Ecuador: Police Thwart Gay and Lesbian Pride March

In Guayaquil, Ecuador, police thwarted with tear gas the Gay and Lesbian Pride March that was to take place in that city. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and the march organizers - Fundación Amigos por la Vida - request that you write letters to the authorities protesting against the violence of such action, that impairs the constitutional rights of Ecuadorian gay, lesbian and transvestite citizens.

Please send your letters to:

Gobernador del Guayas (Governor of Guayas)
Ab. Joaquín Martínez Amador
Fax (59 34) 534 26 21
gober@gobernacionguayas.gov.ec
Intendente de Policía (Police Chief)
Ab. Pedro Cruz Rodríguez
Fax (59 34) 534 26 21
inten@gobernacionguayas.gov.ec

Make sure to send copies to:

Fundación Amigos por la Vida
Pedro Carbo 1106 y Colon 10mo. piso
Guayaquil - Ecuador
Tel. & fax: 593-4- 329758
famivida@yupimail.com

Please also write to:

Ombudsman of Guayas
Ab. Hernán Ulloa Parada

(you can send the letters to the Ombudsman via Fundación Amigos por la Vida)

SAMPLE LETTER

Mr. ..........................

Dear Sir,

With this letter I/we wish to express my/our indignation at the events occurred in Guayaquil last June 28, when the police prevented, with tear gas, the gay, lesbian, transvestite community from holding a march to celebrate their Pride Day.

Such a violent and intolerant action violates the lawful rights of peaceful assembly of Ecuadorians gay, lesbian and transvestite citizens, which are protected by international treaties (among them the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the American Convention on Human Rights). It is particularly disgraceful that this should have happened in the only Latin American country whose Constitution specifically provides for protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

In addition to the explicit anti-discriminatory provisions in Article 23, paragraph 3 of the Constitution of Ecuador, the Executive Decree that implements the Ecuadorian Government National Human Rights Plan, signed on June 24, 1998 states in its Article 26 that the government shall "verify that the State security machinery and agents do nor persecute and harass individuals on account of their sexual options."

The duty of the police - facing a peaceful rally which, moreover, had complied with the legal requirement of previously obtaining the pertinent authorization - is to protect the participants from possible attacks by intolerant individuals, not to exert "preventive" violence against them, denying them the right to assembly and self-expression.

The argument upheld by the police for preventing the march ("that society is not sufficiently educated yet to accept them") is feeble and fallacious. Throughout the world, the best way to educate society against homophobia - as against any other form of discrimination - is the visible, organized presence carried out by the communities that are the target of prejudice. The Gay and Lesbian Pride Marches, in addition to celebrations, are educational events all around the world. The Guayas Police Chief, who launched the assault against the participants, and the Governor, who issued the order, with their actions denied the Guayaquil society the freedom to get in touch with its gay, lesbian and transvestite members, and to be educated about them, i.e., to see with their own eyes who they are, to listen to their demands, to ask them questions. It is the authorities themselves who, through their own prejudice, keep society ignorant.

The Guayas police should be called to reflection and should be educated to enforce the country's ground-breaking legislation, which makes the world proud.

The Guayas police should also confirm whether transgender individuals have been arrested in the days following June 28, and if so whether they are still detained and under what charges.

Respectfully yours,

(signature)

BACKGROUND

On June 28, 2000, the Fundación Amigos por la Vida, of Guayaquil, Ecuador, brought together approximately 300 gays, lesbians and transvestites for a Gay and Lesbian Pride March, within the framework of different activities prepared for that week. The march had been previously authorized by the police, upon submission of the pertinent request.

As people were gathering at the march's starting point, they were ordered to disband by the same police chief who had previously authorized the march. Reportedly following orders from the Guayas Governor, the police chief called on those present to disperse on the grounds that 'society was not sufficiently educated to accept them.' Without any provocation, about sixty policemen then surrounded the crowd, throwing tear gas bombs, and preventing the march from taking place.

There have been unconfirmed reports of arrests of transgender individuals in the days following the police action.

Such violent and intolerant behavior violates the lawful rights of Ecuador's LGBT citizens. It is particularly disgraceful that this should have happened in the only Latin American country whose constitution specifically provides for protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Article 23, paragraph 3, of the Ecuadorian constitution, establishes that "All individuals shall be considered equal and shall enjoy the same rights, liberties and opportunities, without discrimination based on ...sexual orientation; health condition ... or any other kind of difference." Paragraph 5 of the same article guarantees everyone the right "to freely develop his/her personality, with no other limitations than those imposed by the legal system and other people's rights."

In addition to its constitution, Ecuador has still another legal instrument that is an example to the world at large, which has been violated and ignored by the Guayas' authorities: the Executive Decree implementing the Ecuadorian Government National Human Rights Plan, signed on June 24, 1998, states in its Article 26 that the government shall "verify that the State security machinery and agents do nor persecute and harass individuals on account of their sexual options."

The right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association is broadly protected by the Ecuadorian constitution (Article 19) as well as by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Art. 20), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Art. 21) and the American Convention on Human Rights (Art. 15-16).

The police chief and the governor of Guayas have violated the right of gays, lesbians and transvestites to peaceful assembly, intended for strengthening community bonds with people of the same sexual orientation, with other minorities and with allies from society at large. The marchers were also denied the right to participate in an event of fundamental significance for the development of their personality, since participation in pride marches involves a considerable degree of acceptance of oneself and one's sexual orientation and gender identity.

The argument wielded by the police to thwart the march ("that society is not sufficiently educated yet to accept them") is feeble and fallacious. Throughout the world, the best way to educate societies against homophobia - as against any other form of discrimination - is the visible and organized presence carried out by the communities that are the target of prejudice. Decades long experience in the subject matter, as well as academic research carried out in different countries, confirm that the better a community is known, the more the interaction with it is achieved in daily life, the more difficult it is to keep up the prejudice.

In addition to festive celebrations Gay and Lesbian Pride Marches are educational events all around the world. The Guayas police chief, who perpetrated the assault against the participants, and the governor who ordered it, have denied the Guayaquil society the freedom to get in touch with its gay, lesbian and transvestite members, and to be educated by and about them: to see with their own eyes who they are, to listen to their demands, to ask them questions. It is the authorities themselves who, through their own prejudice, keep society ignorant.