Latin America: IGLHRC´s Latin America and the Caribbean 2005 work

Buenos Aires, December 30 2005

Dear all,

2005 has been a very important year for us. We are pleased to share this short summary of the work we’ve done during the year with all of you.

Our main achievement of the year was – undoubtedly- the Training Institute for Trans and Intersex Activists that took place in La Falda, Cordoba, Argentina for two weeks in October. It was attended by 20 trans and intersex activists from 14 countries across the Latin American region, including leaders in the Latin American trans movement – Lohana Berkins (Argentina), Marlene Wayar (Argentina) and Belissa Andía (Peru)- who honored us with their participation as trainers. Joseph Thomson (Interamerican Institute of Human Rights, Costa Rica) and Gustavo Blazquez (Cordoba University) also served as Institute trainers. It was an unforgettable experience for us all! The Institute Memoir will be published in 2006 in Spanish, Portuguese and English. The success of the Institute is a product of the very hard work done by Mauro Cabral (Argentina) and Rosa Posa (Spain/Paraguay), who joined us this year as Trans and Intersex Issues Area and Institutes Area Coordinators.

Our second notable achievement is the completion of the Report on Lesbians and Workplace Discrimination that we produced together with five local groups:
ADEIM-Simbiosis (Bolivia), Artemisa A.C. (Mexico), Cattrachas (Honduras), Criola (Brazil) and Red Nosotras LBT (Colombia). The Report will be launched at the Hemispheric Social Forum (Carcas, January 2006) in Spanish, Portuguese and English.

More about our activities in 2005:

1. Organizational support:

Our ongoing work – led by Marcelo Ferreyra- involves responding to requests for information on a wide variety of issues, contacting groups doing similar work in different countries, disseminating information about what groups do through our mailing list (which has more than 4,000 addresses!), providing information about funders and providing feedback and technical assistance on drafting funding proposals. Among the very special projects we supported – with advice and contacts- this year, we highlight:

  • First Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in Guyana (organized by SASOD)
  • Primer Festival de Cine LGBT in Asuncion (organized por Airea na)
  • LGBT Housing Cooperative in Montevideo (promoted by Ovejas Negras)

2. Publications

  • Summary of the Year 2004 in Latin America and the Caribbean (February) - 70 pages documenting human rights violations as well as significant achievements that happened during the year – We are already working on the Summary for 2005, that will have an English version so, look out for it!
  • Every month, Mauro compiles and circulates the “Modules on Trans and Intersex Issues” (a collection of 4-5 articles in each “Module”). More than 750 individuals and organizations are subscribed to receive these Modules, which will continue to be produced in 2006.
  • Alejandra Sardá and Rosa Posa (in collaboration with Paraguayan activist Veronica Villalba) contributed an essay on lesbian organizing in the region for the Spanish journal Orientaciones. Marcelo also contributed an article on legal advances in the region, for the same journal.
  • Together with Catholics for a Free Choice (Cordoba, Argentina), Marcelo edited the Memoir of the Seminar on Successful Strategies to Combat Religious Fundamentalisms in Latin America. It will also be launched at the Hemispheric Social Forum in January 2006 in Spanish (the English and Portuguese versions will be produced and launced later in the year).

3. United Nations work:

  • Alejandra was part of the Committee that coordinated participation of Latin American women at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) session devoted to reviewing implementation of the Beijing Platform ten years later (Beijing+10). At this session, she organized a teach-in on Diverse Sexualities, with distinguished guests from the region.
  • Together with activists from Chile and Brazil we sent materials to the Special Rapporteur on Education for his annual report. We did the same with the Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders.
  • Mauro and Marcelo attended the Commission on Human Rights session in Geneva(April). They produced and circulated dossiers on “Intersex Issues” and “Legislation that is discriminatory on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression in Latin America and the Caribbean”.
  • Marcelo worked with Nicaraguan activists to send a report to the Human Rights Committee demanding that the sodomy law in force in the country be included on the agenda for Nicaragua’s report to the Committee.
  • We produced and circulated Instructives on how to send information to the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Magistrates and also to the Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders.
  • Thanks to a generous invitation from MADRE, Alejandra was a speaker in the Hearings with NGOs, civil society and the private sector that took place in preparation for the Milleniumm Summit.

4. Inter-American Human Rights system:

At the invitation of our colleagues at Global Rights, Alejandra made a presentation to the Organization of American States (OAS) Working Group that is drafting a Convention Against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination which convened a session to hear from civil society groups. In her presentation, she argued for the inclusion of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression in the ambit of the Convention. Her presentation was endorsed by 75 groups across the region (and some from elsewhere). Together with Global Rights we have created a list-serve to closely monitor this initiative and to strategize around it. About 40 organizations have already joined the list-serve.

5. Campaign for an Inter-American Convention on Sexual and Reproductive Rights

Since 2003, our Program has been part of the Coalition coordinating this Campaign. This year:

  • We circulated the leaflet Write Your Rights at all of the events we organized as well as through our mailing list.
  • Alejandra travelled with the Campaign Coordinator, Roxana Vasquez (Peru), to Central America. Together with local organizations they facilitated Sexual Rights workshops (in Panama and Honduras), attended public events (Panama, El Salvador and Costa Rica) and held meetings with coalitions working on the Campaign in those countries.
  • Marcelo convened a meeting of LGBT organizations working on the Campaign –and others wanting to join- in Bogota, Colombia.
  • Marcelo also coordinated the distribution of more than 100 copies of
    “La trampa de la moral única. Argumentos para una democracia laica”
  • a dossier on secular states produced by the Campaign together with two other regional campaigns: Campaign Against Fundamentalisms and 28 de septiembre (for the right to abortion)- to LGBT groups in the region.

6. Presentations:

  • Children’s Hospital Gutiérrez (Buenos Aires) and Medical Conference on Intersexuality and Transexuality (Cordoba) on surgery performed on intersex children (Mauro)
  • International Women’s Day Asuncion on gender perspectives in the World Social Forum (Rosa)
  • On LGBT organizational development in the region for UNDP (United Nations Development Program) in Asuncion (Rosa)
  • Seminar on Intersex Poetics and Politics in Buenos Aires (Mauro)
  • On LGBT Identities for grassroots activists trained by the Women’s Direction in Buenos Aires (Alejandra)
  • On discrimination against lesbians at the Asuncion School of Psychology (Rosa)
  • On Queer Cinema and Human Rights during the LGBTTT Pride Week in Buenos Aires (Marcelo)
  • Workshop on Intersex Issues at the Queer Studies Center in Buenos Aires (Mauro)
  • On Identities and HIV/AIDS, a roundtable convened by VENCER a group of people living with HIV in Asuncion (Rosa)
  • On Intersexuality at Amsterdam University, The Netherlands (Mauro)
  • On Intersexuality at Columbia University, USA (Mauro)

7. Cooperation with funders:

  • Alejandra currently serves as an advisor to the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice and the Global Fund for Women by reviewing proposals coming from the Latin American region. This year, she was honored by Mama Cash with an invitation to also join them as an advisor.
  • Alejandra attended the Global Fund for Women’s Advisors meeting in Santiago de Chile.

8. Human Rights violations cases

  • Mauro wrote an Amicus Curiae on behalf of ALITT, a travesti organization in Buenos Aires to which legal registration is being denied.
  • We launched several Action Alerts on behalf of Juan Camacho, a Colombian citizen whom Canada was trying to deport in spite of his being married to a Canadian. Fortunately, Juan was able to remain in Canada with his husband.
  • Together with a local sex workers’ group, Flor de Piedra, we launched an Action Alert on the murder of sex workers in El Salvador.
  • Marcelo has been assisting the lawyers of Karen Atala, a Chilean judge deprived of custody over her three children because she is a lesbian. The case has been taken to the Inter-American Commission and we were honored to secure the agreement of two experts from Argentina – Susana Chiarotti and Graciela Medina- to write Amicus Curiae on Karen’s behalf.
  • We launched an Action Alert on the case of Roberto Mendoza, a Coca Cola executive fired in Mexico for being gay.
  • We forwarded the Action Alert written by our feminist colleagues on the case of Regina Soares, from Catholics for a Free Choice, who was fired from the University in which she was teaching, in São Paulo, Brazil.
  • We supported groups in Buenos Aires that were fighting for the release of Jorge Nievas – a trans activist who was unfairly jailed after a political demonstration. Fortunately, Jorge has been released.
  • We supported and advised activists in Guerrero, Mexico, who have drafted a state-wide law against discrimination.
  • Together with local groups Claveles Rojos and Raíces, we launched an Action Alert on police brutality against transvestites in Lima, Peru.
  • Together with Amnesty International and a coalition of organizations throughout Argentina, Marcelo is working on a campaign to repeal several local regulations that penalize those ¨wearing clothes of the opposite sex.”

9. Conferences and other events:

  • We convened a Strategy Session for LGBT Work within the UN system (Porto Alegre, January) attended by 18 activists from across the region. After that, we all took part in the World Social Forum. We facilitated several workshops there: on trans and intersex issues, workplace discrimination against lesbians and confronting the religious rights (together with CFC). Alejandra spoke at a Seminar on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR) convened by ICAE (International Council on Adult Education).
  • Rosa attended the 10th Latin American and Caribbean Feminist Encuentro, where we facilitated a workshop on Feminist Bodies together with local organization Centro de Documentación y Estudios (Paraguay). We also launched a campaign for trans inclusion in the Encuentros through a letter endorsed by more than 200 individuals and organizations. We celebrate the announcement that the majority vote at the last plenary officially opens future Encuentros to trans women.
  • Mauro and Marcelo attended the 2nd Conference of LGBTT Organizations from the Mercosur Area (Rosario, Argentina). Together they facilitated a workshop on Gay S/M and then Mauro, with local activists Joaquin Ibarburu and Lohana Berkins facilitated a workshop on Trans Subjectivities.
  • Alejandra and Rosa attended the 2nd Feminist Encuentro in Paraguay.
  • Alejandra was selected as a judge for the Inter-American Tribunal on Women and ESCR that was organized by a coalition of feminist groups in Lima on July. One of the cases submitted to the Tribunal was about forced psychiatric treatment of lesbians in Ecuador.
  • Marcelo took part in the events around the Day Against Homophobia in Medellin, Colombia.
  • Rosa and Alejandra attended a meeting of the Articulacion Feminista Marcosur (a regional feminist coalition of which we are members) in Asuncion.
  • Alejandra attended a meeting of the Post NeoLiberal Agenda (a think tank coming out of the World Social Forum) in Rio, where she made a presentation.
  • At the generous invitation of REPEM (a regional network devoted to women and education), Alejandra attended the AWID Forum in Bangkok. She spoke on three workshop panels: on Intersectionality (convened by REPEM), Sexual Identities (convened by CREA, a sexual rights organization from India) and Balancing Pleasure and Risk (also by CREA). After the Forum, she attended a meeting on Women in Social Movements, organized by AWID, CREA and Inform (Sri Lanka).

As we mentioned at the beginning, this has been an extraordinary year for us. We go into 2006 with a great deal of enthusiasm and many projects. We wish to thank you all for the privilege that it is to work with you in this daily struggle for a world where justice prevails and where all life expressions are not only respected by also celebrated.

Warmly,

International Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)´s Team for Latin America and the Caribbean

Alejandra Sardá, Marcelo Ferreyra, Mauro Cabral and Rosa Posa.