Thursday, January 24, 2013

Gay rights sweeping Across the Americas

A gay rights revolution is sweeping across the Americas. It's time for Washington to catch up.

BY J. LESTER FEDER | JANUARY 24, 2013

In his second inaugural address, U.S. President Barack Obama pledged to make the United States a beacon for the world by recommitting the country to its ideals of equality. He also made history by saying those ideals demand marriage rights for same-sex couples just as they have demanded equal citizenship for women and African Americans.
But even if the Supreme Court or lawmakers soon agree with Obama's words -- "for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well" -- the United States will be a latecomer to advancing marriage rights. The world's leaders on this issue are not just from places Americans might expect -- Western Europe or Canada -- but many countries in our own hemisphere; places not usually known for progressivism on social issues. While Obama was undergoing his "evolution" on marriage rights, there has been a gay rights revolution that has stretched from Tierra del Fuego to the Rio Grande.
One dramatic illustration: When a broad coalition of human-rights activists brought a gay rights charter to the United Nations in 2007, the push was led not by the likes of Sweden or the Netherlands, but by Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. Same-sex marriage was not legal in any of these countries then, but a lot has changed in the years since.
In 2010, Argentina's congress approved an "Equal Marriage" law, the same year same-sex marriage also became legal in Mexico City. A year later, Brazil's supreme court ruled same-sex couples were entitled to partnership rights through a kind of domestic partnership status, and some states -- including the largest, São Paulo -- are now performing full marriages for same-sex couples. The lower house of Uruguay's legislature voted in December 2012 to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, and its senate is widely expected to pass the law when it votes in April.
There were also several LGBT rights victories on issues beyond marriage. Though Bolivia's 2009 constitution bans same-sex marriage, it also bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Chile, one of South America's most conservative countries, passed a non-discrimination bill in 2012 and elected its first openly gay politician. And the government of Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner built on its passage of the marriage law to enact the world's broadest legal protections for transgender people last year.
This is not to say that all of Latin America is a gay-rights paradise. Laws throughout Central America, where there is an especially strong evangelical movement, remain particularly hostile, as they do in Peru, where the mayor of Lima is currently facing a recall in part because of her attempts to pass an ordinance banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. And many gay people remain closeted or face serious threats of hate crimes even in countries where the laws are very progressive -- in many places, the right to be safe is far more important than the right to marry.
But the rapid advance of same-sex partnership rights is striking, especially considering that it was only a few years ago that these governments were fighting with the Catholic Church to legalize divorce.
The specific reasons these gains have been possible differ in each country. But a major factor in all of them is that LGBT activists have managed to link their cause to broader efforts to shore up human-rights protections in countries still coping with the legacies of anti-democratic regimes that fell in the late 20th century. Additionally, the courts have embraced their role as defenders of human rights and measure themselves against international standards.
Take the case of Colombia. In 2011, the Constitutional Court ruled that same-sex couples must be considered a "family" under the law. It ordered the congress to pass a law equalizing the rights of same-sex couples within two years. As a backstop against congressional inaction, the ruling also said that notaries and judges could automatically begin solemnizing same-sex unions by June 20, 2013, with or without Congress's blessing.
This ruling was not perfect in the eyes of Colombian LGBT advocates -- the court stopped short of saying these protections must be called "marriage," leaving that up to the legislature to decide. But it spelled out that fundamental legal protections are at stake and put momentum on the side of marriage advocates.
Colombian law demands this level of protection be extended to same-sex couples, the court wrote in its decision, to protect gays and lesbians' fundamental rights "to personal development, autonomy and self-determination, [and] equality."
The ruling came despite strong pressure from the Catholic Church, which is continuing to lobby against same-sex marriage in the Colombian congress. A bill to legalize same-sex marriage cleared a preliminary vote in the Senate in December, but even the bill's sponsor, Senator Armando Benedetti, is pessimistic about its chances in the house of representatives.
 "In the House we confront a problem," Benedetti told me in a November interview in his Bogotá office. "That is the [influence of] the Catholic religion, which always puts its principles above the rights of minorities."
That's why the court is so important, he continued, expressing confidence that the court would clarify its support for same-sex marriages once they begin being performed in June of 2013. "The Constitutional Court, if we're going to speak very seriously, has always been in favor of the disadvantaged, of minorities, of the poor," said Benedetti.
Latin America's marriage movement has been helped by the fact that most countries' courts take international jurisprudence far more seriously than do courts in the United States. Human rights law takes an especially international perspective, since almost every country in Latin America is under the jurisdiction of two human rights bodies within the Organization of American States, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, charged with investigating violations of the American Convention on Human Rights, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which adjudicates violations on the recommendation of the Commission. Though the United States, Canada, and a handful of Caribbean nations do not recognize the court's jurisdiction, most of Latin America does.
LGBT rights have been a special priority for the Inter-American Commission since 2011, when it established a special unit dedicated to LGBT rights. Around 50 complaints of violations of these rights are now pending before the commission, according to Victor Madrigal-Borloz, who leads the team responsible for reviewing claims of human rights violations and is the chief technical advisor to the LGBT rights unit. Once the commission begins advancing these cases through the legal process, we could see the pace of change in Latin America accelerate even further.
That could be especially true on marriage rights. Three Chilean couples filed a complaint with the commission in September 2012 after losing a legal battle for recognition in their country's courts. Activists in Costa Rica have also announced their intention to seek help from tribunal after a domestic partnership law died in the country's legislature late last year. A Paraguayan couple who married in Argentina also plan to take their battle for recognition to the Inter-American Court. If these petitions are successful, it could potentially mean the undoing of marriage bans in even the most conservative countries in Latin America. But the court is already proving to be a force for marriage rights even before formally taking up the question.
It handed down its first LGBT rights decision in February 2012 in a case known as Karen Atala y Niñas v. Chile. The case was brought by a lesbian mother who lost custody of her children to her ex-husband because of her sexual orientation. The court's ruling was sweeping, saying for the first time that the American Convention on Human Rights "prohibits ... any rule, act, or discriminatory practice based on sexual orientation."
The significance for marriage rights was tested almost immediately in Mexico. Most Mexican states still refuse to perform same-sex marriages, even though they have been legal in Mexico City since 2010 and the country's supreme court has ruled that these marriages are valid nationwide. Three Oaxacan couples had filed a long-shot challenge to their state's ban on same-sex marriages shortly before the Atala decision was handed down, represented by a law student named Alex Alí Méndez Díaz. As their case headed to Mexico's supreme court, the Atala decision provided an additional powerful precedent on which to make their case.
On Dec. 5, Mexico's high court sided with the three couples and said that marriage could not be restricted to heterosexual couples. Technicalities of Mexico's legal system mean that more lawsuits are still required before same-sex couples can easily marry in every state, but this ruling means that it will soon be possible.
This year, the U.S. Supreme Court is weighing exactly the same questions that Mexico's court has already resolved. But the U.S. justice system is fiercely resistant to considering legal decisions from abroad.
When the justices take up the gay marriage cases in March, there will be more at stake than the status of American gay and lesbian couples. They will be deciding whether the United States will fall behind as its neighbors establish a new standard of human rights, or whether it will join a revolution that is well underway.
 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Manifesting Inconsistency in Marriage equality

Monday, January 21, 2013


Manifesting Inconsistency in Marriage Equality Rights
1:01 PM ET


JURIST Guest Columnist Allison Jernow of the International Commission of Jurists argues that recent court decisions reflect inconsistency in weighing marriage equality and religious freedom...



Claims that same-sex marriage is on a collision course with religious freedom have dominated the headlines (The New York Times and The Washington Post) in the US, especially with recent ballot-box victories in Maryland, Maine and Washington, as well as the US Supreme Court's grant of certiorari in Hollingsworth v. Perry. Equal marriage legislation in the US always include exemptions for religious leaders in the performance or solemnization of same-sex marriages and, in some cases, in the provision of accommodations or services related to the solemnization of such marriages. In some states the very title of the legislation or proposed legislation [PDF] reflects the presumed conflict of rights. In the UK, recently proposed legislation would actually prohibit the Church of England and the Church in Wales from performing same-sex marriages. This is clearly a sensitive question for marriage equality and religious freedom advocates. The applicability of exemptions for religiously motivated individuals extends far beyond whether clergy must marry same-sex couples. Courts in a variety of countries, including Canada, the US, the UK and Australia have heard cases concerning whether services, facilities and accommodations generally available to the public may be refused to same-sex couples or gay and lesbian individuals on religious grounds. In other words, does sincere religious conviction exempt one from non-discrimination laws?
Now the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has weighed in on the debate about the intersection of religious freedom and equality with its judgment in Eweida and Others v. United Kingdom [PDF], issued on January 15. The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) guarantees the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion — including the right to manifest one's religion in public or in private, under Article 9. Manifestation is broadly defined as "worship, teaching, practice and observance." It has been held to include wearing headscarves, reading sacred texts, observing dietary restrictions and proselytizing. The right to manifest one's religion, however, may be limited, provided that the limitation is prescribed by law, necessary in a democratic society and for the purpose of one or more or the aims set out in Article 9(2). One of those aims is "the protection of the rights and freedoms of others." Unfortunately, those looking for guidance on how to balance potentially competing rights claims may well be disappointed.
Eweida — which consolidated applications from four British nationals claiming that their rights to freedom of religion and to be free from discrimination had been violated — concerned two different types of restrictions on religious freedom. In the first pair of joined applications, Eweida & Chaplin, the issue was whether employers could prevent their employees from wearing crosses at work. The court found a violation in the case of Eweida, where the employer's asserted rationale of projecting a certain corporate image was not a sufficient justification, but none in the case of Chaplin, where the purpose of the restriction was the health and safety of hospital staff and patients.
The second pair of cases, Ladele & McFarlane, directly addressed the religious freedom-sexual orientation discrimination conflict. Lillian Ladele and Gary McFarlane claimed that they had been unfairly treated by their employers for refusing to provide services to same-sex couples. Ladele was a marriage registrar with the London Borough of Islington who refused to conduct same-sex civil partnerships, in violation of Islington's equality and diversity policy. She believed that same-sex unions were "contrary to God's will." McFarlane was a relationship counselor employed by a private counseling service who did not wish to counsel same-sex couples on psycho-sexual issues because of his "adherence to Judeo-Christian sexual morality." Both were disciplined by their employers. Ladele ultimately resigned and McFarlane was dismissed.
The court held, unanimously in the case of McFarlane and by a vote of 5-2 in the case of Ladele, that there had been no violation of the right to manifest one's religion or, specifically in the case of Ladele, the right to be free from discrimination on religious grounds. The objective of protecting same-sex couples from discrimination was a legitimate and important one.
So far so good. The court could hardly have done less, given its earlier judgments in sexual orientation cases. In a series of decisions, the court has emphasized that the non-discrimination guarantee of the ECHR includes sexual orientation, that differences on the basis of sexual orientation require "particularly serious reasons by way of justification," and that same-sex couples have the same need for legal recognition and protection as opposite-sex couples. Nevertheless the court missed a significant opportunity to clarify the interaction of these rights. In at least three areas it may have actually weakened the hand of equality advocates.
First, the court rejected the argument, which had been articulated earlier by the ECtHR in a series of admissibility decisions (Konttinen v. Finland and Stedman v. United Kingdom), that the possibility of resigning from one's job meant that there was no interference with the employee's religious freedom. The court instead concluded, "rather than holding that the possibility of changing job would negate any interference with the right, the better approach would be to weigh that possibility in the overall balance when considering whether or not the restriction was proportionate."
Second, the court relied heavily on the margin of appreciation doctrine. Since competing ECHR rights were at stake, the court afforded the UK "a wide margin of appreciation" in determining where to strike a fair balance. Under this standard, the UK authorities had not "exceeded the margin of appreciation available to them." What this might mean in a future case where a same-sex couple alleges discrimination by a service provider claiming a religious exemption is unclear. Moreover, the application of a very deferential margin of appreciation was unnecessary, given the court found that any interference was in pursuit of a legitimate aim, necessary and proportional. By granting extremely wide latitude to states, the court left open the possibility that refusals by religiously motivated individuals to provide services to potential clients or customers because of their sexual orientation do not violate the ECHR.
Finally, and perhaps most disappointingly, the court accepted at face value the assertion that the refusal to offer same-sex couples publicly available services (whether civil partnership ceremonies or relationship counseling) was, in fact, a manifestation of belief. The UK had maintained that these acts did not amount to manifestation, referring to Strasbourg jurisprudence holding that Article 9 did not "always guarantee the right to behave in the public sphere in a way which is dictated by" religion or belief and that the "term 'practice' in Article 9 does not cover each act which is motivated or influenced by a religion or belief," (Porter v. United Kingdom; Skugar and Others v. Russia).
In a case that would seem to be directly on point — and was cited by the Court of Appeal in its Ladele decision — the ECtHR found [French] inadmissible the application of two French pharmacists who had refused, for religious reasons, to fill prescriptions for contraceptives. Indeed, in Pichon & Sajous the court stated:
As long as the sale of contraceptives is legal and occurs on medical prescription nowhere other than in a pharmacy, the applicants cannot give precedence to their religious beliefs and impose them on others as justification for their refusal to sell such products, since they can manifest those beliefs in many ways outside the professional sphere.
The refusal of pharmacists to sell contraceptives was described by the court as recently as 2009 as an example of acts which "were not recognized as a direct expression of the applicants' beliefs protected under Article 9 of the Convention." Nowhere in the Eweida judgment does the court explain why the reasoning of Pichon & Sajous does not apply to the actions of Ladele and McFarlane. There will continue to be cases, within Council of Europe member states and elsewhere, addressing claimed conflicts between religiously motivated individuals and general non-discrimination laws. Eweida and Others tells us only that a state may interfere with a manifestation of belief in the interest of equality, but it does not tell us that a state must do so.
Alli Jernow is the Senior Legal Advisor for the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Project of the International Commission of Jurists. The ICJ, together with ILGA-Europe and Fédération Internationale des ligues des Droits de l'Homme submitted a joint third-party intervention in Eweida and Others.
Suggested citation: Alli Jernow, Manifesting Inconsistency in Marriage Equality Rights, JURIST - Hotline, Jan. 21, 2013, http://jurist.org/hotline/2013/01/alli-jernow-ladele-uk.php

This article was prepared for publication by John Paul Regan, an assistant editor with JURIST's professional commentary service. Please direct any questions or comments to him/her at professionalcommentary@jurist.org


Opinions expressed in JURIST's Hotline are the sole responsibility of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, or the University of Pittsburgh. source:http://jurist.org/hotline/2013/01/alli-jernow-ladele-uk.php

     

Monday, January 21, 2013

Vactican position on Sexual Oreintation& Gender identity (2008)

STATEMENT OF THE HOLY SEE DELEGATION
AT THE 63rd SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
OF THE UNITED NATIONS ON THE DECLARATION
ON HUMAN RIGHTS, SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND GENDER IDENTITY
(18 DECEMBER 2008)

The Holy See appreciates the attempts made in the statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity –presented at the UN General Assembly on 18 December 2008- to condemn all forms of violence against homosexual persons as well as urge States to take necessary measures to put an end to all criminal penalties against them.
At the same time, the Holy See notes that the wording of this statement goes well beyond the abovementioned and shared intent.
In particular, the categories ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’, used in the text, find no recognition or clear and agreed definition in international law. If they had to be taken into consideration in the proclaiming and implementing of fundamental rights, these would create serious uncertainty in the law as well as undermine the ability of States to enter into and enforce new and existing human rights conventions and standards.
Despite the statement’s rightful condemnation of and protection from all forms of violence against homosexual persons, the document, when considered in its entirety, goes beyond this goal and instead gives rise to uncertainty in the law and challenges existing human rights norms.
The Holy See continues to advocate that every sign of unjust discrimination towards homosexual persons should be avoided and urges States to do away with criminal penalties against them. 

Source:http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/secretariat_state/2008/documents/rc_seg-st_20081218_statement-sexual-orientation_en.html

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Religious Belief is an individual not collective right

Post 19th, January, 2013

Landmark Strasbourg ruling: Religious beliefs are no reason to oppose rights of same-sex couples

January 15th, 2013 Today the European Court of Human Rights ruled that religious beliefs may not justify opposing the rights of same-sex couples. British laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation were upheld.
European Court of Human RightsThe Strasbourg court examined four cases brought by Christians, including two who argued their beliefs allowed them to refuse a service to same-sex couples.
In the first case, Lillian Ladele was a civil registrar in London. She was dismissed because she refused officiating at civil partnership ceremonies for same-sex couples after it became legal in 2005. She claimed she was discriminated because of her faith.
The Court ruled there had been no discrimination, and that British courts—who upheld her dismissal—had struck the right balance between her right to freedom of religion, and same-sex couples’ right not to be discriminated.
In the second case, Gary McFarlane was a counsellor providing psycho-sexual therapy to couples. He was dismissed for refusing to work with same-sex couples, arguing this was incompatible with his beliefs. The Court ruled unanimously that there had been no violation of his right to freedom of belief.
Commenting this landmark ruling, Sophie in ‘t Veld MEP, Vice-President of the European Parliament’s LGBT Intergroup, said: “With this ruling, the court has established that freedom of religion is an individual right. It is emphatically not a collective right to discriminate against LGBT people, women, or people of another faith or life stance.”
“Religious freedom is no ground for exemption from the law. The court showed conclusively that the principle of equality and equal treatment cannot be circumvented with a simple reference to religion.”
Michael Cashman MEP, Co-President of the LGBT Intergroup, added: “British law rightly protect LGBT people from discrimination, and there is no exemption for religious believers. Religion and belief are deeply private and personal, and should never be used to diminish the rights of others.”
The ruling may be appealed within three months.

Source: http://www.lgbt-ep.eu/press-releases/landmark-strasbourg-ruling-religious-beliefs-not-a-valid-reason-to-oppose-rights-of-same-sex-couples/

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Belizean Social Evil Add up

Posted 12th, Janaury, 2013

Yesterday, in my rush to get my garbarge out the gate, I hurried down my stairs just in time to remember to run back up for my gate keys. It was while running back up my next door neighbor decided to ask" "Whey di go an with you?" don't know his name, never spoke to him before in any serious conversation. This happened on Friday, January 11th, 2013 early morning. Previous to this, he was railing about him " no bother nobody" and fucking this and that. I turned to him while passing to go to my house from my mom and said, " I don't know what you are talking about" and walked off. This happened on 5th January, 2013.  For the record, every night, my gate has to be locked  because I have had my car window smashed, car battery stolen in August, 2012 and experience constant threats that just gets tiring.














I reported in my diary on 16th May, 2011 that I had an encounter with a hispanic or East Indian looking man in police uniform, he was the driver of the truck who said, You da Belizean! I said, "Yeeeees!" He then replied, " faggot! no bring no faggot thing yah!" He then proceeded to drive off unto a Banak Street address from Central American Boulevard where they did a house search. While I am grateful that the 9 other men kept quiet who were in green camaflouge uniforms and with their sub-machine guns, the idea that an officer of the state, of the police department would willfully abuse his uniform to harrass me because of my sexuality and what I was doing in our Supreme Court was mind-blowing for it creating a sense of paranoia about my personal safety. The one that messes with my head is my stoning. I don't do crowds, rarely go out much in Belize, except if it is a gay event which is rare and for meetings. The right to movement, expression and association isnt a distant concept, it is a struggle to excercise as I have to deal with insults and threats to ensure I can freely move on the streets. It s freedom house that facilitated my car, but it is my sister, loud and defensive of  me who keeps me safe, who drives me around. Who will not be able to drive me aorund anymore by the end of the month as she owes back taxes on property that she could not possible pay as it is link to her drivers license. I will have to learn to drive, depsite my anxiety driving in Belize City. Being in crowds, seeing a person walking next to me.

So back to the garbage story, I remembered that I bagged my garbage, so, quickly returned to pick it up and threw it over the fence, realizing that there was a possibility that the garbage men would not pick it up, I tried to holla, but to no avail and being fully aware that one of the sanitation workers were homophobic because of a previous incident, I tried to jump my very high fence. In the pursuit of the idea, I lost my grip, gashed my left hand, fell on my fat ass, and betrayed my pride. I was in pain, but still worried about my garbage, finally, the female neighbor next door told them about it and they picked it up. 

 This was on top of knowing my brother needed me to deliver food that he was trying to fundraise to support his brain surgery because he has a brain tumor that needed to get out within the next three months. We got through the day and I realised that I needed to take care of my hand. I decided to ask my sister to drop me off and she took the responsibility along with my office assistant to go give lunches to the homeless folks at battlefield park. While at Port Loyola, I had some children sitting at a green house directly across the clinic yelling the usual homophobic slangs. So I returned int the clinic to wait for my sister return. She reached just in time before the clinic closed, but while waiting previous to her arrival, I saw a young man in red short pants, no more than 17 pick up a while liquor bottle posing directly below the verandah. As I watched, I took pictures of the house, his poses and got the sinking feeling the bottle was for me. Paranoid as hell, I stayed within the confines of the clinic until the last minute. Today, while returning from the gas station after buying two snack bar, credit and a card and while walking on banak street towards my house, a fool from no where decided to throw a stone my way. Don;t know him from adam, but he decided, I was worth the effort. There was also a cyclists sit in the gas station who was saying, " babe, love. keep up the work!"previous to this, I smiled and moved on. It amazes me that I have become afraid of so many things and have cemented by life down to natural causes, bullets or an accidental HIV infection. It is hope that I die of natural cause. In the mean time, I am under a lot of pressure to keep myself in one piece, now, its about ensuring I see the case to the bitter end.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Caribbean under scrutiny as OAS reforms Rights System

 Posted January 6th, 2013

Caribbean under scrutiny as OAS reforms human rights system

Published: 
Sunday, January 6, 2013
Wesley Gibbings, Trinidad & Tobago Guardian


Winston Dookeran

Hemispheric human rights organisations are fearful that what is viewed as Caribbean complacency on civil liberties may contribute to the undermining of the inter-American human rights system through recent initiatives led by some members of the Organisation of American States (OAS).

The test will come at a special session of the OAS General Assembly in March when member countries decide on a process to reform the human rights system through adjustments to the powers and influence of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Inter-American Court on Human Rights.

The measures are being championed by Ecuador, Venezuela, Brazil and several other Latin American states. They include limits on “precautionary measures,” re-allocation of financing, greater accent on the “promotion” of human rights and changes in reporting mechanisms for the Commission. Foreign minister Winston Dookeran is asserting that T&T will support all measures to “strengthen” the Commission.

“We believe,” he told Sunday Guardian, “that the Commission should be strengthened and there are certain aspects of the operations of the Commission that require some more teeth.” However, some analysts argue that the proposals will in fact weaken the Commission and undermine the role of its Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression. They believe a united Caribbean response can avert the worst dangers.

The OAS Caribbean Community (Caricom) caucus comprises a potentially influential 14 of the organisation’s 35 member states. Only six Caricom countries are however signatories to the American Convention on Human Rights and only three (Barbados, Haiti and Suriname) have acceded to the compulsory jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court on Human Rights.

T&T was an early signatory to the Convention in 1977 but announced its denunciation of the Convention in 1998 which, with one year’s notice, saw the country’s departure in 1999. This, together with a reservation registered under the United Nations Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, made way for the prompt execution of the Dole Chadee gang in June 1999.

The country, however, still falls under the scrutiny of the IACHR which has a mandate to receive, analyse and investigate individual human rights petitions from all OAS member states.

Human rights advocates in the USA, Canada, Latin America, and to a much lesser extent, the Caribbean, are concerned that specific proposals to limit the ability of the Commission to act independently to impose legal “precautionary measures” to protect persons may significantly undermine its credibility.

They also believe changes to the mandatory processing times for cases, adjustments to reporting mechanisms for organs of the Commission and a greater emphasis on the “promotion” of human rights as opposed to affording protection will have the impact of watering down its influence.

So far, Caribbean interventions on the issues have been relatively muted. But, in a submission to the OAS Permanent Council in November, Jamaica ’s ambassador to the OAS Prof Stephen Vascienne admitted that Caricom states believed through the work of the Privy Council and the Caribbean Court of Justice “our human rights issues are already properly addressed.”

He also pointed to the vexing issue of low Caribbean visibility within the Inter-American system. There are two Caricom nationals on the seven-member Commission Vice Chair Tracy Robinson of Jamaica and Prof Rose-Marie Belle Antoine of T&T, and just one full-time Caricom lawyer on staff.

“If the Commission wishes to encourage a stronger feeling of ownership among Caricom states, it cannot ignore the availability of nationals from these states for service in the Commission,” Vascienne said. However, civil society organisations addressing the OAS Permanent Council on December 7 believed the focus should be on ensuring greater levels of awareness on the part of all member countries about the seriousness of the proposed measures.

The Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM) was the only Caricom civil society organisation in attendance and argued that, among other things, the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression faced special risks, should the reforms be enacted. Dookeran said T&T will support “all measures to protect freedom of the press (but) we believe that the process for dealing with human rights violations must be able to stand up to scrutiny.”

Civil society organisations gathered in Washington DC in December, however, suggested in their presentations that the “scrutiny” being prescribed by some states is a euphemism for greater state control of the system and may spell danger for the 53-year-old commission and its work. The March meeting promises to deliver a significant verdict on the issue.

Source: http://guardian.co.tt/news/2013-01-06/caribbean-under-scrutiny-oas-reforms-human-rights-system

Saturday, January 5, 2013

LGBT Rights in the Americas 2012 in Review

Posted: January 5th, 2013

The 2012 Gay Year in Review: The Top-20 Stories from the Americas

December 26, 2012

In 2012 the Western Hemisphere continued to make headlines in terms of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) rights. The courts in Colombia and Mexico and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights emerged as LGBT champions, while transgender rights advanced in Argentina and Canada. An openly lesbian woman entered the cabinet in Ecuador, and another was elected to the U.S. Senate. Marriage equality advanced in two of the hemisphere’s largest countries (Brazil and the United States) and the tiny Netherlands jurisdiction of Saba. However, violence against LGBT individuals remains pervasive, both in notoriously homophobic places (Jamaica and Honduras) and in more progressive countries (Brazil). In Chile, at least, LGBT-related violence has led to better laws.
Below is our list of the 20 most significant political stories on LGBT rights across the Americas.
20 – Help is on its way. Organization of American States (OAS). As a further step in the development of international norms against homophobia, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered the Government of Chile to pay damages caused by its 2003 Supreme Court ruling stripping Karen Atala, a lesbian mother and judge, of custody of her three daughters on the basis of her sexual orientation. This is the first time the Inter-American Court ever heard an LGBT case. Also, a unit specializing exclusively in LGBT issues became operational within the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in February. However, future gains on the LGBT agenda are likely to be overshadowed by the Commission’s continuing controversies.
19 - A changing tide in the Caribbean? Saba. The tiny Dutch island of Saba (capital city of The Bottom) may not even have 2,000 residents, but it made history in December by becoming the first jurisdiction in the Caribbean to legalize same-sex marriage. The move may be late for a Dutch land, but it’s pioneering for a tropical one.
18 – Hopelessly devoted. Mexico. In April, the Partido Acción Nacional candidate for president, Josefina Vázquez Mota, stated in front of 120 bishops and archbishops forming the Mexican Episcopate that she opposes abortion and same-sex marriage. She went on to lose the presidential election. The winner, Enrique Peña Nieto of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional, had asserted that the topic of marriage equality should be decided by the states.
17 – The Kits are alright. Brazil. Controversy emerged in the high-profile mayoral race in São Paulo last year over “o kit gay” (the gay kit), an anti-homophobia initiative in the Ministry of Education when candidate Fernando Haddad (Partido dos Trabalhadores) was in charge. His opponent, veteran politician José Serra (Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira), slammed the proposed materials, intended for distribution among teachers to help instruct children about sexual diversity, as a waste of money and step toward indoctrination. Haddad went on to win the race in a second-round vote in October.
16 - The Young and the Restless. Ecuador. Carina Vance was an unconventional choice to become the country’s minister of health last January. A U.S.-educated, 34 year-old lesbian with a primary focus in public health, Vance adds her own unique story to the continent’s robust legacy of female leadership.
15 - Public display of affection. Colombia. Since mandating Congress in 2011 to resolve the issue of same-sex marriage, the Constitutional Court has laid down a series of rulings strengthening gay rights in the country. The partner of a deceased priest was determined eligible to receive widower benefits last May, and gay couples may now kiss in public without fear of recrimination. The court has, however, proved less willing to tackle the issue of adoption by gay couples.
14Public display of hatred. Jamaica. After getting caught having sex in a bathroom at the University of Technology, two young men were chased by an angry mob. One of the men was detained by security guards, who proceeded to physically assault him, egged on by the surrounding crowds. The assault was caught on video, shocking a nation that is often too comfortable with homophobia.
13 - Valores familiares. United States. Latino voters are not as socially conservative as typically portrayed. Exit polls in the November presidential election found that 59 percent of Latinos support legalizing same-sex unions. Non-Hispanic whites, on the other hand, post the lowest support for marriage equality of any demographic.
12 - Trans-cendental. Ontario. The first Canadian province to recognize gender identity made headlines last June with an amendment to the Ontario Human Rights Code. The measure was passed unanimously across all three parties of the legislature.

11 - It’s not just party all the time. Brazil. Three states, including its most populous São Paulo, legalized civil marriages between same-sex couple. In all three cases, the states’ supreme courts handed down the favorable verdict. Yet Brazil also holds a more nefarious record. In an annual report by its oldest gay rights organization, Brazil leads the world in murders against LGBT persons, accounting for a whopping 44 percent of the global total. A homosexual, it reads, is 800 percent more likely to be killed by hate-fueled violence in Brazil than in the United States.
10 - All hail the chief. United States. Under pressure following his vice president’s endorsement of marriage equality, President Barack Obama finally conceded in May that he does believe same-sex couples should be able to legally marry. In contrast, all of Obama’s top challengers from the Republican Party, including the eventual nominee, Mitt Romney, publicly declared themselves to be staunchly against marriage equality. 
9 – Queer (in)visibility. Cuba.  Adela Hernández became the island’s first transgender person to hold office in Cuba after being elected as a municipal delegate.  She has come a long way since she was jailed for two years in the 1980s because of her gender identity. In addition, the U.S. government granted President Raúl Castro’s daughter, Mariela her second visa to travel to the United States in May. She gave talks on the progress of LGBT rights. Despite all this talk, the Cuban government decided that the first census in 10 years would not count gay couples.
8 - Disorder no longer. United States. The American Psychiatric Association stopped labeling homosexuality as a disorder in 1973, but it was only in 2012 that transgender people were no longer considered mentally ill. The previously used term “Gender Identity Disorder” has now been substituted for “Gender Dysphoria.”
7 – There is always a first one. Chile. The country’s first openly gay elected official, Jaime Parada, won a seat on the municipal council of a wealthy and generally conservative district of Santiago. Parada is a prominent gay rights activist. He actively employed accusations of his opponent’s homophobia as a campaign issue. Parada will serve until 2016.
6 - Courts and codes. Mexico. While the U.S. Supreme Court is slated to weigh in on marriage equality next year, its Mexican counterpart has already been focusing on the issue. In December, the court unanimously struck down a measure in Oaxaca’s civil code asserting marriage to be solely between a man and a woman. Jurisprudence is established in the Mexican system after five consequent, identical rulings on the matter; only two such rulings are now lacking.
5 – A Latin Holland. Uruguay. The leftist governing coalition of President José Mujica made headlines by considering a measure to legalize marijuana, decriminalizing abortion and taking the first steps toward legalizing same-sex marriage. Clearing the Chamber of Deputies in December, the measure is expected to clear the Senate and become law early in 2013, potentially becoming the third country in the Americas to legalize same-sex marriage, after Canada and Argentina.
4 – (De)crying game. Chile/Honduras. Following the uproar over the horrific murder of gay teen Daniel Zamudio, Chile barely passed an anti-discrimination bill in July introduced seven years ago. The episode gained international attention—singer Ricky Martin even dedicated his GLAAD award to the slain teen—and was a landmark in a country with a right-of-center president.  In Honduras, the brutal killing of gay journalist and former candidate for Congress, Erick Martínez Ávila, was condemned by members of the U.S. Congress.  The rise in violence toward LGBT Hondurans since 2009 had already led the State Department to treat Honduras as a test for the government’s new approach to promoting gay rights abroad.  
3 - An unnecessary distraction. El Salvador. The religious right suffered a setback last February when it failed to push though Congress a constitutional ban on gay marriage. Needless to say, the legislature has had more pressing issues to deal with in 2012, namely, keeping the country’s democratic institutions from falling apart.
2 - Still leading the way. Argentina. The country already made headlines by becoming the first to legalize same-sex marriage in 2010, and again in 2012 proved to be a pioneer in the global struggle for LGBT rights. After a 55-0 vote by the Senate, the Argentine government enacted one of the most progressive transgender laws in the world.  Moving forward, the government will pay for sex reassignment surgery while virtually eliminating the red tape for transgender persons to correct legal documents—such as driver licenses and birth certificates—to accurately reflect their gender identity.
1 – Majorities side with minorities. United States. For the first time in the Americas, gay rights advanced by way of popular vote.  In the November 6 general elections, majorities in three states approved legalizing same-sex marriage and a constitutional ban was voted down in a fourth state. In addition, the first openly gay senator was elected. Two of the nation’s biggest TV networks covering the elections had openly gay individuals front-and-center during the returns, while the New York Times’ most famous—and gay—statistician, Nate Silver became a national star after correctly predicted the election’s outcome.

Source: http://www.americasquarterly.org/content/2012-gay-year-review-top-20-stories-americas

Strategies of Latin America LGBT Rights Movement

Posted: January 5th, 2013

Latin American Gays: The Post-Left Leftists

by

 Javier Corrales

When most straight people are forced to think about gay people, they usually think of one thing first, sex. A political scientist might focus instead on a different question:  how do gays perform in politics?  Judged from their political achievements this past decade, the answer is, at least for Latin American gays:  they’re pretty good.
The political achievements of LGBT groups in Latin America in the 2000s are remarkable.  Examples include: decriminalization of homosexuality (now complete in all Spanish-speaking countries and Brazil); laws against sexual-orientation discrimination (Brazil 2000, Mexico 2003, Peru in 2004); extending the same rights and obligations to same-sex couples as heterosexual couples (e.g., Buenos Aires 2002, Colombia in 2009); granting access to health benefits, inheritance, parenting and pension rights to all couples who have cohabited for at least five years (Uruguay); and constitutional bans against discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual  identity or HIV status (Ecuador 2008).   In the last two years alone the speed of change picked up, with most countries witnessing a significant legal change in the direction of more gay-friendliness, including the now famous Mexico City law recognizing gay marriage and adoption rights. [Please see index of chronology attached.] 
What is remarkable is not that change has happened, but that it has happened against such formidable odds. As Moreno Morales and Mitchell Seligson make clear in the current issue of Americas Quarterly, Latin America is still homophobia-land. Their poll shows that between half and three-quarters of the population in most Latin American countries exhibit disturbing levels of intolerance toward homosexuals.  This attitudinal intolerance is by no means the only barrier that LGBT groups face in politics, but it alone is reason enough to be awed by the political victories that LGBT groups have achieved.
So how did they do it?  How has a movement comprising such a tiny and often invisible minority managed to introduce major changes in a region where homophobia—at home, at school, at work, and at church—is so entrenched?    The answer is—innovative politics. LGBT groups have adopted some of the most innovative political strategies—in action and thinking—among social movements in contemporary democracies. Although LGBT groups are decidedly on the left, many of their strategies depart substantially from conventional leftist strategies. These strategies are worth highlighting and maybe even emulating. Here is a sampling. 
1.    Embrace, not hate, globalization. Whereas the traditional left in Latin America has never quite come to terms with globalization, always responding to it with various forms of negativity ranging from suspicion to extreme repulsion—LGBT movements have adopted a more relaxed response:  leverage globalization. LGBT groups systematically use resources provided by globalization and markets to enhance their bargaining leverage. For instance, they use traditional and new media such as the Internet to actively monitor — and adapt to local circumstances — the strategies adopted by LGBT movements elsewhere on the planet. They welcome tourism as an economic force that can turn both the state and the business sector more LGBT friendly (ilga.org, spartacusworld.com, damron.com, rainbowtourism.com, hotelinteractive.com). LGBT groups have learned that demonstrating (even exaggerating) the spending power of LGBT voters and consumers allows them to earn allies in government and business. LBGT folks specialize in buycotts (more so than boycotts) and this makes them debit-card pressure groups par excellence. LGBT groups also consume international cultural products voraciously and guiltlessly. A lesbian group in Colombia even named itself after Ellen DeGeneres. In short, LGBT groups are globalization users rather than globalization bashers, and this allows them to win allies across different sectors and to learn about best practices from multiple sources.
2.    Party hard. A major mistake made by Latin American leftist social movements in the late 1990s was to disdain all things partisan. This generated a lot of unnecessary bad blood between parties and social movements that resulted in too much misallocated energy that helped neither group. LGBTs don’t seem to display this hostility toward parties. Yes, they recognize that parties are inefficient, corrupt, and frequently anti-gay. But whenever they see the chance to work with a party—in a legislature, a ministry, or a mayor’s office—they seize that opportunity without hesitation. They of course gravitate toward leftist parties, but not dogmatically, so that collaborations with non-leftist politicians do happen. In Argentina, for instance, LGBT groups have worked with the non-leftist mayor of Buenos Aires on behalf of civil unions. This pragmatism toward party life opens political opportunities for LGBT groups that more antiparty and dogmatic leftist movements often miss.
Activists March for LGBT Rights in Santiago de Chile, Photos Courtesy of the Movimiento de la Diversidad Sexual
3.    March hard. Like good old leftists, LGBT groups understand the power of a massive protest, especially in the streets. But their approach to taking the streets is not to go on strike, interrupt traffic during rush hour, shut down schools and hospitals, or vandalize private property, but rather, throw an annual gay pride march. A gay pride march achieves all the empowering feats that any protest is meant to achieve, with almost none of the inconveniences. For anyone who has ever missed a flight, a school day, an appointment, or a medical procedure due to a street protest or a strike in Latin America, there is no question that street protests can be pretty annoying, even if the cause is endearing. Protests have serious negative externalities, but gay pride marches minimize them. They occurred only once a year. They are even scheduled on weekends so as to minimize disruptions. Furthermore, gay pride marches have a different tone than your traditional protest marches. Gay pride parades do express angry demands, empower the weak to feel strong, and raise visibility—as do all protests—but they are essentially festive affairs.  Marchers wear flamboyant costumes or very little costumes, thus providing entertainment for all tastes.  Local fashions and international trends are on full display. This festiveness and showiness gives Gay pride marches an intrinsic popular appeal that other leftist marches lack. Gay pride marches are a show of muscle, in every sense of the word. In Brazil, the Sao Paulo Gay Pride parade, certified by Guinness as one of the largest on earth, is now a global, not just a local, tourist attraction. According to the parade’s website, you can buy a 4-night package to attend this year’s event for $428. Converting protest into a crowd-pleasing, trouble-minimizing, tourist affair is politically brilliant, not to mention unique.
4.    Wage wars peacefully. LGBT groups are engaged in an epic battle against homophobia. Like good old feminists, they are in a life-long struggle on behalf of gender and sexuality rights, and like good old human rights groups, they want equal treatment for all. But LGBT groups avoid two excesses associated with die-hard feminist and human-rights groups. They avoid launching wars against men in general, a problem that besets many feminist claims, and they avoid adopting too punitive an agenda, an excess that many human rights groups often commit. Yes, LGBT groups are at war against homophobia, but they avoid converting this into a battle against a male-dominated order. This applies more to gay men than to lesbians, but most lesbians recognize that a non-homophobic man is a precious ally to cultivate rather than a patriarch figure to attack. Likewise, LGBT groups are involved in a fight against human rights abuses, especially hate-based violence, but they don’t exactly concentrate on punishment and retribution, but rather in developing deterrents. Avoiding a battle of the sexes and showing restraint toward wrongdoers saves LGBT groups from spreading unnecessary panic.
5.    Think anti-establishment; act intra-establishment. Like good old radicals, LGBT groups are motivated by anti-establishment, even utopian goals. To hope for a world free of homophobia has got to be one of the most idealistic goals of our times, and yet, all LGBT groups are committed to nothing less. LGBT political groups are thus as radical as they come. But their approach to changing the status quo is not exactly all that radical. Rather than destroy the status quo, they seek to work the status quo. Every time they encounter an institutional barrier, they search for openings elsewhere in the system. If the executive branch is impenetrable (as in Colombia), they work the national courts. If the national courts are impenetrable (as in Brazil and Chile), they work the bureaucracy. And if both are impenetrable, they shift locations. Sometimes, LGBT go abroad to lobby international organizations such as the United Nations, hoping this lobbying will have a boomerang effect. Other times they simply shift their target toward a new province, as occurred in Argentina in 2009, when a gay couple facing a legal challenge to marry found a province that would marry them. LGBT are not so much institution killers as they are institutional loophole-searchers, which is a rare trait in the category of anti-establishment politics.
6.    In battling conservatives, be fiercely conservative. The most significant development of LGBT politics in the Americas in the 2000s was the eruption of the marriage issue.  This was never the top preference of LGBT groups, neither in the United States, where this issue began, nor in Latin America, where this issue has since become quite central in some of the larger countries. In terms of things for which to fight, LBGT across the Americas in the early 2000s would have preferred different battles, such as workplace discrimination. But LGBT groups immediately discovered the political advantage of embracing the marriage issue. It gave them a conservative argument to use against their conservative foes. Fighting conservatism with conservatism has proven to be a real coup. It pushed conservatives into the odd position of opposing a conservative stand (the desire to stabilize monogamy). It also disarmed conservatives by ridiculing their claim that the gay agenda is all about promoting sexual licentiousness. And it revealed loudly that conservatives, in denying gay rights, are in reality defending separate legalities, which most reasonable people find awkward, or even inherently contradictory.  LGBT groups excel like few other groups in changing ideological colors depending on the ideology of their foes, which a type of artistic creativity put to work in politics.
7.    Draw business lessons. LGBT groups are succeeding in politics also because they are drawing lessons from the business world. From the ad industry, to give one example, LGBT groups have drawn the lesson that nothing sells like the creation of status symbols. Thus, LGBT groups have created the notion that being pro gay is a symbol of being modern, cosmopolitan, and hip. The notion that gay is chic does not always catch on, but every once in a while, it produces a knock out. A good example occurred in the 2009 electoral race in Chile when, to everyone’s amazement, the center-right candidate Sebastián Piñera appeared in a TV ad standing next to a gay couple. Whether this ad was sincere or not is an important question, but it is also important that this ad illustrates the status symbol strategy at work. For Piñera, appearing pro-gay proved to be a useful device to convey that he was a new, superior, modern type of conservative.
8.    Pop!  Pop Culture is the new Populism. Like good political strategists, LGBT movements understand the advantages of appealing to all sectors of the population, and specifically, to both the privileged and the underprivileged. The old left in Latin America tries to create this cross-sectoral political alliance by promising too much from the state, a strategy that often flops and disappoints. LGBT groups have developed a less error-prone approach. They use pop culture as the new populism. Like few other groups involved in contentious politics, they understand that nothing unites the nation more than a catchy pop song,  video, movie, film festival, novela, scandal, or comedy sketch on prime-time TV, especially if there is a covert or overt LGBT subplot. In Cuba, a soap opera with a gay theme was a huge hit in 2006. Critics call this attention to pop culture, or farandulería, by LGBT folks a sign of frivolity. But politically, there is nothing frivolous about its results. Pop culture has proven time and again to be an effective way to transform cultural norms, and LGBT groups have continued to prove that they have a distinctive flair for this political art form.
9.    This revolution will be YouTubized. LGBTs not only do well as shapers of pop culture, but also as users of the latest medium to transmit pop culture: YouTube. Anytime there is an LGTB-related video out there, LGBT groups share it with hurricane force. Thus, a video about a hate crime in San Juan, or a video of a gay wedding in Argentina, or a video of a homophobic declaration by a bishop in Mexico is instantly watched and deconstructed in the LGBT cyber world. If the slogan of the twentieth century was a picture is worth a 1000 word, LGBT groups understand that, in the twenty-first century, the new slogan is, a Youtube video is worth a thousand mítines políticos. And one reason that LGBT groups are so good at exploiting this new medium is that they are flooded with young people, who are competent users of new technologies. In terms of membership and message, there is no question that LGBT groups target the young directly, and this youth-orientation is another distinctive asset that they bring to politics.
10.    The next gay revolution:  Liberté, egalité, (p)maternité. The next LGBT revolution will not only be YouTubized, but it will also involve another remix of traditional and non-traditional icons of the Western world. LGBT groups know that their ideological forté is to focus on old-fashioned principles of the Enlightment--liberty and equality. Much of their success stems from their refusal to privilege one principle over the other, as the hard left and hard right often do, but rather, to always portray the fight for LGBT rights as a struggle for freedom and equality simultaneously. LGBT in the Americas are now launching their next struggle—the fight for p/maternal rights. Once again, they will use iconic emblems (liberty and equality) to transform a traditional aspiration of humans (the desire to raise a family) into a new democratic right:  the right of LGBT people to adopt children. As with other battles, the fight for LGBT parental rights will be tough, because homophobia remains entrenched everywhere, starting with one’s own household and sometimes going all the way to the presidential palace. At times, this homophobia manifests itself proactively rather than behind the scenes, as when the president of El Salvador, Antonio Saca, endorsed a proposal to outlaw gay marriage and adoptions in 2006. But the success thus far of LGBT groups, and the proven effectiveness of this time-tested ideological-branding scheme, there is no reason to be excessively pessimistic. Even in El Salvador, Saca’s initiative got defeated.
In sum, what we have here is more than just amateurish politics. Like few other leftist social movements, LGBT groups have developed ingenious responses to some of the most pressing issues of our time:  unrestrainable globalization (exploit it), strained political parties (respect them), unevenly-performing democratic institutions (fix them and work with the fixed ones), rising religiosity (talk the language), political cynicism (mobilize the young), attention deficit disorder for the written word (YouTubize everything), machismo and homophobia (rebrand the concept of gayness), increasing corporatization of citylife (buycotts). Most members of LGBT groups started out feeling ostracized, but they responded by working the system and building alliances with the system’s untouchables. Because they are ideologically on the left and yet their responses to these challenges depart from traditional leftist responses, LGBT groups could very well be considered the first post-left leftists of the twenty-first century.  
The strategies of LGBT groups, as with all innovations, are neither infallible nor immune to criticism. There is an inherent contradiction, for instance, in a movement that fights for equality by simultaneously relying on status categories of hipness and cosmopolitanism, to mention just one problem. It is not entirely clear either that all these strategies are especially impactful or appropriate for low-income communities. No doubt, philosophers have ample material here for debate in the years to come.
But there is no question that LGBT groups are emerging as the superstars of politics. Their approaches are succeeding in unexpected ways, especially considering the odds against them. LGBT groups will not win all their battles, but they have already revolutionized the way we ought to think about effective contestation in twenty-first-century democracies. As in so many other domains, LGBT folks in politics have proven to be, yet again, epochal trend-setters.
Javier Corrales is Associate Professor of Political Science at Amherst College, Massachusetts, and a member of the editorial board of Americas Quarterly, where he published “Markets, States and Neighbors” in the Spring of 2009. He is the co-editor of The Politics of Sexuality in Latin America (Pittsburgh University Press, May 2010).
APPENDIX
LGBT Victories in Latin America 2008-2009

-    February 2008 – Venezuela. The Constitutional Branch of the Supreme Court issues a ruling that, on the one hand, recognizes that discrimination against sexual orientation is unconstitutional, but on the other hand, states that there does not exist constitutional protection for same-sex partnerships; only the legislature can confer such protections. 
-    March, 2008 – Nicaragua. A reform of the Penal Code legalizes same-sex relations and ends an anti-sodomy law.
-    March 2008 – Brazil. Police estimate that more 3 million people participated in the 12th annual Gay Pride March; both the Sao Paulo government and Petrobras sponsor the march.
-    June 2008 – Brazil. President Lula launches the “First National Conference of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transvestites and Trasnsexuals in Brasilia.
-    June 2008 – Cuba. New president, Raúl Castro, authorizes offering free sex-change operations for qualifying citizens, a policy change advocated by Cuba's National Center for Sex Education (presided over by President Raúl Castro's daughter, Mariela Castro).
-    August 2008 – Panama. Government repeals a 1949 law criminalizing gay sex.
-    September 2008 – Ecuador. Voters approve the country’s 20th constitution. Article 11 bans discrimination on the basis of “gender identity,” “sexual orientation,” and “HIV status” (but still defines marriage as the “union between man and woman,” Art. 68).
-    December 2009 – United Nations. The United Nations General Assembly affirms that international human rights protections include sexual orientation and gender identity. The statement is read to the Assembly by Argentina; 12 of the 66 countries that signed on were Latin American.
-    January 2009 – Mexico. In a unanimous vote, the Supreme Court rules in favor of a man-to-woman transsexual requesting the reissuing of a new birth certificate that would not reveal the change in her sexual identity.
-    January 2009 – Colombia. The Constitutional Court upholds a lower court opinion that same-sex couples must be accorded the same benefits as heterosexual couples in common-law marriages. This ruling grants same-sex couples equal pension, survivor, immigration and property rights.
-    February 2009 – Bolivia. New constitution bans discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (but only recognizes “marriage” and “free unions” as occurring “between a woman and a man”).
-    February 2009 – Chile. The Unified Movement for Sexual Minorities (MUMS) organizes the first-ever mass wedding for sexual minorities in front of the Metropolitan Cathedral.
-    September 2009 – Uruguay. With a 17-6 vote the legislature approved a bill that ends restricting adoptions to married couples, what many interpreted as paving the way for adoptions by same-sex couples. Earlier, Archbishop Nicolás Cotugno of Montevideo condemned the bill as going ”against human nature itself, and consequently, … against the fundamental rights of the human being as a person.”
-    November 2009 – Argentina. A Buenos Aires judge ruled that it was unconstitutional for civil law to stipulate that a marriage can exist only between a man and a woman. A marriage licence was then granted to Alex Freyre and José María Di Bello.  This became the most controversial marriage in modern Argentine history, with debates on TV, marches, and hostile posters on billboards across the city. The archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Bergoglio, publicly criticized the city's mayor, Mauricio Macri, for not appealing the judge's decision to grant the marriage licence.
-    December 2009 – Mexico. In a 39-to-20 vote with five abstentions, Mexico City’s Legislative Assembly approved marriage rights for same-sex couples. In a separate vote, the Assembly also approved adoption rights by a vote of 31 to 24 with nine abstentions.
Source:  Corrales, Javier and Mario Pecheny, eds. 2010. The Politics of Sexuality in Latin America: a Reader on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights. University of Pittsburgh Press.

Source: http://www.americasquarterly.org/gay-rights-Latin-America

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Murder reduction to manslaughter based on Sexuality

Posted January 2nd, 2013

Could a person have their murder charges reduce to manslaughter  if they argue that it was a homosexual advance that triggered a lost of self-control. The simply answer is yes.

Section 120 (e) of the Criminal Code of the Laws of Belize states that one of the causes of 'extreme provocation' would be "any thing said to the accused person by the other person or by a third person which were grave enough to make a reasonable man to lose his self-control." keep in mind that that 120 (f) earlier cites 'sexual assault' on another person in your care. It would not be unreasonable to extend the sexual assault defense from (a) to (e). A really adventurous attorney would even grasp at the abnormality of the mind defense. In my opinion, it would take serious bigotry to pull that one off. And putting it that way, it is something you should explore considering our 'inspired' judicial system.

 You will see in Section 120 (d), you don't need the slightest actual touch to be an assault. In our law, '“sexual offense” means rape [of a woman], attempted rape [of a woman], marital rape [of a woman], carnal knowledge, forcible abduction, unnatural offense, incest or indecent assault [of male or female].' The basic definition for assault is perceived fear of imminent danger or physical harm. So this whole thing is a circle. According to our law, Man and Man sex is an unnatural crime. Your pick up line may tell me exactly what you want us to do together. [Unnatural!! ;-P] The courts may allow that adventurous attorney to use the facts of your advance to be an assault and the law gives the 'victim' nuff room to define it as such- and maybe get away with murder. So for those persons who don't see the importance of UNIBAM's case, the simple definition of unnatural can be used as a defense to do the "flirter" serious harm.

Is there some cause that says that the dead man must be proven to be a homosexual before you can use such a defense? The  facts that are raised will allow the court to come to those conclusions. When I say court I mean judge and jury. But you get the danger in all this and why we have to get rid of that "unnatural crime" foolishness.

And definition for what constitutes sexual assault too it seems. Just keep in mind that in a criminal case, there is supposed to be a higher standard of proof. The conclusion that the man is a homosexual is not enough and NOT the same that this same homosexual man then made an advance that would be of the nature that I consider it to be an assault. A reasonable person would need to know more. Of course for less aware persons in our judicial system, just proving homosexuality may be all the proof of an actual assault they need.