Peru's New Political Climate Prompts Change for LGBT Rights

The day after the Orlando shootings, the current Peruvian President, Mr. Ollanta Humala, tweeted his support to the US by expressing condolences and solidarity to President Obama and the American people and mentioning that these events should unite both countries in the fight against terrorism and hatred.

Although these statements were surely well intentioned, it is necessary for country leaders to make visible and recognize that these attacks were specifically directed against the LGBTIQ community. Omitting the mention of the targeted group has significance; it chooses to make visible only part of the problem while avoiding any mention to the violence that affects the LGBTIQ community. It also indirectly prevents any discussion about local instances of similar violence. The Orlando shooting highlights the all too common occurrence of violence perpetrated against the LGBTIQ  community in the US and around the world; and not discussing its causes and implications is detrimental to solving related issues in international and domestic spheres.

In a display of international solidarity, the Peruvian Congress also held a moment of silence for the victims of the Orlando shootings last Tuesday.

In response, social media users and various local blogs were quick to react and rightly point out that this show of solidarity was hypocritical and contrary to the sentiments the Congress had expressed in the past towards this community. They also mentioned that these are the same individuals who in 2013 voted against a draft bill that expressly included sexual orientation and gender identity as aggravating categories for discriminatory actions and hate crimes; and the same Congress whose Commission of Justice and Human Rights’ members rejected the proposals for legalization of same-sex civil unions in 2015 using “arguments” such as these:

“Even though we respect any homosexual as a person, we cannot accept homosexuality, they are two different things (...) this practice is not acceptable in the Bible” (Julio Rosas, Congress member of the Fuerza Popular party)

“… for me, the fact that two people of the same sex could have a conjugal visit is an aberrant situation, and that’s just how it is...” (Martin Rivas, Congress member of the Peruvian Nationalist Party)

“If we’re basing this on happiness, couldn’t there be polygamy, marriage between a child and an adult, are we going to think that based on happiness I can marry my son?” (Martha Chavez, Congress member of the Fuerza Popular party)

It makes one wonder - Does it take a tragedy of the calibre such as Orlando for these lawmakers to understand the impact of their words and how they perpetuate and justify attacks against the LGBTIQ community? One would hope not.

The Center of Promotion and Defense of Sexual and Reproductive Rights (Promsex) and the Peruvian TLGB Network recently published statistics about violence and homicides committed against the LGBTIQ community in Peru. Their Annual reports show that 99 people have been murdered since 2008 and 191 people have been assaulted and/or have had their security compromised during that same period. The 2014 report “Estado de Violencia: Diagnóstico de la situación de personas LGBTIQ en Lima Metropolitana” (State of Violence: Assessment of the situation of LGBTIQ people in Metropolitan Lima), which surveyed members of the LGBTIQ community in the capital city of Lima, showed –among other worrisome results– that 88.1% of those affected by violence did not report the instances to the authorities, that 35.4% of the instances were perpetrated by their own family members, and that trans women were 3 times more likely to experience attempted homicide compared to the rest of the LGBTIQ population.

Violence against the LGBTIQ community happens every day, and it is necessary to have a legal framework that recognizes the vulnerabilities of this group and adequately prosecutes those who act against their safety.

As we stand in solidarity and mourn the lives lost, it is important to understand that laws and policies – or lack thereof – that perpetuate discrimination only reinforce existing inequalities and leave the community unprotected; and that not talking about the characteristics of the targeted group is a way of erasing the causes (and possible solutions) to these issues.

Fortunately, Peru is about to enter into a new presidential and congressional five-year period in July 2016, and has the opportunity to address these systemic causes from a national legal framework and policy perspective. The elected Party’s Government Plan includes some proposals to work in favor of the LGBTIQ community and last Saturday, during the Pride March in Lima, the elected second Vice President marched alongside a few politicians and elected congressmen,

while the next day, the newly elected President tweeted his support to the LGBTIQ community.

Political will is necessary for the implementation of any policy or legislative changes, and statements like these are important steps in shaping the elected government’s public stance on LGBTIQ rights. However, there won’t be any enduring positive impact unless they are accompanied by actual legislative and policy change; we have to keep in mind that negative societal attitudes persist, and that the majority of Congress seats are held by a right-wing political party that has not been in favor of these initiatives in the past, and that is unlikely to change their stance on LGBTIQ rights.

Various LGBTIQ and human rights organizations have stated that the government needs to address the instances of violence and discrimination faced by the LGBTIQ community; include sexual orientation and gender identity as discrimination categories under the national Penal Code; approve a Gender Identity Law; include the LGBTIQ population in the National Human Rights Plan; legalize same-sex unions; among other pressing issues that have been overlooked by current and previous legislators and state officials.   

For the government to truly stand by their show of solidarity for those lost in Orlando; to be consistent with their statements during the Peruvian Pride March; and to truly shift the tide in the right direction, they will have to go further than simply making statements and make the required efforts to ensure that equal rights for the LGBTIQ community is a reality, not another forgotten election promise.

Sources for this article:

For more information on the situation of the LGBTIQ community in Peru, please refer to: