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Guyana decriminalizes cross-dressing

Four trans women sued after 2009 arrest

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Guyana, gay news, Washington Blade
Georgetown, Guyana (Photo by Ian Mackenzie; courtesy Flickr)

GEORGETOWN, Guyana — Guyana on Tuesday officially decriminalized cross-dressing.

Local media reports indicate lawmakers in the South American country approved a measure to remove cross-dressing from the colonial-era Summary Jurisdiction (Offenses) Act. Guyanese Attorney General Anil Nandlall, who is also the country’s legal affairs minister, supported the bill.

Guyana is a former British colony that borders Venezuela, Suriname and Brazil.

Guyanese authorities in 2009 arrested four transgender women and charged them with cross-dressing under the Summary Jurisdiction (Offenses) Act. The Caribbean Court of Justice in 2018 unanimously struck down the law.

“People don’t know what effect those laws have had on our psyche,” Quincy McEwan, one of the four people who challenged the cross-dressing law, told the Associated Press in June. “We were traumatized every time we prepared to go out as we don’t know if we are going to be arrested and placed in the lockups.”

Guyana’s LGBTQ rights movement in recent years has become more visible, even though consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in their country.

The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination, a Guyanese LGBTQ rights group, in 2018 held the country’s first-ever Pride parade. Activists continue to lobby Guyanese lawmakers to decriminalize homosexuality.

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South America

Chilean president-elect names two LGBTQ+ people to Cabinet

Gabriel Boric and his government takes office on March 11

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Chilean President-elect Gabriel Boric. (Photo via the Chilean government)

SANTIAGO, Chile — Chilean President-elect Gabriel Boric on Friday named two openly LGBTQ+ people to his Cabinet.

Marco Antonio Ávila, who is a gay man, will be the country’s education minister. Alexandra Benado, who is a lesbian, will be Chile’s sports minister.

Javiera Zúñiga, a spokesperson for Movilh (Movimiento de Integración y Liberación Homosexual), a Chilean LGBTQ+ rights group, applauded Boric for naming Ávila and Benado to his Cabinet.

“The visibility of sexual orientation and gender identity is no longer an impediment to access any position in Chile,” said Zúñiga in a press release. “Sexual orientation and gender identity are irrelevant for the positions, whether they are public or private. Capability is the only thing that matters.”

Boric and his government will take office on March 11. Chile’s marriage equality law goes into effect the day before.

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South America

LGBTQ rights supporter elected next Chilean president

Gabriel Boric won election’s second round

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Chile, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

SANTIAGO, Chile — Chilean Congressman Gabriel Boric on Sunday won the second round of the country’s presidential election.

Boric, who previously led a student protest movement, defeated José Antonio Kast, a far-right former congressman, by a 55.9-44.1 percent margin. Boric will succeed President Sebastián Piñera when he takes office on March 11.

Boric’s election comes less than two weeks after Piñera signed a marriage equality bill into law.

The law takes effect on March 10.

“Chile has spoken,” tweeted Movilh, a Chilean LGBTQ rights group, after Boric defeated Kast. “Democracy, equality, justice and discrimination advances.”

Emilia Schneider, who became the first openly transgender person elected to the Chilean congress last month, also applauded Boric’s election.

“Hope always defeats fear,” tweeted Schneider. “We are going to need the same organization and commitment that we showed in this second round (of the election) to defend a transformative government.”

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South America

Chile’s president signs marriage equality law

Sebastián Piñera in June announced support for measure

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Chilean President Sebastián Piñera (public domain photo)

SANTIAGO, Chile — Chilean President Sebastián Piñera on Thursday signed a law that extends marriage rights to same-sex couples in the South American country.

“Freedom, true freedom is always built when we recognize ourselves as equal in dignity and in rights and above all under the law,” he said during a signing ceremony that took place at the Presidential Palace in Santiago, the Chilean capital.

The signing ceremony took place two days after the marriage equality law passed in the country’s Congress.

Movilh, a Chilean LGBTQ rights group, in 2012 filed a lawsuit with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of three same-sex couples who were seeking marriage rights.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2012 ruled in favor of Karen Atala, a Chilean judge who lost custody of her three daughters to her ex-husband because she is a lesbian. The landmark decision established a legal precedent that has been used to advance marriage rights for same-sex couples throughout Latin America.

A law that allows same-sex couples to enter into civil unions took effect in Chile in 2015.

The government of former President Michelle Bachelet — who is now the U.N. high commissioner for human rights — in 2016 said it would introduce bills to extend marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples as part of an agreement between it, Movilh and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Movilh in 2020 withdrew from the agreement after it accused Piñera of not doing enough to advance marriage equality in Chile. Piñera in June announced his support of the issue.

“I celebrate marriage equality in Chile, which ensures recognition and protection for all families, without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity,” tweeted Bachelet on Wednesday. “It’s an important step for the country and I hope others will follow this example.”

Piñera signed the marriage equality law less than two weeks before the second round of Chile’s presidential election in which Congressman Gabriel Boric, who previously led a student protest movement, will face off against José Antonio Kast, a far-right former congressman. The marriage equality law will take effect before Piñera leaves office in March.

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