Honduras: Support Legal Registration for Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Organization

SUMMARY

After 15 years of struggle, on August 28, 2004, the Honduran government finally granted legal recognition to three gay, lesbian and transgender associations. While human rights and sexual rights organizations worldwide have congratulated the Honduran government, other groups have reacted with condemnation.

A small group of religious institutions and politicians have now launched a campaign against the government's action, calling the recognition as against public order and suggesting that homosexuality is not part of Honduran national identity. The result of the campaign is that the Minister of Government was required to provide an explanation to the Parliament about the change in registration requirements.

Gay, lesbian and transgender organizations in Honduras are asking for letters of support that will show the widespread support for the government's decision, and, indeed, to affirm that the government has acted to uphold human rights and justice.

ACTION

IGLHRC joins Comunidad Gay Sampedrana and GLAAD in asking for letters to be sent to the Honduran authorities.

Please write TODAY to

Dr. Ramon Hernandez Alcerro
Ministro de Gobernacion y Justicia (Minister of Government and Justice)
Email: jhernandez@gobernacion.gob.hn
Fax: (504) 232-02-26
Lic. Elias Lizardo
Ministro de Salud (Minister of Health)
Email: elizardo@secsalud.hn
Licda. Rocio Tabora
Vice Ministra de la Presidencia (Deputy Minister of Presidency)
Email: rtabora@presidencia.gob.hn
Leonidas Rosa Bautista
Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores (Foreign Affairs Minister)
Email: lrosa@sre.hn
Fax: (504) 234-19-22 ó 234-14-84
Lic. Sergio Zavala Leiva
Procurador General de la Republica (Attorney General)
Email: procurador@pgr.gob.hn
Fax: (504) 235-61-00
Dr. Ramon Custodio Lopez
Comisionado Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (Ombudsman)
Email: custodiolopez@conadeh.hn
Lic. Porfirio Lobo Sosa
Presidente del Congreso de Honduras (President of the Honduran Parliament)
Email: opinion@congreso.hn

And please send a copy to:

Comunidad Gay Sampedrana
comunidadgay@sulanet.net

MODEL LETTER

You will find below a model letter in Spanish and its translation in English. In order to make communication with Honduran authorities easier, we suggest you send the version in Spanish. You can also send a letter of your own writing, in any language that you prefer.

English version

Dear Sir (or Madam):

We write to express our support for the Honduran government's decision to grant legal registration to three associations working with the gay, lesbian and transgender communities in the country – Comunidad Gay Sampedrana para la Salud Integral, Kukulcan and Colectivo Violeta.

Legal recognition is a means by which gay, lesbian and transgender organizations, like other segments of civil society, can acquire and own property, pay salaries, and take part in legal disputes. It also gives such organizations (and their constituencies) a place and face in society as a whole; it gives their membership the power to enjoy their full status as citizens, their full belonging in their communities.

Justice must be blind to prejudice, influence, and fear. It must not be blind to the lives and reality of the human beings it serves. Gays, lesbians and transgender people exist. So do their rights, as clearly and unequivocally as the rights of any other citizens or human beings. In order to combat discrimination, provide essential services, and engage in critical public education, gays, lesbians and transgender people need to be able to organize in their own interest and defence.

Gay, lesbian and transgender organizations in Honduras have already engaged in important human rights and social service work. Their work is aimed at public education, community awareness, and the attainment of full citizenship for transgender people, lesbians and gays in Honduras. To read such goals as contrary to "moral and good habits" –like some sectors of public opinion are doing right now in the country- is a dangerous and boldly discriminatory interpretation of the law.

The right to freedom of association for "ideological ... social, cultural...... or other purposes", is recognized by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 22) and by the American Convention on Human Rights (Article 16). Both covenants permit, in the enjoyment of this right, "only such restrictions established by law as may be necessary in a democratic society, in the interest of national security, public safety or public order, or to protect public health or morals or the rights and freedom of others". Associations working against discrimination enhance rather than threaten the nationalinterest. They contribute to a debate by which the moral standards of any society can only grow; they promote core democratic values such as respect for diversity and dialogue. Hopefully, through open dialogue and public education, those who oppose the legal recognition of gay, lesbian and transgender organizations today, will come to accept that coexisting respectfully with diversity is an essential component of life in a democratic society.

In three previous cases that took place in Latin America (Argentina, 1992; Costa Rica, 1995; Panama, 2000), following an initial denial, governments finally granted legal recognition to lesbian and gay organizations, understanding that they fulfil socially useful goals. Such measures had no negative consequences: rather, they promoted the organizations' and their members' full integration into civil society. In most other countries across the region there are no obstacles to these organizations' legal recognition and the work they do has earned them the respect of the national community.

We congratulate you on this initiative and look forward to seeing the Honduran government working together with gay, lesbian and transgender organizations to educate the general public in accepting and celebrating diversity.

Sincerely yours,

(Name, address, organization)


Spanish version

Estimado señor (o señora):

Le escribimos para expresar nuestro apoyo a la decisión del gobierno de Honduras de otorgar el reconocimiento legal a tres organizaciones que trabajan con la comunidad gay, lesbiana y transgénero en el país: Comunidad
Gay Sampedrana para la Salud Integral, Kukulcan y Colectivo Violeta.

Dicho reconocimiento legal le permite a las organizaciones de gays, lesbianas y transgéneros –así como a otros sectores de la sociedad civil- adquirir y poseer propiedades, pagar salarios e intervenir en disputas legales. También les da a dichas organizaciones (y a las comunidades a las que ellas sirven) un lugar y un rostro en la sociedad como un todo; permite que esas comunidades puedan disfrutar de un estatus de ciudadanía pleno, de una sensación completa de pertenencia a su país.

La justicia debe ser ciega ante el prejuicio, las influencias y el miedo. Pero no debe ser ciega a las vidas y a realidades de los seres humanos a los que sirve. Los gays, las lesbianas y las personas transgénero existen. Y también existen sus derechos, de manera tan clara e inequívoca como los de cualquier otra ciudadana, ciudadano o persona en general. Los gays, las lesbianas y las personas transgénero necesitan y exigen organizarse para atender a sus intereses y defenderlos.

Las organizaciones gays, lésbicas y transgénero de Honduras han dejado bien claro a través de sus estatutos que su trabajo apunta a la educación del público, a la concientización de sus propias comunidades y al logro de la ciudadanía plena para las personas transgénero, las lesbianas y los gays en Honduras. Leer esos objetivos como contrarios a la "moral y las buenas costumbres" –como están haciendo algunos sectores de la opinión pública en le país- es una interpretación peligrosa.

El derecho a la libertad de asociación "con fines ideológicos ... sociales, culturales ... o de cualquiera otra índole" lo reconocen el Pacto Internacional de Derechos Civiles y Políticos (Artículo 22) y la Convención Americana de Derechos Humanos (Artículo 16). Ambos tratados permiten, para el ejercicio de este derecho sólo las "restricciones previstas por la ley que sean necesarias en una sociedad democrática, en interés de la seguridad nacional, de la seguridad o el orden públicos, o para proteger la salud o la moral públicas o los derechos y libertades de los demás". Las organizaciones que trabajan contra la discriminación no son una amenaza para los intereses mencionados en los tratados, sino todo lo contrario: contribuyen a protegerlos. Aportan a un debate por el que los estándares morales de cualquier sociedad no pueden sino elevarse; promueven valores fundamentales de la democracia como el respeto a la diversidad y el diálogo. Esperamos que mediante el diálogo abierto y la educación, quienes ahora se oponen al reconocimiento legal de las organizaciones de lesbianas, gays y transgéneros, llegarán a aceptar que coexistir de manera respetuosa con la diversidad es un componente esencial de la vida en democracia.

En tres oportunidades anteriores en América Latina (Argentina, 1992; Costa Rica, 1995; Panamá, 2000), luego de una negativa inicial, los gobiernos finalmente otorgaron el reconocimiento legal a organizaciones de lesbianas y gays, comprendiendo que las mismas tenían objetivos útiles para la sociedad. Ninguno de esos reconocimientos tuvo consecuencias negativas. Por el contrario, promovieron la plena integración a la sociedad de las organizaciones y sus integrantes. En la mayoría de los países de la región, no existen obstáculos para el reconocimiento legal de esta clase de organizaciones y el trabajo que ellas hacen les ha ganado el respeto de la comunidad en general.

Reciba usted nuestras felicitaciones por esta iniciativa y esperamos ver al gobierno hondureño trabajando en conjunto con las organizaciones de lesbianas, gays y transgéneros para educar al público en general en la aceptación y la celebración de la diversidad.

Un saludo respetuoso,

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Ramon Hernandez Alcerro, minister of Government and Justice, was called to the Parliament to explain why he granted legal recognition to three gay organizations. MP Ramon Villeda Bermudez submitted the request on the ground that those organizations were against the law, public order and good customs. Villeda Bermudez also expressed suspicious about the participation of "international organisms" at the public event in which legal recognition was granted to the gay groups.

Mr. Hernandez Alcerro defended the government’s initiative by saying that legal recognition was granted to the groups in order to allow them to work against AIDS, and also in recognition to rights protected by the Interamerican Human Rights Convention (i.e. the right to freedom of association).

On Monday, September 13, catholic organizations demonstrated in Tegucigalpa against the granting of legal recognition to gay groups.

INTERNATIONAL AND DOMESTIC LAW

Right to non-discrimination and to equality before the law: Article 2 and 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Article 2 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Article 2 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; Article 1 and 24 of the Interamerican Human Rights Convention as well as Article 16 of the Argentinean Constitution.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee affirmed in its decision in Toonen v Australia (1994) that existing protections against discrimination in Articles 2 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) should be understood to include sexual orientation as a protected status. Numerous other human rights mechanisms of the United Nations have subsequently condemned discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Right to freedom of association is protected by the UDHR (Article 20), ICCPR (Article 22) and IAHRC (Article 16).

The UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (G.A. res.53/144, U.N. Doc. U.N. Doc. A/RES/53/144 - 1999) affirms:

  • For the purpose of promoting and protection human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels:
    (b) To form, join and participate in non-governmental organizations, associations or groups (Article 5)
  • Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to develop and discuss new human rights ideas and principles and to advocate their acceptance (underlined ours)

Honduras ratified the ICCPR in 1966 and the IAHRC in 1977. The UDHR is considered part of customary international law, and binding on all member States of the United Nations, like Honduras.

The Hondurean Constitution recognizes the prevalence of all international treaties ratified by the country (Article 18). It also recognizes the right to equality before the law (Article 60), declares discrimination on the basis of "sex, race, class and any other damaging to human dignity" punishable by law (Article 60) and affirms the right to freedom of association (Article 78).