Colombia: Discrimination Against Same-Sex Love

First Ever Petition Before the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights

For Immediate Release: September 30, 1999

WASHINGTON - On Friday, October 1, 1999, the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights (ICHR) will hear the petition of Marta Lucia Alvarez Giraldo. This case is the first case based on discrimination of sexual orientation to be heard by ICHR. Alvarez Giraldo is seeking redress against the Republic of Colombia for violation of her human rights as stipulated in the American Convention on Human Rights. Alvarez Giraldo, who is a lesbian, is arguing that her personal dignity, integrity, and equality are being infringed upon by the refusal of Colombian prison authorities to allow her the right to conjugal visits based on her sexual orientation. Colombian law states that conjugal visits are a right for its citizens but is attempting to deny this right to same-sex couples.

Alvarez Giraldo is still in prison in Colombia and is fighting this battle from behind bars. She is represented by attorney Marta Lucía Tamayo who has been handling this case for four years.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is a co-petitioner with Alvarez Giraldo. "IGLHRC is making our staff and resources available to this important petition to ensure a fair hearing and a just decision" said Sydney Levy, IGLHRC’s Campaign Director who will present arguments at the case. "The sexual orientation of Alvarez Giraldo should not be an issue here. Colombia extends conjugal visitation rights to its citizens and it should do so without discrimination" Levy continued. The Center for Justice and International Law is another co-petitioner in the case.

"There are no provisions in the Colombian legislation which prohibits conjugal visits based on sexual orientation" said Levy. "Prison authorities are engaging in illegal and discriminatory practices which are in flagrant disregard of international human rights agreements" Levy continued. "This practice must be stopped." Alvarez Giraldo and IGLHRC agree that this discriminatory practice must be stopped throughout Colombia and the Americas.

"This case highlights the fact that governments throughout the Americas consistently attempt to deny our relationships and our basic right to love. We know that the Commission’s process takes a long time but we are hopeful that they will see the crucial nature of this case and decide in favor of equality and non-discrimination" said IGLHRC Executive Director Julie Dorf.

Colombia admits that it is refusing conjugal visits to Alvarez Giraldo and acknowledged that they are treating her in a inhumane and discriminatory manner. However, Colombian officials reiterated its claims that they can refuse same-sex conjugal visits based on prison security, discipline, and morality and alleged intolerance of homosexuality in Latin American cultures.