June 11, 2011
Jermaine Grant represented Guyana’s Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) at the 41st Organisation of American States (OAS) General Assembly that was held on June 5-7, 2011, in San Salvador, El Salvador. SASOD’s participation in this year’s OAS General Assembly served as the fifth year of its advocacy in the Inter-American system for human rights protection of persons on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
SASOD’s representative along with other members of the Coalition of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Organisations of 21 countries in the hemisphere participated in peripheral meetings with Dr. Irene Klinger, Director of the Department of International Relations of the OAS and Vanda Pignato, First Lady of El Salvador and the country’s Secretary ofSocial Inclusion who both expressed support and appreciation of the work of the Coalition in its human rights advocacy. Further, Grant and others also participated in the Informal Dialogue with the OAS Secretary General, Jose Miguel Insulza on June 4, 2011 with other members of civil society in highlighting the human rights situation of LGBTI persons in the Americas in strengthening transparency and inclusion of human rights defenders participating in the decision-making process of the organization.
In the context of the General Assembly’s theme, “Citizen Security in the Americas,” and noting that the concept of security is multi-dimensional, members of the coalition recognised that any threat to the survival and livelihood of all human kind compromises citizens’ security. From this perspective, participants from the Anglophone Caribbean LGBTI civil societyarticulated that laws criminalizing same-sex intimacy serves to create an unsafe environment and perpetuate discrimination in the forms of harassment, abuse and violence of LGBTI persons.
Mentioned was that most member states of the OAS from Latin and North America have made notable strides in the promotion and protection of human rights on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression whilst those in theAnglophone Caribbean are retrogressing by not taking legislative steps in repealing laws criminalizing same-sex intimacy and cross-dressing along with enactment of legislation that willfully exclude rights of LGBTI persons.
SASOD’s representative posited that such actions by member states of the Anglophone Caribbean make them complicit in perpetuating discrimination and intolerance; thus, legitimising human rights abuses and violence that oppress LGBTI persons, compounded by an unsafe environment, which creates social vulnerabilities. These laws embody state-sanctioned homophobia which devalues human life and undermines citizens’ security.
In advocacy to effect human rights on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, Grant, along with other human rights defenders from the Anglophone Caribbean drafted a statement that was distributed to government delegations from the sub-region, on the human rights situation of LGBTI persons and which called for “leaders of CARICOM to guarantee the rights of all citizens… and aggressively address the scourge of homophobia that undermines our collective security.” (Please see statement attached.)
SASOD’s participation in the 41st OAS General Assembly serves to reinforce and strengthen advocacy of previous years for human rights protection on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Further, its participation highlights the realities and challenges of LGBTI persons in Guyana to the attention of the OAS and member states whilst urging definitive action in legal and policy changes. This year’s General Assembly approved a fourth resolution on “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” that encouraged member states to consider “adopting public policies against discrimination by reason of sexual orientation and gender identity,” inter alia.
1. San Salvador Communiqué of the Coalition of LGBTI Organisations of Latin America and the Caribbean
THE COALITION OF LGBTTTI ORGANIZATIONS FROM 21 LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN COUNTRIES WITNESSING THE APPROVAL
OF THE FOURTH RESOLUTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS, SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND GENDER IDENTITY
The Coalition of LGBTTTI Latin American and Caribbean organizations, formed by groups belonging to more than 20 countries expresses in this communiqué its assessment of the activities of the 41st General Assembly of the Organization of American States, which took place in San Salvador on June 5th-7th, 2011.
This Assembly adopted the fourth resolution AG/RES. 2653 (XLI-O/11) “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity”, showing the increasing attention to our situation and the need of encouraging member states to commit to taking action to fight human rights violations against our communities. The mentioned resolution, which is the result of the advocacy of the coalition, makes progress towards the realization of an hemispheric thematic study. It also highlights the need for member states to implement public policies against discrimination of LGBTTTI people, calling on the States to investigate, record, and punish hate crimes against our population.
We are pleased for the possible reinvigoration of the negotiation process of the draft Inter American Convention against Racism and all Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance.
However, we are concerned that, on the very occasion of the Assembly, whose theme was “Citizen Security in the Americas,” the opportunity to advance in the construction of an instrument that would contribute to challenging the structural causes of violence has been lost by opening the door to the possibility of dividing the draft Convention in one main text, and one or more additional protocols (which would strengthen the idea of the existence of a hierarchy among forms of discrimination). We recognize, in any event, that advancing the discussion on racism would be in itself a fundamental achievement that would improve the quality of life for all.
With reference to the Declaration of San Salvador, we are concerned that it focuses on issues related to organized crimes and not on day-to-day security. The majority of killings, serious assaults, sexual abuses, and other crimes against the individual are the result of bias and vulnerability associated with gender violence; discrimination against afro-descendant and indigenous people; sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression; xenophobia; disability; migrants, displaced people and other vulnerable groups.
Additionally, we express our concern for the lack of visibility we suffer by the omission of any reference to specific security needs of LGBTTTI people, despite being especially affected by the consequences of violence and crimes caused by homophobia, lesbophobia and, most of all, transphobia. These concerns were raised in our intervention during the dialogue between the civil society and the heads of delegations of member states.
We report the election to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of Felipe González, Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, Tracy Robinson and Rosa Maria Ortiz. The election of Rosa Maria Ortiz and Tracy Robinson is an honor for the Coalition; women of great value for their well-known commitment and expertise in human rights, and whose candidatures the Coalition have supported vigorously through our ministries of foreign affairs.
Finally, we want to highlight a fundamental concern for civil society, related to the attempt by some member states and OAS organs to weaken the scope of work of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
About the Coalition’s activities
Beyond the resolution that has been formally adopted, the Coalition celebrates the
consolidation of its space as civil society component after four years of advocacy work within the OAS and in the region, before, during and after the General Assemblies.
In the days that preceded the 41st General Assembly, the Coalition organized a two-day parallel event in preparation for the advocacy and participation within the OAS. Our main discussion topics were:
(a) implementation of the resolution “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity”;
(b) Interaction with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (with specific focus on thematic hearings); (c) Interaction with the Commission on Juridical and Political Affairs; (d) Advocacy in the negotiation process of the draft Convention against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance; (e) Advocacy with member states.
During the two days, invited participants included Irene Klinger, director of the Department of International Relations of the OAS, who highlighted the importance of the commitment of the LGBTTTI civil society in all processes of the OAS and the increasing visibility of the issue within the OAS, particularly with reference to the Hemispheric Forum.
The Coalition met the First Lady of El Salvador and Secretary for Social Inclusion Vanda Guiomar Pignato, who spoke about the need that societies make progress in regard to the inclusion and the respect for all forms of diversity and greeted the Coalition for its presence within the OAS.
Finally, Edgar Carrasco and Herbert Betancourt from UNAIDS, and Maria Tallarico from UNDP also attended the workshop.
During the informal dialogue with the Secretary General of the OAS and the civil society in San Salvador, four delegates of the LGBTTTI coalition addressed to Secretary General José Miguel Insulza their concerns regarding the undue influence of religion on states and the weakening of the principle of secularity, violence and discrimination that LGBTTTI individuals suffers within their own families, hate crimes and the need of recognition of self-perceived identity for travesti, transgender, transsexual and intersex people.
Mr. Insulza confirmed the OAS commitment to fight for recognition of the rights of LGBTTTI individuals and expressed his concern for the lack of progress of the draft Inter American Convention against Racism and all Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance, partially due to the criminalization of same-sex intimacy in several Caribbean countries. He also indicated that some countries still have official religions, statement that would suggest that official religions are an obstacle to the introduction of protective policies, as religions would be prioritized over human rights protection.
The Coalition also met Arturo Valenzuela, Assistant Secretary of State of the Government of the United States, and Paula Uribe, Senior Advisor of the Department of State of the United States, who were accompanied by a delegation from the U.S. Embassy to El Salvador; the first secretary of the Mission of Canada before the OAS Douglas Janoff and Danilo Gonzalez Ramirez, Minister Counselor of the Mission of Costa Rica before the OAS and Chair of the Working Group in charge of drafting the draft Inter American Convention against Racism and all Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance were also present at the meeting. The discussion focused on the commitment of the U.S. Department of State to support LGBTTTI human rights in the region and the progress in the discussion on the Convention.
Later on, the Coalition met Víctor Madrigal Principal Specialist of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, who explained the working plan to draft a hemispheric report on the situation of human rights of LGBTTTI people, the success of which will depend on the participation of the organizations of the region that will provide continuous information to the Commission.
The Coalition also met Lionel Veer, Ambassador for Human Rights of the Netherlands, who expressed his support and availability to strengthen civil society organizations and highlighted the need of establishing a dialogue between the ministries of foreign affairs and the IACHR.
We welcome the increasing interest for the work of the coalition that constitutes an acknowledgment of the work carried out in these years.
We thank Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, UNAIDS, UNDP, and Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights for their support to make our participation to this General Assembly possible.