LGBTIQ+ activists in Caracas are protesting outside the National Electoral Council, which is responsible for the civil registry, demanding the enforcement of the law allowing a name change for trans, intersex or non-binary people. The authority has delayed compliance with the law for years. CREDIT: Observatory of Violence
  • by Humberto Marquez (caracas)
  • Interpress service

The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court ruled that the statute, which has been in force since the last century, “contradicts the basic postulate of progressivity in guaranteeing human rights”, and also “lacks sufficient legal clarity and precision with respect to the conduct it was intended to to punish.”

Charter, i Code of Military Justicewas the only one still punishing homosexuality with imprisonment in Venezuela, and it was repealed on February 16.

But “in Venezuela, LGBTIQ+ people (lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals, intersex, queers and others) still have to fight for the right to identity, to equal marriage, to non-discrimination in education, healthcare and housing,” transgender activist Tamara Adrián told for IPS.

Even the procedure followed to repeal the statute, Article 565 paragraph two of the Military Code, was an illustration of the continued contempt for the LGBTIQ+ minority.

Activist Richelle Briceño reminded IPS that civil society organizations had been demanding the annulment of the statute for seven years, without receiving any response from the Supreme Court.

“Suddenly the ombudsman’s office (in Venezuela all branches of power are in the hands of the ruling party) asked the court to annul that part of the article and in less than 24 hours the decision was made, on February 16,” Briceño observed.

In addition, the Ombudsman’s office claimed that the statute had not been used in the last 20 years, but Briceño said that around 2016 there were several documented cases.

Various NGOs see the legal decision as linked to the presentation, the following day, of reports to UN Human Rights Council of serious violations of this issue in Venezuela, including non-recognition of the rights of the LGBTIQ+ community.

Many ongoing issues

In Venezuela, even blood donations from people who have sexual relations with people of the same sex, according to current medical protocols, are not accepted, says Natasha Saturno. Acción Solidaria The NGO, which specializes in health aid and supplies, told IPS.

“Forty days ago they operated on my son. I brought a dozen blood donors, they were all asked this question, and several were rejected, she says.

If these restrictions still exist, the hopes of the LGBTIQ+ community to obtain identity documents that reflect their gender alternatives, to same-sex unions or equal marriages, or to ban all forms of discrimination, are even further away, Saturno said.

Adrián said that “recognizing gender identity or equal marriage with both spouses enjoying the right to exercise motherhood or fatherhood are achievements that are progressing or expanding throughout Latin America, and Venezuela, which has progressed in civil rights since the 19th century, is now among stragglers.”

The activist, founder in 2022 of the political party United for Dignityhighlighted the progress made on this issue in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay, “with only Guyana, Paraguay, Suriname and Venezuela lagging behind in South America.”

In terms of identity, since 2009 the Population Registration Act states that “everyone may change their own name, only once, when they are exposed to public ridicule (…) or it does not match their gender, which affects the free development. of their personality.”

But the rule is not enforced when it comes to trans, intersex and non-binary people, with countless procedural hurdles in the way, which is why LGBTIQ+ groups, frustrated by pointless paperwork, have protested before the Supreme Court, the JO and the National Electoral Council, under which the population register falls.

Adrián claimed that “we are guided by the opinion of Inter-American Court of Human Rightswhich in 2017 recognized the right to identity as essential to the development of personality and non-discrimination in areas such as work, health and education.”

Victim of violence

LGBTIQ+ people in Venezuela “suffer from many forms of discrimination and violence, from the family sphere to public spaces,” says Yendri Velásquez, of the newly created Venezuelan Observatory of Violencee against this community.

It manifests itself “in psychological violence, very present in the family sphere, abuse, denial of identity, access to and use of public spaces – from restaurants to parks -, extortion, bullying based on gender expression, discrimination in the labor market and even murder” , Velásquez said.

He pointed out that in 2021 there were 21 murders of people “just because they were gay or lesbian”, and that in the second half of 2022 the observatory recorded 10 “murders or cases of very serious injuries” with a total of 11 gay, lesbian. or transgender victims.

The activists are advocating for norms and policies that help eradicate hate crimes and hate speech, as well as online violence, as they receive messages via social networks as serious as “die”, “kill yourself”, “I hope they kill you” or “you shouldn’t be alive.”

The organizations share these concerns and protest that the legislature, in the hands of the ruling party, is drafting a law that would curtail and severely curtail the independence and work of NGOs.

Healthcare as well

For the LGBTIQ+ community, health care is a critical issue, in the context of a complex humanitarian emergency that has, among other things, led to the collapse of health care, with most hospitals suffering from infrastructure and maintenance failures, lack of equipment and supplies, and the migration of healthcare workers.

Adrián said that “there are barriers to entering health centers, both public and private, for people who are trans or intersex, to their stay in hospital – sometimes they are treated in the corridors – and to follow the treatments.”

An additional problem is that hormones have not been available in Venezuela for 10 years, and users who resort to uncontrolled imports expose themselves to significant health risks.

Society was greatly affected by the AIDS epidemic, although in 2001 civil society organizations succeeded in getting the Supreme Court to make it mandatory for the government to provide antiretroviral drugs free of charge.

They were available for several years, although Saturno notes that supply became intermittent starting in 2012.

That year marked the start of the current economic and migration crisis facing this oil-producing country of 28 million people, with the loss of four-fifths of its GDP and the migration of seven million Venezuelans.

Currently, deliveries occur regularly, according to the NGOs dedicated to monitoring the issue, but usually with only one of the treatment schedules prescribed by Pan American Health Organization“And not everyone can take the same treatment,” Saturno said.

About 88,000 HIV/AIDS patients are registered in Venezuela’s HIV/AIDS Master Plan, which the government and UN agencies support. But according to NGO projections, there could be as many as 200,000 HIV-positive people in the country.

Activists also note that the climate of denial of identity and rights for individuals and couples, discrimination, harassment, violence and work disability, plus health issues, pushes LGBTIQ+ people to join the flow of migrants that have spread across the hemisphere.

© Inter Press Service (2023) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service