Criminalization of LGBTI+ people: petition before IACHR to guarantee rights

On October 28 we took part in the thematic hearing as members of the LGBTI+ Litigators of the Americas Network alongside other organizations from the region. We put in an urgent call for reform of Argentina’s drug law and repeal of the misdemeanor codes that allow the criminalization of sex trafficking in public spaces.

Our region is still a mixed bag when it comes to legislation and public policies regarding LGBTI+ persons. Some countries have laws that criminalize this population directly. In others, the necessary protections are omitted. While in others, like Argentina, that recognize their rights and have established mechanisms to guarantee them, state practices and policies that allow serious acts of discrimination persist.

In Argentina, Law 26.743 on gender identity, enacted in 2012, was a major victory for the LGBTI+ community. The law also stands for progress for the region as a whole. Nevertheless, the trans and transvestite population face constant acts of discrimination and hetero-cis-normative institutional violence. The crimes of drug possession for personal consumption or sale and the misdemeanor of sex trafficking in public spaces are the main tools used by the police, who often combine the two offenses to justify abuses toward this community. And the courts, in their validation of police action through their own decisions, reinforce these rights violations. For example, by not recognizing defendants’ self-perceived gender in judicial proceedings.

On October 28, a thematic hearing on “the impact of laws that continue to affect LGBTI+ persons in our region” was held before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to address these and other problems. CELS participated as members of the LGBTI+ Litigators of the Americas Network, alongside other organizations, such as Akahatá (Argentina), Synergía (regional) and Fundación Iguales (Panama).

We submitted to the IACHR that States that still do not have such legislation in place must pass anti-discrimination laws that recognize sexual orientation, identity and self-perceived gender as protected categories in keeping with the American Convention on Human Rights.

We also requested reforms to laws permitting the criminalization of historically excluded groups like the trans and transvestite populations. We asked that official statistics be generated and published on police and judicial interventions in order to ensure visibility when rights violations occur toward these groups. In addition, we highlighted the need to transform historically racist, classist and hetero-cis-normative police and judicial bureaucratic practices.

In light of these requests, the members of the commission expressed concern about this regression on rights already won and about the challenge of confronting anti-rights groups. Furthermore, Commission president Julissa Mantilla emphasized the need to enlist international instruments of women’s rights protection to defend trans and transvestite women. In doing so, she reinforced the ruling of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Vicky Hernández and others v. Honduras.