Bolivia: Support the Proposal for the New Constitution

SUMMARY

On December 15, 2007, the Bolivian Constituent Assembly unveiled the final and definitive text of the new Bolivian constitution. Article 14, paragraph II, of the document states explicitly that: "The State prohibits and punishes all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation [and] gender identity." If this text of the Bolivian constitution is ratified, Bolivia will be the first country in the world to protect gender identity-related concerns. Also, Article 66 of the new constitution says that, "Men and women are guaranteed the exercise of their sexual and reproductive rights."

ACTION

IGLHRC invites you to send letters of congratulations to the GLBT´S Collective of Bolivia and everyone who has: participated in the email campaign; attended preparatory meetings for territorial hearings in the four Bolivian departments where the proposal was submitted; presented materials to each of the committees or inserted the proposal into the debate during committee hearings; distributed flyers; assembled information tents; or commented verbally on the proposal with a variety of key actors.

Please send your letter of congratulations to:

COLECTIVO GLBT´S DE BOLIVIA
Sr. Ronald B. Céspedes,
Official Spokesman of GLBT Bolivian Collective before Constituent Assembly
enlacpeya@gmail.com
SR. WILLMER GALARZA
Presidente del Colectivo GLBTs de Bolivia
incidenciapolitica@hotmail.com
BOLIVIAN PRESIDENT
Sr. Evo Morales Ayma.
http://www.presidencia.gov.bo/presidente/cartas_presidente.asp
BOLIVIAN VICE PRESIDENT
Sr. Álvaro García Linera.
correo@vicepresidencia.gob.bo
Fax: (591) (2) 2201211

Please also send a copy of your letter to:

incidenciapolitica@hotmail.com
cglt.sucre@gmail.com
fdelio@iglhrc.org

BACKGROUND

We reproduce below a partial version of the report of Mr. Ronald B. Cespedes, the official spokesman for the GLBT’S Collective of Bolivia. This report was presented before the Constituent Assembly and summarizes the background processes culminating in this month’s achievement:

The constitutional process lasted a year and a half, with the Constituent Assembly of Bolivia facing the process of social, cultural and political transformation....

Assuming the possibility of the inclusion of our human rights and the equalization of employment, education, public health, and other opportunities, many GLBT departmental groups, such as those from Chuquisaca, Cochabamba, La Paz, Santa Cruz and Tarija, began to tackle the Constituent Assembly head-on… aspiring to be included in the draft of the new constitutional text and to move from anonymity to the public sphere of the state. To this end, these groups began to dialogue directly as part of the constitutional process. One of the first opportunities that the Constituent Assembly offered the GLBT collective involved the regional encounters in each of the departmental capitals, where our legitimate and human demands for inclusion were presented along with those of other vulnerable and marginalized groups and sectors....

One of our major demands was clear and explicit: "non-discrimination on [the grounds of] sexual orientation and gender identity" along with other state and social benefits.

The use of interests by the political, Catholic, and Orthodox Evangelical sectors (remember, for example, the Prefecture and Religious Commission for the Defense of the Family and Life), made the recognition of sexual and gender diversity difficult at first.

It was the support, for which we are deeply grateful , of some social movements, organizations, institutions and groups, such as Movimiento de Mujeres Presentes en la Historia (Women's Movement Present in History), Capitulo de Derechos Humanos (Chapter on Human Rights), Pacto de Unidad (Covenant of Unity), Mesa de Vigilancia de los Derechos Sexuales y Derechos Reproductivos (the Bureau for Monitoring the Sexual and Reproductive Rights) and others, who spearheaded the pursuit of respect and the inclusion of our demands within the Constituent Assembly.

And today, here for all, is the product of a questioned and confrontational process, the final and definitive text of the proposal for a new constitution for the State of Bolivia.

The 4th Article affirms that:

"The State respects and guarantees freedom of religion and spiritual beliefs, according to their worldviews. The State is independent of religion."

Article 14, paragraph II warns explicitly that:

"The State prohibits and punishes any form of discrimination based on sex, color, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, origin, culture, nationality, citizenship, language, religion, ideology, political affiliation or philosophical beliefs, marital status, economic or social status, type of occupation, level of education, disability, pregnancy, or others that have the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal conditions, of the rights of everyone "

And Article 66 confirms that:

"Men and women are guaranteed the exercise of their sexual and reproductive rights."

However, although we have achieved three very important points and other state benefits in the advancement of the recognition of our rights and for the Bolivian population as a whole, it must be truthfully said that Article 63, which was originally approved completely... was amended through pressure from fundamentalist Catholic and Evangelical groups. Namely:

  1. Marriage between a woman and a man is constituted by legal ties and is based on equality of rights and duties of the spouses.
  2. The free unions or unions by fact that meet conditions of stability and uniqueness, and are maintained between a woman and a man with no legal impediment, produce the same effects as civil marriage, both in personal relationships and the property of cohabiting, as well as what concerns the daughters and sons born to or adopted by them.

However, this single inconvenience promoted by these orthodox and exclusionary groups, will not annul our support for the other rights included in the final text, and that should be defended.

We must also take into consideration that to have achieved recognition and constitutionalization of non-discrimination on [the basis of] "gender identity" has no precedent in the entire world and we are an example to be followed by other countries.

This significant accomplishment, it must also be said, would not have been achieved without the support and struggle of our companions who participated in a direct way and attended each of the 21 committees of the Constituent Assembly, who distributed flyers, assembled information tents, who in verbal or written way interacted with other sectors, organizations, institutions and even social movements seeking recognition of our human rights. This recognition is also due to many other colleagues, institutions, organizations, social movements and groups which from anonymity or from the public domain valiantly strove to promote the inclusion of our rights, and those of the most vulnerable and marginalized sectors, in the drafting of the new political constitution of the State of Bolivia. To them, our most sincere appreciation.

It is recommended that our brothers and sisters of the GLTB Collective of Bolivia, independent colleagues, independent and national and international human rights activists, read [and] analyze... the proposed new constitution of the State of Bolivia that will, in the next months, go to a binding referendum throughout the Bolivian territory.

INTERNATIONAL LEGISLATION

The right to be free from discrimination and to equality before the law is protected by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, UDHR (Articles 2 and 7), the International Covenant on Social and Political Rights, ICCPR (Articles 2 and 26).

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 ICCPR should be understood to include sexual orientation as a protected status. Numerous other United Nations human rights mechanisms have subsequently condemned discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Bolivia ratified ICCPR and ICESCR in 1982, and IAHRC in 1979. The UDHR is considered part of customary international law, and binding on all member states of the United Nations, Bolivia included.

Sexual orientation is mentioned as protected category in the national constitutions of South Africa (1996), Ecuador (1998), and Portugal (2004), among others.