Venezuela: Support the Inclusion of Sexual Orientation as a Grounds For Non-Discrimination in the Revised National Constitution

SUMMARY

On Wednesday October 10, a special commission of the Venezuelan National Assembly incorporated sexual orientation non-discrimination into Article 21 of its proposed constitutional reform. Modification of Article 77, about marriage and civil unions, is still being discussed.

ACTION

IGLHRC joins Union Afirmativa Venezuela, requesting email submissions to members of the mixed commission BETWEEN TODAY AND OCTOBER 17 supporting the inclusion of sexual orientation non-discrimination and asking for the inclusion of non-discrimination for same-sex couples in Article 77 on marriage and civil unions.

Please address your letter together with the Spanish version below to:

Mixed Commission of the Venezuelan National Assembly
reformaconstitucional@gmail.com
reforma@an.gob.ve

Please also copy:

Union Afirmativa Venezuela
unionafirmativa@hotmail.com
IGLHRC - Program for Latin America and the Caribbean
fdelio@iglhrc.org
SAMPLE LETTER

Honorable Members of The Mixed Commission of the Venezuelan National Assembly:

We write to demonstrate our support for including sexual orientation as a protected category in the latest round of constitutional reforms. Approving the proposed constitutional changes would eliminate the legal inequalities currently suffered by people whose sexual orientation differs from that of the majority.

Venezuela is already among the 49 countries prohibiting discrimination on the basis on sexual orientation in employment. If Article 21 is approved, Venezuela will join the 39 countries that currently protect the rights of sexual minorities in areas other than employment.

We also request that same-sex couples be granted constitutional protection by modifying Article 77, which addresses marriage and civil unions. If the mixed commission modifies and subsequently approves Article 77, Venezuela will join a list of 18 countries that currently confer some or all of the rights of married couples to same-sex couples. These countries are: Germany, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Spain, Finland, France, Hungary, Iceland, Norway, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Portugal, the United Kingdom, South Africa and Sweden. At the provincial level, 4 Australian states, 5 states in the U.S.A. and 1 Swiss canton also recognize these couples. And recently, the cities of Buenos Aires, Mexico DF and the provinces of Rio Negro in Argentina and Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil have been added to this list.

It will not escape your attention that in almost all cases these are countries with highly developed indexes of human development and gender equality. Recognizing diverse forms of coexistence seems to go hand in hand with the development of more equitable societies that allow everyone the opportunity to flourish.

We trust that you will give this project for constitutional reform the attention it deserves.

Sincerely,

(Name, organization and direction)


Spanish translation

Honorables señoras y señores integrantes de la comisión mixta de la Asamblea Nacional Venezolana:

Les escribimos para manifestar nuestro apoyo a la inclusión de la orientación sexual entre las categorías protegidas en el articulo del proyecto de reforma constitucional. De aprobarse ese proyecto, se lograría remediar la situación de desigualdad ante la ley que hoy en día viven las personas con orientación sexual distinta de la heterosexual.

Venezuela ya es uno de los 49 países que prohíben la discriminación laboral por orientación sexual y de aprobarse la modificación del articulo 21 se sumaria a los 39 países que brindan esa misma protección en forma mas amplia.

Sin embargo también queremos solicitar que se brinde protección constitucional también a las parejas formadas por personas del mismo sexo modificando el articulo 77 que se refiere al matrimonio y las uniones civiles. Con la modificación y consiguiente aprobación del articulo 77, Venezuela 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, 5 de los EEUU y 1 suizo, también reconocen a estas parejas. Y recientemente las ciudades de Buenos Aires, Mexico DF y las provincias de Río Negro en Argentina y Rio Grande do Sul en Brasil se han sumado a esta lista.

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 ustedes dedicarán a este proyecto toda la atención que merece.

Cordialmente,

(nombre, organización y dirección)

BACKGROUND

The mixed commission of the Venezuelan National Assembly is discussing its constitutional reform project proposed by President Hugo Chavez.

The president of the Mixed Commission for the Constitutional Reformation, Cilia Flores, commented last Wednesday on progress toward the approval of Articles 21, 64, 71, 72, 73, 74, 67, 70 and 87. She said that she expected the mixed commission to present its closing report for debate in the National Assembly on Monday October 15.

Public consultation has been part of the process of constitutional reform, and a group of citizens requested the inclusion sexual orientation nondiscrimination in Article 21. This article currently states that, “No discrimination based on race, sex, creed or social standing shall be permitted, nor, in general, any discrimination with the intent or effect of nullifying or encroaching upon the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on equal terms, of the rights and liberties of every individual.”

In an informal meeting with journalists who cover parliament, a legislator observed that an organized group pressed for its inclusion in the constitutional reform process. The legislator also commented that although taboos still exist around homosexuality, sexual orientation non-discrimination is a human rights issue. The legislator never mentioned gender identity, which is equally deserving of constitutional protection.

Citizens also pressed for Article 77 to be extended to include same-sex couples but so far the Commission resists debating this issue. Article 77 currently states that, “Marriage, which is based on free consent and absolute equality of rights and obligations of the spouses, is protected. A stable de facto union between a man and a woman which meets the requirements established by law shall have the same effects as marriage.”

INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAW

The right to be free from discrimination and to equality before the law is protected by the UDHR (Articles 2 and 7), ICCPR (Articles 2 and 26) and ICHR (Articles 1 and 24).

The right to the protection of the family is specified in Article 16 of the UDHR, Article 10 of the ICESCR, Article 23 of the ICCPR, and Article 17 of the IAHRC.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee affirmed 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. The UN Committee on Economic and Social Rights has made a similar observation in its General Comment 14 on the right to health. Numerous other United Nations human rights mechanisms have condemned discrimination based on sexual orientation.

In 2002, Venezuela ratified the Andean Charter to Promote and Protect Human Rights. Article 10 of this Charter reaffirms the decision of Andean states to combat all forms of racism, discrimination, xenophobia and any kind of intolerance or exclusion against individuals or communities on account of race, color, sex, age, language, religion, public opinion, nationality, sexual orientation, immigration status or any other condition, as well as their commitment to promote national legislation that will criminalize racial discrimination. Section F of the Charter is devoted specifically to the rights of people whose sexual orientation differs from that of the majority. Article 52 recognizes that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or choice, are entitled to the same human rights. In Article 52, the signatories commit themselves to combating all forms of discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation or choice, paying special attention to preventing and punishing violence and discrimination against those whose sexual orientation or choice differs from that of the majority. The signatories also commit to providing legal resources for effective remedy in cases of damage caused by such crimes.

Venezuela ratified ICCPR on May 10, 1978; CAT on July 29, 1991 and IAHRC on August 9, 1977. The UDHR is considered part of customary international law, and binding on all member States of the United Nations, including Venezuela.