Argentina: Ask La Matanza Authorities to Approve Ordinance and Accept Chosen Identities of Trans People

Summary

Mr. Juan Pablo Incocciati, the Health Sub-Secretary for La Matanza County in Buenos Aires Province, has rejected an ordinance requiring workers and professionals at hospitals in the county to respect gender identity by calling trans, travesti, or transsexual patients by their chosen names. The ordinance was unanimously approved by the La Matanza town council.

Among the rights violated in this case are:

  • The right to be free from discrimination
  • The right to freedom of expression
  • The right to an adequate standard of physical and mental health

Action

The International Gay and Lesbian Human rights Commission (IGLHRC) joins Movimiento Antidiscriminatorio de Liberación (M.A.L.) in requesting that you send emails or faxes, asking La Matanza county authorities to adopt without reservations the ordinance stipulating that travestis, transsexual and trans people should be called by their chosen names at public health centers.

Feel free to cut and paste our from our sample letter, enclosed below in both Spanish and English, and contact the individuals listed below.

Please send your letter to:

Mr. Fernando Ezpinoza, La Matanza Major
Telephone / Fax: +54 11 44413551
Electronic mail: fernandoespinoza@lamatanza.gov.ar
Mr. Juan Pablo Incocciati, La Matanza Health Sub-Secretary
Telephone / Fax: +54 11 4651-0740 or 4441-6788
Electronic mail: saludpublica@lamatanza.gov.ar
INADI - National Institute against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism
Address: Moreno 750, 1º piso, C1091AAP, Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires. Telephone: +54 11 4340 9407
Electronic mail: inadi@inadi.gov.ar
Mrs. Gina Dinardo, Human Rights director La Matanza County
Telephone: +54 11 4441 9130
Electronic mail: gdinardo@lamatanza.gov.ar
Mrs. Silvia Caprino Alejandra Dulce Martines, Ombudsmen of Partido de la Matanza
Telephone / Fax: +54 11 4482 6229
Electronic mail: defensoriadelpueblo_lamatanza@yahoo.com.ar
Dr. Jorge Pueyo, HIV/AIDS Program of Partido de la Matanza
Lic. Gabriela Fernandez
Telephone / Fax: +54 11 4651 1381
Electronic mail: provihlama@yahoo.com.ar
Diana Sacayan, Movimiento Antidiscriminatorio de Liberación (M.A.L.)
(Representative for ILGA-LAC South cone)
Electronic mail: amancaylafe@yahoo.com.ar

Please also send a copy of your letter to:

IGLHRC Latin American and the Caribbean Program
Electronic mail: fdelio@iglhrc.org

Sample Letter in Spanish

Sr. Fernando Ezpinoza
Intendente del partido de La Matanza

Les escribo en nombre de la Comisión Internacional de los Derechos Humanos para Gays y Lesbianas para solicitar su apoyo a la adopción sin reservas de la Ordenanza que establece que las personas travestis, transexuales y trans sean llamadas en los centros de atención de salud del partido de La Matanza por el nombre de su elección.

A la hora de ir aun hospital las personas travestis saben que se exponen a una sistemática violencia, abandono de persona y mala praxis. Por esa razón, en situación de enfermedad, se resisten a ser atendidas y cualquier otro recurso es preferible antes que padecer humillaciones, aunque a la larga esto las conduzca a morir solas en sus casas. El informe publicado por la Editorial Madres de Plaza de Mayo "La gesta del nombre propio 2006" releva que "el 70 por ciento de la población travesti no asiste a los hospitales y el promedio de vida de esta población redunda los 32 años".

La Ordenanza que había sido aprobada por unanimidad por el Honorable Concejo Deliberante de La Matanza era considerada un avance en favor del reconocimiento de los derechos de la Comunidad Trans en el marco del respeto por la identidad de género. Sin embargo, el Subsecretario de Salud del Partido de La Matanza, Sr. Juan Pablo Incocciati, rechazó la Ordenanza.

Como usted bien sabe ya existe una normativa en este sentido a nivel provincial. La resolución 2.359 firmada el año pasado para que se respete el nombre de travestis y transexuales en todo el ámbito de la Provincia de Buenos Aires. Algunos partidos de la provincia como por ejemplo el de Morón ya han avanzado con ordenanzas municipales en el mismo sentido.

También en otras provincias como la de Neuquén el Ministerio de Salud ha reconocido ese derecho mediante la Resolución N° 733/08 y la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires y la Ciudad de Rosario se han sumado a la misma iniciativa mediante sendas ordenanzas municipales.

Estas medidas reconocen la diversidad que en toda comunidad existe y que va de la mano con la construcción de sociedades en las que todas y todos puedan vivir de manera más humana y justa.

En este sentido, exhortamos a usted a tener en consideración estos argumentos acerca de por qué el Partido de La Matanza debe adoptar dicha ordenanza sin reservas.

Confiamos en que usted dedicara a este tema toda la atención que merece.

Cordialmente,
Paula Ettelbrick

Directora Ejecutiva
Comisión Internacional de los Derechos Humanos para Gays y Lesbianas


Sample Letter Translated into English

Mr. Fernando Ezpinoza
Mayor, La Matanza County

On behalf of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), I write to request your public support for a measure that would address an everyday issue important to a group of people in your community who are so often overlooked—those who refer to themselves as travesti, transsexual and/or trans people. Specifically, I ask that you support the La Matanza county ordinance that would require healthcare workers in county hospitals and health centers to extend a basic level of respect and humanity to travestis by addressing them by the names that they have chosen to call themselves—names that reflect their gender identity.

Upon coming to terms with their gender identity, most, if not all, travestis adopt a new name that better suits their personal sense of identity, rather than the name given to them at birth. Their chosen name is part of their identity, just as yours or mine is. In a health care context, in particular, respect for travestis starts with consistent use of their chosen names. Yet, travestis and their families often face extremely discriminatory, and often hostile, treatment in the intimate setting of health care provision. Frequently, they are harassed and ridiculed from the very moment they set foot in the building to seek medical care. Doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel habitually taunt them and make offensive comments about their gender identity, even in cases of severe illness.

"La gesta del nombre propio 2006," a report published by Editorial Madres de Plaza de Mayo, notes that 70 percent of the travesti population routinely avoid hospitals. This, in addition to lack of adequate housing, work, and public safety, contributes to this population’s average lifespan of only 32 years.

The La Matanza ordinance is but one attempt to combat this discrimination, and to promote basic dignity and respect for travestis. It helps reinforce the idea that a central part of good health care lies in basic respect for the patient.

The ordinance was unanimously approved by the La Matanza town council. Sadly, La Matanza Health Sub-Secretary, Mr. Juan Pablo Incocciati, has refused unilaterally to approve the ordinance. His refusal means that the administrative changes needed to implement it cannot go forward.

As you know, a precedent for this matter exists at the provincial level. Resolution 2359, approved last year, states that the chosen names of travestis and transsexual people should be respected throughout Buenos Aires Province. Some provincial counties, such as Moron, have already advanced municipal ordinances on this issue. In the province of Neuquén, the Health Ministry has recognized this right through Resolution N° 733/08; Buenos Aires and Rosario Cities have also recognized this right through municipal ordinances.

We ask you to do everything in your power to ensure that the La Matanza ordinance is both approved and implemented, making sure that travestis, transsexuals and trans people receive adequate and respectful care at county hospitals and health centers.

La Matanza authorities should respect and protect the rights of all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.

We trust that you will give this issue the attention it deserves.

Sincerely,

Paula Ettelbrick

Executive Director
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission

C.c.: Mr. Juan Pablo Incocciati, INADI, Mrs. Gina Dinardo, Mrs. Silvia Caprino Alejandra Dulce Martines, Dr. Jorge Pueyo, Diana Sacayan

Background

Until very recently, travesti people and their families have faced extremely discriminatory, and often hostile treatment at public health centers—frequently being victimized from the very moment they set foot in the building. Doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel have habitually taunted them and made offensive comments about their gender identity, even in cases of severe illness. If a travesti person demanded better treatment, they were often told to leave the hospital if they did not like the care they were receiving.

Travesti people knew that by going to a hospital they would inevitably expose themselves to systematic violence, disinterested medical staff and poor care. For these reasons, they often refused medical assistance; anything was better than subjecting themselves to such intense humiliation, even though lack of medical treatment might lead to death. " La gesta del nombre propio 2006," a report published by Editorial Madres de Plaza de Mayo, notes that 70 percent of the travesti population routinely avoid hospitals and that the average lifespan of this population is around 32 years.

Last year several organizations of travestis and prostitutes, among them, the Movimiento Antidiscriminatorio de Liberación (M.A.L.), organized meetings to denounce discrimination against travestis and transsexual people in healthcare settings. They drafted a document formalizing their commitment to work collaboratively to improve medical services both by encouraging doctors to provide better treatment to trans people and by including travesti people in the health system.

Activists from the Movimiento Antidiscriminatorio de Liberación (M.A.L.) and other organizations raised their concerns to the Buenos Aires Minister of Health, Claudio Mate, and obtained his support for Resolution 2359, which was ultimately passed and signed on June 5, 2007. Resolution 2359 states that in concurrence with law 13.175 relating to equitable access to health services, “the agreement of public hospitals regarding travesti and transexual people identifies the need to adopt measures to respect their feminine and masculine identities.” The Resolution also advises health center personnel to use patients’ chosen names.

As a result of the Buenos Aires Resolution, the provincial county of Moron passed an ordinance respecting the right of trans people to choose their identities. Through an independent process, the Health Ministry of the province of Neuquén also recognized this right via Resolution N° 733/08. The cities of Buenos Aires and Rosario have also passed local ordinances respecting the rights of trans people to choose their own identities.

Mr. Edgardo Lobos, a Councilman and member of the Civic Coalition Party in La Matanza, promoted a similar ordinance that was unanimously approved by the La Matanza town council.

However, Mr. Juan Pablo Incocciati, the Health Sub-Secretary for La Matanza, refuses to approve the ordinance requiring workers and professionals at hospitals in the county to respect gender identity by calling trans, travesti, or transsexual patients by their chosen names. His refusal means that the administrative changes needed to implement the ordinance cannot go ahead.

The terms ‘travesti’ and ‘travestis’ do not have an exact English translation, as they imply particular gender identities and expressions.

International Legal Framework

The right to equality before the law and the right to non-discrimination are protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in Articles 2 and 7; Article 2 of International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Articles 2 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); and Articles 1 and 24 of the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights (IACHR).

The right to the benefit of optimal physical and mental health is protected by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) (Article 12.1).

Article 26 of the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights compels signatory states “to adopt measures…with a view to achieving progressively…the full realization of the rights implicit in the economic, social, educational, scientific and culture standards set forth in the Charter of the Organization of American States Charter" (which essentially enforces the rights protected by the ICESCR).

The right to Freedom of Expression is protected by UDHR (Article 19), ICCPR (Article 18), and IACHR (Article 13).

The U.N. General Assembly, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment stipulates that: “…the Special Rapporteur has received information according to which members of sexual minorities have received inadequate medical treatment in public hospitals - even after having been victims of assault - on grounds of their gender identity.” U.N. Doc. A/56/156, 3 July 2001, Para. 22.

The Commission on Human Rights, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, stipulates that: “The legal prohibition of same-sex relations in many countries, in conjunction with a widespread lack of support or protection for sexual minorities against violence and discrimination, impedes the enjoyment of sexual and reproductive health by many people with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender identities or conduct.” U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/2004/49, 16 February 2004 (Section I, pp. 5-15), Para. 38.

The Commission on Human Rights, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, stipulates that: “Consistent with Toonen v. Australia and numerous other international and national decisions, [States] should ensure that sexual and other health services are available for men who have sex with men, lesbians, and transsexual and bisexual people.” U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/2004/49, 16 February 2004 (Section I, pp. 5-15), para. 39.

Article 75,22 of the Argentinean constitution establishes the primacy of international treaties ratified by the country over national legislation. Article 16 of the same constitution protects the right to equality before the law.

Argentina ratified ICCPR and ICESCR on August 8, 1986, and IACHR on September 5, 1984. The UDHR is considered part of customary international law, and binding on all member states of the United Nations.