The Organization of Transexuals for the Dignity of Diversity (OTD), participated in the 53rd session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), on 2 October in Geneva, Switzerland where it informed the Committee of Chile's progress on gender equality and the implementation by the State to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Chile was represented by the Minister of the National Service for Women (SERNAM), Carolina Schmidt. Other civil society organizations in Chile also presented shadow reports or alternative reports on implementation of the Convention and the status of women in Chile.
It is in this instance that OTD together with the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) presented a shadow report on human rights violations and the situation faced by lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Chile. The report was, in the words of several Commissioners, recognized for its excellence, case presentation, as well as clarity and information delivering strong support.
IGLHRC, represented by its Executive Director Jessica Stern, and OTD, represented by its Director Andrés Rivera, were very satisfied with the work done prior to the session, as well as the CEDAW session. For the first time the Committee asked the Chilean State about the situation of lesbian, bisexual and transgender, in areas such as education, housing, health and work. The Committee also urged the Chilean State to subscribe to the Yogayakarta Principles, to incorporate programs for trans women in SERNAM and total inclusion of trans people, not discrimination with respect to personal decisions. The Committee even urged for a Gender Identity Bill in Chile, which meets the standards of respect and human rights. Stern and Rivera also directed the members of the Committee to ask the Chilean government about the case of Karen Atala, a lesbian judge from whom the Supreme Court of Chile discriminatorily removed custody of her daughters because of her sexual orientation. An Expert Committee asked the Minister of SERNAM "Does being a lesbian mean being less of a mother?" To which the minister replied that sexual orientation or gender identity, should not be grounds for any discrimination or prejudice.
One of the most controversial questions brought was made by the Expert Committee Ms. Murillo to the Minister of SERNAM on Article 373 of the Penal Code which refers to the "morality and decency" law, which is used for the detention of transsexual women, because of the way they dress and their gender expression, the expert requested clarification of the applicability of the article and request removal of it. The Minister asked the legal expert Ms. Andrea Barros Iverson to answer this question and which says:
"One must see it in context. It is necessary to understand transcendence. There have been accusations of using the article to stop violating rights and LBTI people, but its repeal does not seem appropriate because most of the convictions have been effective against sexual abuse, pedophiles, exhibitionists that go naked outside schools. In these cases we have used this law. It is true that establishing protocols is necessary, as well as better training for its application; we are in the process of doing that."
This elicited an immediate reaction from Rivera, who at the end of the first part of the session, spoke with Attorney Barros, "making her realize how her opinion was discriminatory, biased, misleading, and lacked knowledge on Article 373 of the Criminal Code's implementation in Chile, and how this article is used against transgender people and those engaged in commercial sex." Rivera indicated that under this article, our trans colleagues are arrested and in police stations, harassed, humiliated, and even forced to perform oral sex on police officers. The lawyer Barros stated "there are almost no cases of abuse or detention of trans women, at least no complaints, so the situation is not the root of the problem." Rivera says that each case is a human being, a life, a dignity that must be respected, you need to know the reality of the streets and the situation of extreme vulnerability to which trans people are exposed. Her lack of judgment is abysmal, the organization cannot go to the street and say "SERNAM is thinking about what to do, and they are not important for SERNAM," because while you are thinking, blood is still spilling and attacks continue; while you are thinking, the long list of abuses and discrimination gets longer. In this moment of the discussion, the Ms. Marcia Raimann, General Carabinero member of the official delegation from the Chilean government said "there are procedures for detention that police apply properly." Rivera invited them both to go out at night on the street with no uniform, no credentials, no titles and watch the police act, and maybe then they'll understand the importance of removing the article and learn respect. The General accepted the invitation and agreed that upon returning to Chile he would sit and talk about this sensitive topic. The lawyer, with an attitude Rivera considered to be "haughty and arrogant," did not issue any comment.
No doubt this CEDAW session marked a concrete "before" and "after" in reality and visibility of lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. As they demanded their rights, they stopped being "those other women", or "those women". OTD's commitment is to continue denouncing all the violations to which women are subjected, without exception.
This is a translation of a post that originally appeared on the website of OTD – Organization of Transexuals for the Dignity of Diversity in Chile. Translation provided by IGLHRC.
Published on October 31, 2012 | OutRight Action International an LGBT human rights organization