lunes, 24 de octubre de 2016

Universal Periodic Review to Venezuela 2016

Palais de Nations. Geneva, Switzertland.  October, 2016.  

In 2011, during the first UPR of Venezuela, the State admitted not having done anything on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity issues. Regardless of it, Venezuela received only one recommendation from Canada "to continue to consolidate in the rights of people with different sexual orientations and gender identities, both within its legal framework and in practice". This recommendation has not been implemented. On this second cycle the situation of LGBTI persons in Venezuela remains the same or even worse than it was five years ago.  

There were at least two consultations. We were invited to the first one held in April 30th 2015 in Caracas. For the first meeting approximately 12 NGOs attended. The consultation was coordinated by Rubén Darío Molina General Director of the Office for Multilateral and Integration Affairs. In this meeting I was harassed due to my participation in the Inter American Commission for Human Rights in March 2015, where I presented the Situation of Human Rights of LGBTI persons in Venezuela. For the second meeting, we were not invited. 

In the last two years Venezuela has been reviewed by several Comittees of the UN. In 2014, by the Committee on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Committee on the Rights of the Child. In 2015, it was reviewed by the Committee for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Human Rights Committee; also, by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. All of these Committees and the Commission have recommended Venezuela to legislate in favour of LGBTI persons. However, the State has done nothing on this matter.  

During the last years the situation of LGBTI persons has aggravated. Within the last five years or more, public authorities and officials have started using the real or perceived homosexuality of politicians from the opposition as an insult or an offense; which might incite hatred, stigmatization and even violence against LGBTI persons. The economic and political situation of the country has also affected us. For example, the government has implemented several systems for people to buy food and goods in general. One is by the last number of the ID on a specific day of the week and the other is by distributing a bag with basic products door to door. The first system has caused trans people embarrassing situations since they have to show their ID, when the dependant realises it does  not match with person, they are denied their right to buy goods. The second systems discriminates same sex couples since they are not considered families they are not included on the census. 

In May 2016, The National Assembly, now under a new administration declared May 17th as a National Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, but the Supreme Court of Justice suspended this and other acts of the National Assembly. So what was a first indication of change has been temporarily canceled.   
Acts of discrimination and unequal treatment against civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of LGBTI people are constant and widespread. There are no policies, plans, programs and public services to meet their needs. There is no demographic, social, educational, health or political participation statistics of LGBTI persons. Many times, authorities have justified not having made progress due to cultural barriers, suggesting the need to consult publicly the legitimacy of proposals that would allow LGBTI persons to exercise rights set out in the Constitution. High members of the Hierarchy of the Catholic Church and other Christian religions, as well as important members of the society have consistently opposed the demands of activists and LGBTI organizations through campaigns and influence on public decisions, for reasons based on moral and religious doctrines that denigrate their status as human beings and subjects of full rights. 

Both public and private media constantly ridicule and promote discrimination against LGBTI persons and censor the broadcasting of issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity, and so restricting freedom of expression and the right to information on matters that improve the living conditions of LGBTI persons. Recently, the Commission for National Communications in Venezuela issued a communication to recommend media to change their programs as to avoid discrimination against LGBTI persons. 

LGBTI persons are often denied job opportunities or are segregated in their jobs. In health services, LGBTI persons are subject of cruel treatment when they require health care; they are prevented from donating blood because they are considered "risk" and "promiscuous" people. In public and private schools, people who are defined as LGBTI or those who are perceived as such, are often victims of harassment, physical punishment and degrading treatment by members of the community.

Preliminarily statistics from the Population Census in 2011, mentioned there are at least 6,000 same sex families that lack legal protection due to the impossibility of legal recognition by the marriage or civil union between same sex persons.  According to data from a Venezuelan organization, 2,000 children and adolescents from these families are facing severe problems of access to education, health and social and legal protection, having no possibility to formalize their status within their homes. Between 2011 and 2016, Union Affirmativa de Venezuela along with other organizations, presented to the National Assembly several proposals to amend laws that, so far, have not been considered. 

Trans and intersex persons cannot change their name and sex on their legal identity documents. The implementation of the Law of Civil Registration has failed, which is possible only when the name does correspond to gender, through a simple administrative act, due to the refusal of the registry authorities to meet this standard and although deputies of the National Assembly stated in 2009 when the reform of the bill was introduced, its goal was to protect trans and intersex people. 

LGBTI people are victim of constant violence because of their sexual orientation and gender identity and there are no policies to investigate and prosecute these cases. Between 2009 and 2016, ACCSI , a Venezuelan Organization, registered 175 hate crimes published by the press, 75 murders and 100 assaults that included arbitrary detentions, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Most of those people killed were aged between 17 to 30 years old, 71.7% were trans. 39.1% were sex workers and 76% of the bodies were found in avenues, streets and highways, garbage dumps or less traveled sites. The Public Ministry does not guarantee judicial proceedings on rights and constitutional guarantees. 

In 2010, the previous National Ombudsperson, Gabriela del Mar Ramirez, announced the creation of a special Ombudsperson for LGBTI. In 2012, it was announced for the second time. Finally in 2013, an office was opened and a person was appointed as a Special Ombusdman. However, that person was in charge of administrative tasks not related to the defense of LGBTI persons. Today, we do not really know if that person and office exist. The current Ombudsman, Tarek William Saab has taken  few actions on sexual orientation and gender identity issues without accomplishments or significant impact. His most recent report gives several recommendations on LGBTI issues to other branches of power in Venezuela but none to his own office. 

Quiteria Franco

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