As part of a collective process, in 2006 Global Rights, Mulabi – Latin American Space for Sexualities and Rights, and IGLHRC (International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission) started a joint effort to promote a higher level of participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transvestite, transsexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTTTI) activists within the Organization of American States (OAS) using as a catalyst the Draft Inter-American Convention Against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance, proposed by Brazil, that already includes the prohibition of discrimination based on "sexual orientation."
On May 31st and June 1st, more than 20 activists from 14 countries and representing 16 organizations met for a parallel event to the 37th Session of the General Assembly of the OAS, held in Panama on June 3-5, 2007. This seminar was made possible thanks to contributions by Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, UNAIDS, Central American Women's Fund and
Global Rights. During the seminar, we shared the realities we are facing in our countries, learned about the OAS and its different bodies, developed a working plan and strategies to be carried out in 2007-2008. It was a huge learning opportunity for all of us, particularly because we were a very diverse group in terms of age, race, gender identity and activist backgrounds, but very similar in our commitment and willingness to build up new spaces of common work.
We would like to highlight the key role played by the travesti, transgender, transsexual and intersex communities (about half of the activists taking part in the seminar were trans and intersex people) Another highlight was the participation of activists from the English-speaking Caribbean, and the successful and enriching interaction between Spanish and English-speaking activists. We also established alliances and interesting perspectives for common work with representatives of the Afro-descendants and feminist movements who have been working within the OAS for several years and from whose experiences we are learning.
Speakers for the parallel event included Mr. Aristides Royo (former President of Panama and Head of the Permanent Mission of Panama to the OAS), Carlos Quesada (Global Rights' Director of the Latin America Program), Dante Negro (Director of the International Law Office of the OAS), Jessica Grebeldinger (Specialist of the Secretariat of the Summits of the Americas), Julieta Montaño (feminist candidate Commissioner to the Interamerican Human Rights Commission) and Lorena Aparicio Robles (Alternate Representative of Panama at the OAS). They all shared with us their very valuable knowledge and experience at the OAS with useful suggestions on the work we can develop.
As far as our participation in the 37th Session of the General Assembly is concerned, there were three key moments:
- On June 2, trans activists Belissa Andia (Peru), Marcela Romero (Argentina), Natasha Jiménez (Costa Rica) and Silvia Martínez (Nicaragua) were accredited to attend the General Assembly with their names of choice and not with the names indicated in their passports. This is a landmark achievement for trans communities and their allies, as we believe it is the first time that this has happened in a major supranational body and sets an important precedent to keep the struggle for achieving the same recognition at the United Nations as well as on a national level.
- Also, on June 2, Andrés Rivera, a transsexual activist from Chile, addressed a comment during the Informal Meeting between the OAS Secretary General, Jose Miguel Insulza, and Civil Society Representatives. The Secretary General welcomed the LGBTTTI movement to the Inter-American system, expressed his personal commitment and that of the OAS with the fight against all forms of discrimination, and guaranteed that LGBTTTI organizations would not face any obstacle to participate at the OAS on an equal basis with other civil society actors.
- Finally, on June 3, during the Dialogue of Heads of Delegations With Civil Society Representatives, Andrés Rivera read a statement, which includes recommendations, to the applause of most delegations. Later on, the statement was circulated to all present delegations, in English and Spanish versions.In order to see the video of the speech (Original language Spanish), please go at http://www.oas.org/OASpage/videosondemand/show/video.asp?nCode=07-0143&nCodeDet=15
Also in the context of the General Assembly we were able to engage in a dialogue with the President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Mr. Florentin Melendez, who showed great interest in the Information we shared with him on different forms of discrimination and violence that we face in our countries.
We want to share this statement with our colleagues from around the world the joy we feel for these important accomplishments towards visibility and recognition of travesti, transsexual, transgender, intersex, bisexual, lesbian and gay human rights in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Members and allies of the LGBTTTI movement attending the 37th session of the General Assembly were:
- Alejandra Sardá (Mulabi, Argentina)
- Andrés Rivera (Organización de Transexuales por la Dignidad de la Diversidad, Chile)
- Angela Figueroa (independent activist, Puerto Rico/Panama)
- Belissa Andia (Instituto Runa - ILGALAC, Peru)
- Caleb Orozco (United Belize Advocacy Movement, Belize)
- Edmilson Medeiros (Grupo CORSA, Brazil)
- Evelyn Flores (Puntos de Encuentro, Nicaragua)
- Jermaine Grant (Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination SASOD, Guyana)
- Lorena Espinoza (Colectiva Mujer y Salud, Ecuador/Dominican Republic)
- Marcela Romero (Red LAC/Trans and Federación Argentina de Lesbianas, Gays, Bisexuales y Trans)
- Marcelo Ferreyra (IGLHRC, Argentina)
- Marina Bernal (Mulabi, Mexico)
- Marlene Vivas (Asociación Gay Lésbica Trans Intermunicipal de Nicaragua)
- Mirla Hernández (independent activist, Dominican Republic/Panama)
- Natasha Jiménez (Mulabi, Costa Rica)
- Ricardo Eloy Beteta (Asociación Hombres y Mujeres Nuevos, Panama)
- Silvia Martínez (Red LAC/Trans, Nicaragua)
- Stefano Fabeni (Global Rights, Italy/USA)
- Tatiana Cordero (Taller Comunicación Mujer, Ecuador)
- A representative from Jamaica AIDS Support for Life whose name we are not circulating at this time for safety reasons
Sandra Montealegre (Mesa Joven de la Diversidad Sexual, Colombia)
Published on June 14, 2007 | OutRight Action International an LGBT human rights organization