Colombian LGTB Community Recognizes Progress While Calling For Further Rights

Angela Castellanos

Colombian LGBT organizations recognized some legal advancement regarding equal rights, but noted that the progress was due to legal demands made by individuals, not a consequence of a public policy or a legislative action.

More than 30
Colombian organizations of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transvestite,
transformer, trans and intersex persons (LGBTTTTI) recently disclosed a report submitted
to the Colombian government regarding the state of LGBTTTTI rights in the
framework of the Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights.

The United Nations’ General Assembly has mandated that the Human Rights Council (HRC) "undertake a universal periodic review (UPR), based on objective and reliable
information, of the fulfillment by each State of its human rights obligations
and commitments in a manner which ensures universality of coverage and equal
treatment with respect to all States…"

The third round of the UPR took place
in Geneva, December 10, 2008, with Colombia among the countries reviewed. The
Colombian report was followed by a dialogue in which 43 countries submitted
recommendations, asked questions, and pointed out facts. While most of the
comments addressed human rights violations related to the current Colombian
armed conflict, some underlined the marginalization of indigenous nations,
while others called for the defense of women’s rights and the protection of the
people with minority sexual and gender identities.

In particular, the Czech Republic
demanded equality related to sexual orientation and gender identity,
recommending the implementation of campaigns aimed to promote a
non-discriminatory culture.

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Although LGBTTTTI organizations were
not included in the consultant process carried out among the civil society by
the Colombian government, they developed their own report of the state of their

"We are not considered valid
interlocutors for the government due to the ruling prejudices regarding our
demands, because our demands are considered matters of low importance compared
to the ‘big’ topics of human rights," they stated in their report.

The LGBTTTTI organizations recognized
some legal advancement regarding equal rights, but noted that the progress was
due to legal demands made by individuals, not a consequence of a public policy
or a legislative action.

"The advancement through judicial
actions is a common path. It happened also in Canada and in other countries. In
Colombia, the reason [for] this is that the high Courts made their decisions
based in judicial arguments, whereas the parliament’s decisions are influenced
by moral, religious and political interests," said Marcela Sánchez, Director
of the NGO Colombia Diversa, an
organization that works in favor of the rights of the LBGT community.  

Over the last
two years the Constitutional Court of Colombia has made three rulings granting
some equal rights to same sex couples. 
The Court handed down a ruling stating that same sex couples able to
demonstrate that they have lived together for two years legally have the same
patrimonial rights as heterosexual unions. The same Court also ruled that gays
and lesbians can register their partners to become beneficiaries of social
security coverage.

Finally, a
suit from Colombia Diversa resulted in a ruling dictating that in the event of
the death of a member of a same sex couple, the surviving partner would have
the right to draw on the pension of his or her deceased partner.

"We celebrate
this progress, but there remain many inequalities. For example, we are not yet
allowed to get married," stated Camilo Vargas, Academic coordinator of the LGTB
Circle of the University De Los Andes.

The report
highlighted the deaths of members of the LGBTTTTI community resulting from
actions by police officers and military officers, specifically because of their
identities. The report went on to list some cases of murder of and attacks
against transvestites, "which have not been investigated in an appropriate
manner by the Colombian state."

findings mirrored the concern stated in the United Nations High Commission of
Human Rights in its report from February 2008, about "social cleansing," including
murders due to victims’ sexual orientation.

community’s report also highlights the more broadly understood discrimination
in work places and educational institutions. 
Early this year a young lesbian student was rejected from school because
of her sexual orientation, provoking national protest. The school was later
forced by the court to admit her.

"There are
situations of high intolerance, but our rights are more recognized and the
number of sectors supporting us is increasing," added Sánchez.

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