Paraguay: Minister Of Women’s Affairs Will Promote Civil Unions For Same-Sex Couples

SUMMARY

Maria Jose Argana, the recently appointed Minister of Women’s Affairs in Paraguay, has expressed to local media her desire to propose legislation in favor of civil unions for same-sex couples. Paraguayan activists will request an interview with the Minister and will submit a civil union proposal for her consideration. In order to bind the Minister to her words and promise, international pressure is needed.

ACTION

The lesbian group Airea na, in Asuncion, Paraguay, is asking for letters to the Minister congratulating her for the public support she has expressed for same-sex couples’ right and encouraging her to make her words a reality by meeting with activists and drafting a proposal to be submitted as soon as possible to the Paraguayan Parliament.

A model letter follows.

Please send your letters to

Maria Jose Argana
Women’s Affairs Minister (Ministra de Asuntos de la Mujer)
animedina25@yahoo.es

And please send a copy to

Airea na
aireanaparaguay@hotmail.com

You will find below a model letter in Spanish and its translation in English. We suggest that you send the version in Spanish.

MODEL LETTER

Estimada señora Ministra de Asuntos de la Mujer:

Le escribimos para felicitarla por sus declaraciones pronunciadas para radio FM Trinidad, en las cuales se manfiestara usted en favor de la unión civil para las lesbianas (y las parejas formadas por personas del mismo sexo en general).

Sabemos que es la primera vez en la historia del Paraguay en que una funcionaria pública se muestra abierta e interesada en el reconocimiento por parte del Estado de la igualdad entre todas las personas, independientemente de su preferencia sexual.

De promulgarse efectivamente un proyecto de ley de unión civil, se lograría remediar la situación de desigualdad ante la ley que hoy en día viven las parejas formadas por personas del mismo sexo el Paraguay, y que vulnera principios constitucionales así como aquellos consagrados por tratados internacionales ratificados por Paraguay, como el Pacto Internacional sobre Derechos Civiles y Políticos y el Pacto Internacional sobre Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales.

La gravísima situación socioeconómica que atraviesa el Paraguay hace más necesario que nunca el corregir toda desigualdad que afecte el acceso de sus habitantes a la vivienda, las prestaciones sociales, las pensiones y otros beneficios que otorga el Estado como parte de su obligación de garantizar "un orden social … en el que los derechos y libertades … se hagan plenamente efectivos" (Artículo 28, Declaración Universal de los Derechos Humanos).

Con la aprobación de esta ley, el Paraguay se sumará a una tendencia creciente en el mundo, ya que en la actualidad 18 países otorgan todos o algunos de los derechos matrimoniales a las parejas del mismo sexo (Alemania, Australia, Austria, Bélgica, Canadá, Dinamarca, España, Finlandia, Francia, Hungría, Islandia, Noruega, Nueva Zelandia, Países Bajos, Portugal, Reino Unido, Sud Africa y Suecia). A nivel provincial, 4 estados australianos, 4 españoles, 5 de los EEUU y 1 suizo, también reconocen a estas parejas. No escapará a vuestra atención que en casi todos los casos se trata de los países con mayores índices de desarrollo humano y de equidad de género. El reconocimiento de la diversidad de formas de convivencia que en toda comunidad existen parece ir de la mano con la construcción de sociedades en las que todas y todos puedan vivir de manera más humana y justa.

Confiamos en que usted continuará por este camino de amplitud e innovación con el que tan felizmente ha iniciado su función, recibiendo a las activistas lesbianas del Paraguay y colaborando con ellas en la redacción de una propuesta de ley de unión civil.

Cordialmente,

(nombre, organización y dirección)


English translation

Dear Minister of Women’s Affairs,

We are writing to congratulate you for the statements you made to Radio FM Trinidad, expressing your support for civil unions benefiting lesbians (and same sex couples in general).

We are aware that this is the first time in Paraguayan history that a public officer has shown such openness and interest in having the State to recognize that all persons deserve to enjoy equality in rights, regardless of their sexual orientation.

If a civil union proposal is passed, it will remedy the situation of inequality before the law under which same-sex couples currently live in Paraguay. Such a situation violates constitutional principles, as well as those consecrated by international treaties ratified by Paraguay, like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The extreme socioeconomic situation that Paraguay faces makes it more urgent than ever to amend any inequality affecting its people in terms of access to housing, social benefits, pensions and other benefits granted by the State, as part of its obligation to provide "a social order … in which rights and freedoms… can be fully realized" (Article 28 of the Universal Human Rights Declaration)

With the passage of this law, Paraguay will join the growing ranks of countries around the world--currently 18--that grant all or some conjugal rights to same sex couples (Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom). At the state level, in addition, four states in Australia, four in Spain, one in Switzerland and five in the USA grant some recognition to same-sex couples. In almost all these cases, countries where same-sex couples’ rights are recognized are also the most advanced in terms of human development and gender equity. Recognition of the different forms of living arrangements that exist in every community would seem to go hand-in-hand with the building of societies in which all can live in a more human and fair way.

We trust that you will continue along this same path of openness and innovation, by meeting with local lesbian activists and cooperating with them in drafting a civil-union proposal.

Sincerely,

(Your name, organization and address)

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Maria Jose Argana was appointed Minister of Women’s Affairs when the new Paraguayan President, Nicanor Duarte Frutos, started his mandate in August, 2003. At first, activists were concerned because Ms. Argana belongs to the same Christian denomination as the President’s wife, Iglesia Raices (Roots Church), which is affiliated with the Menonite Brothers.

Full marriage is available for same-sex couples in the Netherlands, Belgium and the Canadian states of British Columbia and Ontario (it will soon be available at the Federal level in Canada). In Europe, most countries have civil union or registered partnership laws that recognize most marriage rights, even though they usually leave out church weddings and parent rights –or place limitations to the later, like the impossibility to adopt foreign children, or any children other than the partner’s. Many conjugal rights are afforded to same-sex couples in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand as well.

In Latin America, the city of Buenos Aires and the Rio Negro province (Argentina) have civil union laws. Brazilian cities like Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paula and Recife recognize partner’s rights to city employees. Also in Brazil, Court verdicts have recognized inheritance, social benefits and custody rights to same-sex couples and/or gay/lesbian widowers/widows.

Although federal civil union proposals have been defeated in Parliament in Colombia and Brazil, activists plan to re-introduce them. Several Latin American countries are pushing for recognition of same-sex couples rights either through legislation or litigation such as Costa Rica, Panama, El Salvador, Uruguay, Chile, the Federal District in Mexico and many Argentinean provinces.

INTERNATIONAL AND NATIONAL LAW

Right to non-discrimination and to equality before the law: Article 2 and 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Article 2 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Article 2 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; Article 1 and 24 of the Interamerican Human Rights Convention.

Right to own property: Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Article 21 of the Interamerican Human Rights Convention.

Right to social security: Article 22 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 9 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well being of oneself and of one's family: Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11/12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
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Right to form a family: Article 16 of the UDHR, Article 23 of the ICCPR and Article 17 of the IAHRC.

Right to the protection of the family: Article 16 of the UDHR, Article 10 of the ICESCR, Article 23 of the ICCPR, Article 17 of the IAHRC.

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 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) should be understood to include sexual orientation as a protected status. Numerous other human rights mechanisms of the United Nations have subsequently condemned discrimination based on sexual orientation. The UN Committee on Economic and Social Rights has made a similar observation, in its General Comment 14 on the right to health- to be applied to all economic, social and cultural rights.

Paraguay ratified the ICCPR in 1975, the ICESCR in 1992, and the IAHRC in 1989. The UDHR is considered part of customary international law, and binding on all member States of the United Nations.

The Paraguayan Constitution (1992) presents both positive and negative elements for the recognition of same-sex couples rights. Article 25 states that every person has “the right to free expression of her/his personality, to creativity and the construction of her/his own identity and image”. This right is extremely important. It has constituted the basis of all sexual orientation and gender identity claims in Colombia, the only other Latin American country where it has constitutional status. Article 46 affirms, “all inhabitants of the Republic are equal in dignity and rights. No discrimination is accepted. The State will remove the obstacles and stop the factors sustaining or facilitating them”. Other Articles make specific promises of equality, without discrimination, in areas like “the opportunity to participate in the benefits of nature, material goods and culture” (Article 47) or “social security” (Article 95). The problem for the passing of civil union laws lies with Article 51, which defines both “marriage” and “de-facto” unions as being “between a man and a woman”. However, the creation of a third category, such as “civil unions” might help to circumvent the obstacle.