary to implement due diligence standards for the prevention, investigation and punishment of violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, and bodily diversity.

Finally, regarding memory, truth and justice, the IACHR welcomes the reparations encouraged by both Canada and Costa Rica. After admitting the persecutions and rights violations that stemmed from a policy to purge LGBTI persons and apologizing for them, the Canadian State has earmarked 85 million US dollars for victim reparations. Similarly, the State of Costa Rica has issued a statement to apologize for promoting and implementing persecutions and arbitrary detentions targeting LGBTI persons in the past, noting that sexual relations between same-sex persons were a crime in the country until 1969. In this context, the IACHR urges States in the region to take measures to revoke any laws or public policies that criminalize and/or punish LGBTI persons for their sexual orientation, their real or perceived gender identity and their bodily diversity. The Commission also called upon States to ensure that LGBTI persons who are victims of human rights violations and their families have effective access to comprehensive reparations.

“Despite significant progress, the Inter-American Commission also notes the concern voiced by several civil society organizations in the region regarding threats of a rollback in the recognition of the human rights of LGBTI persons,” said Flavia Piovesan, Rapporteur on the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Persons of the IACHR.

IACHR Executive Secretary Paulo Abrão added: “We continue to hear of the advance of bills, court decisions and public policies that—through misinformation campaigns—seek to increase the stigmatization of LGBTI persons and eventually to encourage and worsen violence and hate speech against such persons. Progressive examples must serve to inspire other countries to move in the same direction.”

The Inter-American Commission urges States to promote laws and public policies that protect the human rights of LGBTI persons, working to build more egalitarian societies free of all forms of violence, discrimination and prejudice.

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 and to defend 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. 160/18