Editor’s note: International News Editor Michael K. Lavers was on assignment in Brazil from March 12-21.
RIO DE JANEIRO — March 14 marked four years since the murders of Rio de Janeiro Municipal Councilwoman Marielle Franco and her driver, Anderson Gomes, after they attended an event for Black women in the Brazilian city’s Lapa neighborhood. It remains very difficult for Franco’s widow, Mônica Benício, to discuss that day without becoming emotional.
“Before I start crying, I’ll just ask you to imagine what it is like to lose the love of your life,” said Benício on Saturday, speaking through her assistant who interpreted for her during an interview with the Washington Blade.
A tattoo of Franco’s face on Benício’s left forearm was visible throughout the interview that took place at a coffee shop near Largo de Machado in downtown Rio. A picture of Franco at a beach was also the screensaver on Benício’s smartphone.
Franco, a bisexual woman and single mother of African descent, grew up in Maré, a favela in the northern part of Rio that is close to its international airport.
Franco in 2003 began to work for now Congressman Marcelo Freixa, who is currently a member of the Brazilian Socialist Party, when he was a member of the Rio de Janeiro (State) Legislative Assembly. She coordinated its Defense of Human Rights and Citizenship Commission and worked for a number of local human rights organizations before she won a seat on the Rio Municipal Council in 2016 as a member of the leftist Socialism and Liberty Party.
Benício noted Franco received the fifth highest number of votes among the 51 candidates who ran for the Municipal Council in 2016. Only one other female candidate received more votes than Franco.
Franco, among other things, was an outspoken critic of police raids in Rio’s favelas that have left hundreds of people dead. She was a member of a Rio Municipal Council commission that sought to investigate them.
Franco four days before her murder described the Rio de Janeiro State Military Police’s 41st Battalion as “the death battalion” in response to the killings of three young men in two of the city’s favelas.
Authorities in 2019 arrested two former police officers in connection with Franco’s murder.
Benício noted the men remain in jail, but their trial has not begun.
“The struggle for justice to find out who ordered the murder and how high up they were indicates we are still far from knowing,” she said.
Ronnie Lessa, one of the main suspects, lived in the same large condominium complex in Rio’s exclusive Barra da Tijuca neighborhood in which President Jair Bolsonaro lives.
Bolsonaro, a former Brazilian Army captain who represented Rio in Congress for decades, was not president when Franco and Gomes were murdered.
Bolsonaro has strongly denied media reports that indicate Lessa visited his home before the killings. Benício referred to investigators’ claim the fact that Lessa and Bolsonaro were neighbors is “just a coincidence.”
Bolsonaro election ‘worst thing’ in Brazil for decades
Bolsonaro took office on Jan. 1, 2019. He defeated former São Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s Workers’ Party in the second round of the country’s presidential election that took place on Oct. 28, 2018.
“It’s the worst thing that’s happened in the history of this country for decades,” said Benício.
Bolsonaro’s comments against LGBTQ+ Brazilians, women, indigenous people and other underrepresented groups have sparked widespread outrage. Sources in Rio, São Paulo and Salvador with whom the Blade spoke also noted Bolsonaro, who is a member of the Liberal Party, has sought to link COVID-19 vaccines to AIDS.
“It is important for us to understand that Jair Bolsonaro has been in Congress for 30 years and has made no contribution to society,” said Benício.
Benício noted Bolsonaro’s homophobic, transphobic, racist and misogynist rhetoric was “known” before he became president. Benício said it resonates with a segment of Brazilian society and has caused incidents of discrimination, harassment and violence based on race, sexual orientation, gender identity, class and other factors to increase.
“It is an absolutely despicable posture and incompatible with a posture of the president of the republic,” she said. “It does, however, resonates with sectors of society.”
Brazil’s presidential, vice presidential, congressional and state gubernatorial and legislative elections will take place on Oct. 2.
Early polls indicate da Silva is ahead of the highly unpopular Bolsonaro, although a run-off will take place if no presidential candidate receives a majority of the vote. Eduardo Leite, the governor of Rio Grande do Sul State and member of the center-left Brazilian Social Democratic Party who came out as gay last summer, is among those who are running for vice president.
Benício told the Blade that she is hopeful the election “will not be a favorable result” for Bolsonaro. Benício also acknowledged growing concerns that Bolsonaro may not accept the election results if he loses.
“Whether we can complete this electoral period within (the framework of) our democracy or if we have someone who has finally shown that he has no scruples is a real concern,” said Benício. “It doesn’t matter if he hands over that presidential sash.”
Benício elected to Rio Municipal Council in 2020
Franco’s family has created the Marielle Franco Institute that seeks to “inspire, connect and empower Black women, LGBTQIA+ people and others on the margins in order to continue moving the structures of society towards a fairer and more egalitarian world.”
Benício, who also grew up in Maré, was an architect before Franco and Gomes were killed. Benício in 2020 ran for the Rio Municipal Council as a member of the Socialism and Liberty Party, and won with nearly 23,000 votes.
Benício’s first term would have been Franco’s second.
“It was never in my personal life plan,” Benício told the Blade. “I was the partner of a lawmaker and my life was dedicated to architecture.”
Benício said the majority of her colleagues on the Municipal Council have treated her well, although some of them strongly disagree with her positions on LGBTQ+ rights and other issues that include support for efforts to address social and economic disparities in the city. Benício stressed she champions the same issues that Franco did.
“They already knew me as a defender of human rights,” said Benício, referring to her colleagues on the Municipal Council. “They already knew me as a feminist, a lesbian.”
Benício further stressed she remains committed to keeping Franco’s legacy alive.
“Seeing Marielle turn into a broad representative symbol of resistance, of hope, for me is the legacy,” said Benício. “Marielle’s life will not be in vain. Society will also not allow it.”
Chilean government seeks to implement LGBTQ+, intersex rights agenda
Conservative newspaper incorrectly reported ministry plans legislation
SANTIAGO, Chile — A conversative Chilean newspaper’s article on Sunday that said the Women and Gender Equity Ministry was preparing to introduce a bill that would create an LGBTQ+ and intersex rights undersecretariat prompted mixed reactions across the country.
The ministry in 2022 launched its first “LGBTIQA+ Roundtable” that includes representatives of different public institutions, organizations and Chilean LGBTQ+ and intersex activists who are working to improve the quality of life for the country’s queer community that over the last year has seen an increase in attacks and hate crimes.
LGBTQ+ and intersex rights in Chile have gained ground over the last decade.
Civil unions, marriage equality, Transgender rights and an anti-discrimination law are some of the successes that took time to take effect. There is, however, no state institution or public policy that works to ensure historically discriminated LGBTQ+ and intersex Chileans are included. This is why activists feel the “LGBTIQA+ Roundtable” that President Gabriel Boric’s government is promoting is an unprecedented opportunity.
Forty-two organizations from across Chile participated in the roundtable during its first year, which culminated on Jan. 6 with the signing of an agreement between the Women and Gender Equity Ministry’s Women and Gender Equality Undersecretariat and the Interior and Public Safety Ministry’s Crime Prevention Undersecretariat to assist people across the country who are victims of anti-LGBTQ+ attacks. The roundtable at the same time also announced it will send a bill to Congress later in 2023 that would expand the ministry’s mandate to ensure “the LGBTIQA+ community is included.”
There has yet to be an announcement on the creation of an LGBTQ+ and intersex undersecretariat.
Most Chilean media outlets covered this report after El Mercurio published it on Sunday. José Antonio Kast, an extreme right-wing politician who is a former presidential candidate, on his Twitter account criticized what turned out to be inaccurate.
“Chile is poorer, more violent and insecure than a year ago and the inept government is dedicated to enlarge the State to deepen its ideological agenda, instead of solving social urgencies,” wrote the Republican Party leader.
The ministry told the Washington Blade that “the roundtable with organizations from the LGBTIQA+ community has just been finalized.”
“One of the demands is to have an institutionality,” said the ministry. “During 2023 it will be defined which is the progressive path, while the anti-discrimination law is improved at the same time.”
Women and Gender Equity Undersecretary Luz Vidal Huiriqueo on her social media networks said “we met with LGBTQ+ organizations for seven months” and the ministry made “security, employment and health priorities.”
“On the 1st we advanced in an agreement with (the Crime Prevention Undersecretariat) to properly address and for the long challenges we committed to propose an institutional mechanism,” said Vidal.
Vidal said in an exclusive interview with the Blade before El Mercurio published its inaccurate report that “finding and giving answers to the demands of the LGBTIQA+ population in Chile is a commitment for President Gabriel Boric’s government that will not be put aside for anything.”
“We at the (Women and Gender Equality Ministry) have embraced the day-to-day needs that this community, in many cases, has to survive,” said Vidal from her office. “That is why, from our ministry, we have created this intergovernmental roundtable to have a fluid and permanent communication with LGBTIQA+ organizations.
Vidal added Boric “instructed us to move from discourse to action.”
“We have to get to work. We have to implement the agreements,” said Vidal. “We can’t just make pretty announcements and that is our commitment. The commitment we have today is to work for women, for gender equity, for and with the entire population, in favor of all citizens and of those who lack the presence of the State.”
The undersecretary told the Blade the need to incorporate the queer community into the ministry’s work is important because “the State, as of today, has no powers to specifically address the LGBTQ+ population.”
“We need to create a progressive path that, whether an institutional or other figure, allows us to implement public policies,” she said.
That supposed institutionality was the one that sparked controversy last Sunday and it will not be an easy path, regardless of the mechanism that Boric’s government ultimately chooses to implement.
“I think it is not going to be an easy process,” said Vidal. “It is not going to be a project that we can say, we are going to take them out at the end of the year, that is clear to us. Even today it is difficult to move forward with projects or the work that the ministry is doing because we currently have a Congress with political forces that are against inclusion and respect for diversity. This is present in our Congress, and it is also present in several Latin American countries.”
Emilia Schneider, Chile’s first Trans congresswoman, on the other hand told the Blade that “it seems to me that the announcement of an institutional framework for the LGBTI community within the Women’s Ministry, and also in what has been working with the Justice Ministry to advance in an institutional framework against discrimination, regarding the reform of the Anti-Discrimination Law are two fundamental steps to advance in dignity and rights for sexual diversities and dissidences.”
Schneider said it is important “to make a permanent change in the State, which recognizes the importance of having a space that responds to the needs of the queer population and takes charge of combating inequality, discrimination and violence to which our community is exposed.”
“It seems to me that this is one of the most important commitments, which if realized would be a fundamental legacy of this government in matters of sexual diversity and dissidence,” she said.
Ignacia Oyarzun, coordinator of public policies for Asociación OTD Chile, the country’s most important Trans rights organization, said the implementation of an institutional framework to advance LGBTQ and intersex rights “is an advance that goes in the direction of establishing what will be a trans labor quota to achieve a greater integration of the community in society.”
Oyarzun noted employers do not hire people who are Trans, or fire them without reason. This lack of employment opportunities, according to Asociación OTD Chile, makes trans people more vulnerable to violence.
Jorge Muñoz of Movimiento Organizado de Gays, Lesbianas, Trans y Heterosexuales (MOGALETH) in Puerto Montt, a city that is roughly 640 miles south of the capital of Santiago, also participated in the roundtable. Muñoz told the Blade that “any approach from the central power to civil society, and especially to the regions, is positive.”
“In this context, we consider it an advance in terms of the demands of the collective in the struggle for the recognition of the historical violation of our rights,” said Muñoz. “The State’s recognition of mistreatment and hate speech towards dissidents has historically been centralized. The regions where we also suffer harassment, mistreatment, difficulties in access to health, education and work have been relegated throughout history. In this sense, what we value most is the recognition of our demands in the territorial context.”
Brazilian LGBTQ+ lawmakers threatened during conference
VoteLGBT organized Brasília gathering
BRASÍLIA, Brazil — The LGBTQ Victory Institute on Tuesday condemned the threat that Brazilian lawmakers received during a conference in which it participated in the country’s capital.
A press release notes São Paulo Legislative Assemblywoman-elect Thainara Faria, a Black bisexual woman who is a member of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s Workers’ Party, on Jan. 20 “received a threatening, racist and LGBT-phobic email that indicated that they physical integrity of the representatives-elect at our event was at risk.”
Faria is one of the 18 openly LGBTQ+ congressional and state legislative candidates who won election last October. She, along with Transgender Congresswomen Erika Hilton and Duda Salabert and 11 of the other elected officials, attended the first-of-its-kind conference that took place in Brasília.
The Victory Institute notes VoteLGBT, the main organizer that seeks to increase the number of LGBTQ+ and intersex people in Brazilian politics, reached out to Fábio Félix, a gay member of the Socialism and Liberty Party who is a member of the Federal District’s Legislative Chamber, and Congresswoman Erika Kokay, a member of the Workers Party who represents the Federal District, after Faria received the threat. Félix and Kokay then contacted local authorities who provided conference participants with a police escort.
Officers patrolled the conference venue, and organizers increased private security. The Victory Institute also notes two Brazilian government ministries — the Human Rights and Citizenship Ministry and the Justice and Public Safety Ministries — have begun to investigate the threat.
The Equal Rights in Action Fund co-organized the conference along with VotoLGBT and the Victory Institute. Associaçao Nacional de Travestis e Transexuais (National Association of Travestis and Transsexuals), a Brazilian Trans rights group known by the acronym ANTRA, and Associação Brasileira de Lésbicas, Gays, Bissexuais, Travestis, Transexuais e Intersexos (Brazilian Association of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Travestis, Transsexuals and Intersex People) are among the other groups that sponsored the gathering.
Faria, along with the other elected officials who attended the conference and the groups that organized and sponsored it, in a joint statement said “fascism uses terror in an attempt to paralyze and weaken our fight.”
“They attack us because of our project is powerful,” it reads. “We understand that the best response to this attack — in addition to quickly protecting the threatened representative, reinforcing the security at the event and contacting the competent authorities — is to continue with our agenda and scheduled programming.”
The conference took place less than two weeks after thousands of former President Jair Bolsonaro supporters stormed the Brazilian Congress, Supreme Court and presidential palace.
Bolsonaro, a member of the right-wing Liberal Party, sought to discredit the country’s electoral system ahead of last October’s presidential election. Da Silva defeated him in the second round, but Bolsonaro never publicly acknowledged he lost. Bolsonaro flew to Florida two days before Da Silva’s inauguation, which took place on Jan. 1.
Both Hilton and Salabert received threats during their respective campaigns.
Hilton, a Black travesti and former sex worker who was a member of the São Paulo Municipal Council before she won her seat in Congress, acknowledged concerns about her safety when she spoke with the Washington Blade shortly after her election. A security guard stood a few feet away from her while she spoke with this reporter at a pro-Da Silva rally in São Paulo’s Praça Roosevelt.
“I am afraid, but I think that this fear is not going to be able to stop me,” Hilton told the Blade. “It is the fuel that motivates me.”
Former Congressman Jean Wyllys, who is openly gay and a vocal Bolsonaro critic, in 2019 resigned and fled the country after he received death threats.
Rio de Janeiro Municipal Councilwoman Marielle Franco, a bisexual woman and single mother of African descent who grew up in a favela near the city’s international airport, and her driver, Anderson Gomes, were murdered on March 14, 2018. Bolsonaro was not president at the time, but one of the two former police officers who have been arrested and charged with the murders lived in the same condominium complex in Rio’s exclusive Barra da Tijuca neighborhood in which the now former president lives. Franco’s widow, Rio Municipal Councilwoman Mônica Benício, last March described this fact to the Blade as “just a coincidence.”
‘We will continue fighting for a democracy for all’
The joint statement that Hilton and the other conference participants signed states the threats against them is “a good example of how political violence works, seeking to silence our voices.”
“Despite the sabotage of many different actors, including some in their own parties, LGBT+ candidates received more than 3.5 million votes in 2022,” it reads. “Traditional politics needs our voices, because we do not advocate for LGBT+ issues alone; we propose innovative public policies to fight hunger, lack of housing, discrimination and all of the evils plaguing our people.”
“LGBT+ political strategies will continue to flourish in all spaces, despite threats to any elected representative,” adds the statement. “Attacks will be met with investigations and accountability. United and strong, we will continue fighting for a democracy for all.”
Bolsonaro supporters storm Brazilian Supreme Court, Congress and presidential palace
LGBTQ and intersex advocacy groups condemn ‘coup’
BRASÍLIA, Brazil — Thousands of supporters of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Sunday stormed the country’s Congress, presidential palace and Supreme Court.
Videos from Brasília, the Brazilian capital, show Bolsonaro supporters, many of whom were wearing yellow and green Brazilian soccer jerseys, entered the three buildings and ransacked them after overwhelming police officers.
Media reports indicate it took several hours for authorities to regain control of Three Powers Square in which Congress, the presidential palace and the Supreme Court are located. CNN Brasil notes at least 400 people have been arrested, and Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes has removed Federal District Gov. Ibaneis Rocha from his post. Additional reports also indicate several journalists were injured during what has been described as a “coup” and “terrorist acts” that took place two days after the U.S. commemorated the second anniversary of Jan. 6.
President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took office in Brasília on Jan. 1.
Da Silva, a member of the leftist Worker’s Party, was Brazil’s president from 2003-2010. He defeated Bolsonaro, a member of the right-wing Liberal Party who represented Rio de Janeiro in Congress for nearly three decades before he became president in 2018, in the second round of the country’s presidential election that took place on Oct. 30, 2022.
Bolsonaro ahead of the election sought to discredit Brazil’s electoral system.
“The Brazilian presidential election has fueled a misinformation emergency that has tipped the LGBT+ community into a boiling pot of fake news,” wrote Egerton Neto, a Brazilian LGBTQ+ and intersex activist who is also an Aspen New Voices Fellow and manager of Oxford University’s XX, in an op-ed the Washington Blade published on Oct. 28, 2022, two days before Da Silva defeated Bolsonaro. “This is part of a broader global problem and we need a global plan to stop it.”
Bolsonaro, who has yet to publicly acknowledge he lost the election, flew to Florida on Dec. 30, two days before Da Silva’s inauguration.
Da Silva, who was visiting the flood-ravaged city of Araraquara in São Paulo state on Sunday, described those who stormed Congress, the presidential palace and the Supreme Court as “fascist fanatics” and ordered the federal government to take control of security in the Federal District in which Brasília is located. Da Silva in his nationally televised comments also accused Bolsonaro of inciting his supporters after the election.
Brazilian federal prosecutors have asked the Supreme Court to issue an arrest warrant for now former Federal District Security Secretary Anderson Torres, who was Brazil’s Justice and Public Security Minister from March 2021 until Bolsonaro’s term ended, and “other public agents responsible for acts and omissions.”
Bolsonaro in a series of tweets condemned Sunday’s events.
“Peaceful demonstrations, in a legal way, are part of democracy,” he tweeted. “However, depredations and invasions of public buildings as occurred today, as well as those carried out by the left in 2013 and 2017, go against the rule.”
“Throughout my mandate; I have always been within the four lines of the Constitution: Respecting and defending the laws, democracy, transparency and our sacred freedom,” added Bolsonaro. “I also repudiate the accusations, without evidence, attributed to me by the current head of the Executive (Branch) of Brazil.”
– Manifestações pacíficas, na forma da lei, fazem parte da democracia. Contudo, depredações e invasões de prédios públicos como ocorridos no dia de hoje, assim como os praticados pela esquerda em 2013 e 2017, fogem à regra.
— Jair M. Bolsonaro 2️⃣2️⃣ (@jairbolsonaro) January 9, 2023
– No mais, repudio as acusações, sem provas, a mim atribuídas por parte do atual chefe do executivo do Brasil.
— Jair M. Bolsonaro 2️⃣2️⃣ (@jairbolsonaro) January 9, 2023
President Joe Biden, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, Organization of American States Secretary-General Luis Almagro, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel and Chilean President Gabriel Boric are among the world leaders who condemned Sunday’s assault. LGBTQ+ and intersex rights groups in Brazil echoed these condemnations.
“We express our most vehement disgust at this attempt and call on the competent authorities to enforce the law for all those criminals who attacked democracy on Jan. 8, 2023,” said Associaçao Nacional de Travestis e Transexuais (National Association of Travestis and Transsexuals), a Brazilian Transgender rights group known by the acronym ANTRA, in a statement. “We cannot tolerate any type of attack and especially in this dimension. May the arm of the law also reach (the funders), creators and those who put it into practice. We remain on the right side of history, the side of democracy.”
Toni Reis, president of Aliança Nacional LGBTI+, a Brazilian LGBTQ+ and intersex advocacy group, in a WhatsApp message to the Blade described the assault as “horrible.” Erika Hilton, one of two Trans women elected to Congress last October, described those who carried out the assault as “terrorists.”
“Terrorists invade the Supreme Court and destroy everything,” she said in a tweet that included a video of Bolsonaro supporters inside the Supreme Court. “They also invaded the Planalto (Presidential) Palace and Congress. The involvement of the Federal District’s government in the destruction of Brazil’s capital is evident. Everyone has to be punished.”
Lula takes office in Brazil
Anti-LGBTQ+ Jair Bolsonaro did not attend inauguration
BRASÍLIA, Brazil — Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Sunday took office in his country’s capital of Brasília.
Hundreds of thousands of Da Silva’s supporters traveled to Brasília for his inauguration. U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland is among the digitaries who attended.
“Today we begin a new chapter in Brazil’s history,” tweeted Da Silva after his inauguration.
Hoje começamos uma nova etapa na história do Brasil.
— Lula (@LulaOficial) January 1, 2023
Da Silva, a member of the leftist Worker’s Party, was Brazil’s president from 2003-2010.
Da Silva in 2017 received a 9 1/2 year prison sentence after his conviction on money laundering and corruption charges that stemmed from Operation Car Wash. The Brazilian Supreme Court in November 2019 ordered Da Silva’s release.
His precedessor, Jair Bolsonaro, a member of the right-wing Liberal Party who represented Rio de Janeiro in the Brazilian Congress for nearly three decades, took office in 2018.
The former Brazilian Army captain faced sharp criticism because of his rhetoric against LGBTQ+ and intersex Brazilians and other groups. Bolsonaro’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic also sparked outrage.
Da Silva, who publicly supported LGBTQ+ and intersex rights during his campaign, last October defeated Bolsonaro in the second round of the country’s presidential election.
Bolsonaro sought to discredit Brazil’s electoral system. The now former president, who has yet to publicly acknowledge his loss, on Dec. 30 gave an emotional speech to his supporters before he flew to Florida.
Bolsonaro did not attend Da Silva’s inauguration.
“In a sense it’s good,” one source in Brazil told the Washington Blade on Dec. 31. “[Bolsonaro]’s moving out of the way.”
Two Transgender congresswoman take office
Two Transgender congresswomen — Erika Hilton and Duda Salabert —took office on Monday. Rio Grande do Sul Gov. Eduardo Leite, a member of the centrist Brazilian Social Democracy Party who is the country’s first openly gay state governor, also began his second term in office.
Leite last October defeated Onyx Lorenzoni, a member of the right-wing Liberal Party who is Bolsonaro’s former chief-of-staff.
Global efforts to ban conversion therapy gain traction
Subjecting a person to conversion therapy will be unsuccessful and can create very serious mental health issues
SANTIAGO, Chile – Efforts to ban so-called conversion therapy gained significant traction around the world in 2022.
Only four countries at the end of 2021 had explicit laws that banned the widely discredited practice. Numerous jurisdictions around the world in 2022 have enacted legislation or taken executive action. The Global Equality Caucus, an international network of lawmakers who have committed themselves to fight discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity, has driven many of these efforts.
Global Equality Caucus Vice President Tamara Adrián, who is also the first openly transgender woman elected to the Venezuelan National Assembly, told Washington Blade that “any compulsive therapy to modify sexual orientation is contrary to human rights. Subjecting a person to conversion therapy will be unsuccessful and can create very serious mental health problems, as these therapies use invasive behavioral methods to try to modify sexual orientation.”
“The consequence is that no one modifies their sexual orientation but may become unable to have relationships with any person and that is the reality in this matter. They are a mechanism intended to erase LGBT people from the earth,” Adrián added.
Canada and France in January introduced LGBTQ-inclusive bills to ban conversion therapy for minors and adults, regardless of perceived “consent,” in clinical and religious settings. Anyone found guilty of offering or practicing conversion therapy is subject to a fine or jail time.
New Zealand in February passed the Conversion Practices Prohibition Act with the same breadth of protections as Canada and France. And in May 2022, following an amendment to the Health for All Act, lawmakers in Greece passed measures explicitly prohibiting conversion therapy for persons under 18 and “non-consenting” adults.
A law that lawmakers in the Australian state in Victoria passed in 2021 took effect in February. The law, first proposed in 2020, has been hailed as a model for legislation to ban conversion therapy and certainly inspired New Zealand’s ban.
Several Mexican states also banned conversion practices this year, following the nation’s first prohibition that Mexico City approved in 2020. Lawmakers in Jalisco, Baja California, Puebla, Hidalgo and Sonora states approved measures to ban them.
The British government’s decision to support a trans-exclusive bill to ban conversion therapy prompted advocacy groups to boycott an LGBTQ and intersex rights conference that was to have taken place in London during Pride Month. The conference was later cancelled.
Nick Herbert, a member of the British House of Lords who advised then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson on LGBTQ and intersex issues, is a member of the Global Equality Caucus.
Indirect conversion therapy bans are “when countries do not explicitly prohibit them through legislation, however, they are not allowed from a mental health standpoint,” Global Equality Caucus Membership and Programs Coordinator Erick Ortiz told the Blade.
Israel’s Health Ministry in February issued a directive that said medical professionals are prohibited from offering, advertising or performing conversion therapy, and those who violate the ban could face punishment. The Knesset in 2020 passed a conversion therapy ban bill, but lawmakers have yet to codify the directive.
India’s National Medical Commission the same month in a filing with the Madras High Court clarified that any licensed medical professional in the country who is found guilty of offering conversion therapy can face prosecution for professional misconduct. India, like Israel, does not explicitly ban the practice throughout the country, but the filing reaffirmed a 2021 court order that prohibits any attempt to “cure or change” the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ people.
Vietnam’s Health Ministry in 2021 issued guidance to clarify that homosexuality and transgender identities are not considered curable diseases, and that doctors should not engage in coercive treatments that attempt to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Paraguay in November joined Argentina and Uruguay in becoming the third South American country to amend its mental health law to prohibit a mental health diagnosis on the basis of “sexual choice or identity.”
Lawmakers in several countries in 2022 introduced bills to ban conversion therapy; but they have not been passed because of legislative processes, timelines and elections.
Icelandic MP Hanna Katrin Fridriksson, a Global Equality Caucus member, in January introduced a bill in the Althing (Iceland’s Parliament,) but it has not yet progressed. Dutch Sen. Boris Dittrich, helped champion a bill in his country’s Parliament, but it was referred to committee. A bill in Cyprus also reached the committee stage and is likely to be passed in 2023.
Former Colombian Congressman Mauricio Toro introduced a bill, but it was not passed before the new Congress took office in July. A group of lawmakers from various political parties have reintroduced the bill.
Norwegian Equality Minister Anette Trettebergstuen introduced a bill proposing a total ban on conversion therapy, going beyond plans the previous government first announced in 2021. Lawmakers are currently reviewing the measure. The Belgian Cabinet has approved a similar proposal, but the lower house of the country’s Parliament has not given its final approval.
The Mexican Senate after nearly four years of stalemate approved a federal bill after consultations with Yaaj Mexico, an LGBTQ and intersex rights group, and talks at the Global Equality Council summit that took place in Mexico City earlier this year. The measure will take effect once the Mexican Chamber of Deputies approves it, which will likely take effect in 2023.
Several other countries have expressed they support conversion therapy bans, but their governments or congressmen have yet to submit a parliamentary bill. They include the Ireland, Sweden, Finland and some states in Australia.
Peruvian Congresswoman Susel Paredes will lead a bill to ban conversion therapies in her country
“Congresswoman Susel Paredes is waiting for the right moment to present the project due to the political problems Peru is facing,” Ortiz said.
New Peruvian president’s views on LGBTQ+, intersex issues unclear
Dina Boluarte succeeded Pedro Castillo after self-coup, impeachment
LIMA, Peru — It has been a volatile week in Peru.
The country has a new president, Dina Boluarte, after former President Pedro Castillo’s attempted self-coup. But since Boluarte was sworn in, unrest and violent protests have erupted and continued unabated around the country. Many are therefore wondering if Peru’s first female president will remain in office for much longer.
Castillo on Dec. 7 announced he was dissolving Congress.
Castillo made this announcement on the same day that Congress was scheduled to hold a vote on his impeachment. While it wasn’t clear if there were enough votes to impeach the embattled former president; Castillo was swiftly voted out of office after his announcement with 101 votes in favor, six against and 10 abstentions.
Boluarte, who was Castillo’s vice president, was immediately sworn in. She is Peru’s sixth president in five years, and her ascendance has come to signify the ongoing political instability that has become characteristic of the Andean nation.
Castillo supporters, mostly poor and indigenous Peruvians, have since taken to streets in every big city in Peru to demand Castillo’s reinstatement, Congress’ dissolution and new elections. These protests have led to violent clashes with police that have left at least seven dead and dozens more injured.
Lima’s Pride March Collective, composed of many of the city’s LGBTQ and intersex organizations, has released a statement condemning “excessive force” by Peruvian police against protesters. The statement also calls for dialogue between the Executive Branch and civil and political leaders of the protests.
Despite Boluarte being a former member of Castillo’s government, she is viewed as a traitor among Castillo supporters. Hashtags such as #DinaRenunciaYa and #DinaAsesina have been trending on Twitter, the latter hashtag accusing the president of being responsible for the death of the protesters.
Castillo, meanwhile, who is currently being held by police, is calling his detention a “kidnapping” and is accusing Boluarte of being a “usurper.” He is not alone in not recognizing the new president. The governments of Mexico, Bolivia, Argentina and Colombia have all come out in support of Castillo and have refused to recognize Boluarte as Peru’s new president.
In response to the ongoing protests, Boluarte proposed moving up the next general election to April 2024. It was previously scheduled for 2026. But protesters are not satisfied and demonstrations across the country have not ceased as of Wednesday. Boluarte’s government as a result has declared a 30-day state of emergency for the entire country.
Promsex, one of Peru’s most prominent LGBTQ+ and intersex rights groups, addressed Peru’s new president in a statement posted to Twitter.
“We demand that the Executive Branch guarantee the safety of all people, including that of law enforcement personnel, and that there be no more deaths in the democratic and legitimate exercise of the right to protest,” said Promsex.
Castillo, who took office in July 2021, during his campaign expressed his opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples. Castillo further stressed that LGBTQ+ and intersex issues would not be “a priority” for his government.
Congressman Guido Bellindo, an indigenous man who was briefly a member of Castillo’s Cabinet, in a 2019 Facebook post praised former Cuban President Fidel Castro and specifically his 1963 comments in which he said “the (Cuban) revolution does not need hairdressers and work will make them men. The ‘new man’ cannot be a faggot. The socialist society cannot allow this type of degenerates.”
For now, it seems that Boluarte will remain in power. Little is known, however, about the former vice president and many of her political stances. Boluarte, however, differs from both Castillo and Peru Libre, the political party from which she and the former president were both elected.
Boluarte has said she is against “a generalized nationalization of the economy and government intervention in the media.” She has also previously commented that although she is a leftist, she strives not to be sectarian or totalitarian.
Boluarte’s views on most social issues, let alone LGBTQ+ and intersex rights, are also unknown. This lack of clarity has led some activists to worry.
Boluarte in 2020 had an altercation with Marina Kapoor, a Transgender activist.
Kapoor says Boluarte repeatedly called her “sir” and referred to her using male pronouns. In 2021, when Boluarte was appointed Social Development and Inclusion Minister, Kapoor came forward with the allegations of this mistreatment by saying: “If you say, Mrs. Boluarte, that you are going to defend women … what did you do with me then, did you not violate me?”
Boluarte has never apologized for the incident.
Prominent Transgender activist murdered in Chile
Claudia Diaz Pérez, 73, found dead in her home on Dec. 11
CARTAGENA, Chile — A prominent Transgender activist in Chile was found dead in her home over the weekend.
Authorities in Cartagena in the country’s Valparaíso Province on Sunday found Claudia Diaz Pérez, 73, dead.
Ricardo Castillo of the Investigations Police of Chile (PDI)’s Homicide Brigade told El Líder, a Chilean newspaper, the head injuries that Diaz had were “compatible with the action of third parties” and she suffered them less than 24 hours before authorities discovered her body.
Authorities have not determined whether Diaz’s murder was a hate crime. Her friends and fellow activists, meanwhile, have categorized it as such.
Díaz throughout her life worked with a variety of organizations.
She was a spokesperson for Club de Adultos Mayores Sobrevivientes del 73, a group that victims of human rights abuses that took place during Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. Diaz was also a leader of Cartagena Atlético, a local sports club, and Sindicato Afrodita, a group for Trans women.
Women and Gender Equality Minister Antonia Orellana on her Twitter account condemned Díaz’s murder.
“(Sindicato Afrodita) leader Claudia Díaz participated in our ‘Mesa LGTBIQA,’ presenting on the issue of aging transgender people,” tweeted Orellana. “She was found dead yesterday. (The National Service for the Woman and Gender Equity) will take part in (the effort) for justice. We will continue our work. Trans lives matter.”
Emilia Schneider, the first openly Trans woman elected to the Chilean Congress, during an interview with the Washington Blade said Diaz was “a very beloved leader in her community.”
“Her death has caused a lot of commotion,” said Schneider. “This happens in the Fifth Region of Chile’s Valparaíso Province, which has already been labeled as a red zone for the LGBTI community because of the amount of crimes and hate crimes in the area … Claudia was found dead and it must be investigated.”
Schneider said the government “has mobilized … to investigate the possibility of a hate crime.”
“We undoubtedly also have to move forward with substantive responses to the violence and discrimination that affects our community,” she said. “We are working on an amendment to the Anti-Discrimination Law in Congress. And there are many other efforts — comprehensive sex education and other measures, for example — the government should, can and urgently needs to undertake.”
Asociación OTD Chile, the country’s most prominent Trans rights organization, also condemned Diaz’s death.
“Again, and days before the end of the year, we must (note) another murder of a Trans person in Chile. This time, the victim was Claudia Diaz, an elderly Trans activist, who had managed to survive the military dictatorship’s darkest stages and social hatred, but who still met a violent demise,” Ignacia Oyarzún, the group’s coordinator of public policies and legislation, told the Washington Blade. “We sadly see that hate crimes have recently increased, fueled by hateful Trans discourse promoted in the media and by indolent political authorities in the face of a reality that they do not want to change.”
Oyarzún said Trans people “continue to be discriminated against and violated by our families, segregated from educational spaces, fired from our jobs, discriminated in health centers and in general from any public space.”
“A gender identity law is useless if the State cannot first guarantee our existence,” she said.
Alessia Injoque, a Trans activist who is the director of Fundación Iguales, a Chilean advocacy group that partners with the Human Rights Campaign, said “it is painful to know that another trans woman, another Trans activist, has been violently murdered.”
“If it is proven that the motivation was her gender identity, she will become one more of the (many) friends and colleagues that hate has stolen from us,” she told the Blade.
Injoque added that she hope “progress is made in the investigation to bring the culprits to justice and that priority is given to expanding the Anti-Discrimination Law.”
“This is the only effective way to confront the violence that affects the lives of all LGBTIQ+ people,” she said. “It is urgent that this government take concrete measures in the face of facts that cannot remain in indifference, understanding that due to the circumstances, we are a population at risk that deserves special protection, and therefore, we need an institutionality that addresses all our problems in a comprehensive manner.”
Chilean government launches LGBTQ+ rights campaign
Women and Gender Equity Undersecretary Luz Vidal Huiriqueo spoke exclusively with the Blade
SANTIAGO, Chile — Chilean President Gabriel Boric on Wednesday launched his government’s first LGBTQ+ and intersex rights campaign that seeks to reduce discrimination against the country’s queer community.
According to the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (Movilh), a Chilean LGBTQ+ and intersex rights organization, hate crimes against the community have increased this year by 66 percent. Five people have also been murdered because of their sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression.
Boric during his campaign against José Antonio Kast, a far-right former congressman, pledged to promote LGBTQ+ and intersex rights and policies during his administration. The #LivingWithPride campaign is part of these efforts.
Boric’s first gesture towards the queer community was to appoint Marco Antonio Avila, a gay man, as his government’s education minister and Alexandra Benado Vergara, a lesbian woman, as Chile’s next sports minister. Ávila and Benado arrived at La Moneda, the Chilean presidential palace, with Boric on March 11 when he took office.
“President Gabriel Boric Font’s government has implemented a series of measures that seek to advance in safeguarding the rights of LGBTQ+ people,” Women and Gender Equity Undersecretary Luz Vidal Huiriqueo told the Washington Blade in an exclusive interview after the government launched the #LivingWithPride (#VivirConOrgullo in Spanish) campaign.
Vidal said “one of the relevant lines of work that the Ministry of Women and Gender Equity has developed since we took office … seeks to highlight the structural difficulties experienced by people of the LGBTIQA+ community, move towards state representation, since there is currently no institutionality that welcomes this community.”
“This is why we have taken the mandate to welcome this population, within the legal possibilities that govern the ministry,” Vidal emphasized to the Blade.
Vidal said “the gender mainstreaming network that has been reactivated with our government has opened a door to the organizations of the LGBTIQA+ community in all portfolios.”
“The advisors in charge of gender mainstreaming do not understand gender in a binary way, they have the conviction that we must also develop public policies for the LGBTIQA+ community,” she told the Blade.
Boric directed the Women and Gender Equity Ministry and his administration’s sociocultural coordinator to create and lead an “LGBTIQA+ Roundtable,” which includes organizations, activists and members of the LGBTQ Congressional Caucus to work to implement their demands because Chile thus far does not have a government institution that specifically addresses queer rights.
“The roundtable’s objective is to generate and prioritize, together with the LGBTIQA+ community, guidelines for the development of public policies on the matter, from an intersectoral perspective,” said Vidal. “More than 35 civil society organizations from all over the country, representatives of the Legislative Branch and different (Executive Branch) portfolios have participated.”
Vidal stressed “this space of constant linkage with social organizations has allowed us to know the reality that social organizations of the LGBTIQA+ community live when linking with State agencies.” She also noted “the experience has been successful, being a valuable space that will allow us to build a work path for the design of gender equality public policies relevant to the LGBTIQA+ community, to improve their lives and eradicate gender-based violence and hate crimes against the community.”
The roundtable has been meeting once a month since May. It’s last 2022 meeting will take place this month, and it will resume its work next year.
Vidal told the Blade that Transgender women can now use her ministry’s public policies.
“We consider trans women as part of the diversity of women, which implies that they can access the different benefits of the National Service for Women and Gender Equity (SernamEG), which is the executing body of the ministry’s programs,” she said.
Another initiative Vidal highlighted is the incorporation of a “social name” section in the public employment pages for those who have not yet legally changed their name. This option allows people to identify themselves as Trans or nonbinary.
The Education Ministry “has developed a participatory process for the design of the Bill on National Policy on Education on Affectivity and Comprehensive Sexuality. It has also made it possible for students, mothers, fathers, parents, guardians and education workers to participate in what Vidal described as “non-sexist” education workshops.
Peru officially apologizes to Transgender woman for police abuse
Officers raped and beat Azul Rojas Marín in 2008
LIMA, Peru — Peru on Nov. 3 issued an official apology to Azul Rojas Marín, a Transgender woman who was raped and beaten by a group of police officers in 2008.
After an Inter-American Court on Human Rights’ ruling in 2020, Peru was compelled to formally recognize its culpability in Rojas’ abuse. Despite this historic event, Peru is still far from fulfilling all of its obligations under the decision.
More than 14 years have passed between the incident and the apology ceremony that took place at Peru’s Ministry of Justice and Human Rights. Illustrating this long journey towards retribution, Rojas lit a candle in front of a photo of her mother, who passed away before she was able to witness her daughter achieve justice.
On Feb. 25, 2008, when she was 26, Rojas was walking home alone. She alleges it was then that a group of police officers searched her, beat her and shouted obscenities. After bringing her to the police station in Casa Grande, she was then stripped and sodomized.
Rojas initially tried to utilize Peru’s legal system to report her crime, but prosecutors dropped the case shortly after they began to investigate it. And even though she appealed the prosecutor’s decision, a Peruvian court dismissed her appeal in January 2009. So Rojas, supported by Promsex, an LGBTQ+ and intersex human rights organization based in Lima, took her case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Four years ago, in 2018, the commission agreed to hear the case, and two years after that, the court released a ruling. On March 12, 2020, the Peruvian state was found guilty of having violated Rojas’ rights. This verdict mandated the Peruvian state to satisfy a list of reparations that included a public apology ceremony for Rojas.
According to political scientist José Alejandro Godoy, last week’s ceremony is unprecedented and is the first time the Peruvian state has apologized for a homophobic or transphobic act.
Godoy told the Washington Blade the ceremony is “a very positive sign [of progress in Peru,] even though it would have been preferable for this to have taken place spontaneously and not by virtue of a court ordering.”
Elida Guerra, a consultant and researcher of international human rights law, works for Promsex’s litigation team. She is more balanced in her response as to whether this ceremony is a harbinger Guerra recognizes the apology ceremony as important in that it acknowledges the violations committed against Rojas. However, she tells the Blade that Peru is far from affording equal rights to its LGBTQ+ and intersex citizens.
“It must be noted that in Peru there is no regulatory framework for the protection of LGBTI people,” said Guerra. “If we want a significant change with respect to human rights, we need to start making visible actions which protect and guarantee their rights. In this sense, the Peruvian state still has a long way to go.”
Indeed, Peru is one of the few countries in South America which does not provide any legal recognition to same-sex couples. And according to the Williams Institute, “public policies protecting the rights of Transgender people are almost non-existent.”
Although trans Peruvians can go to the judiciary to change their name and gender, the process is cumbersome and expensive. With a conservative mayor in Lima set to take office in January, and an embattled, unsympathetic president, the hope for progress coming from Peruvian institutions is bleak.
Many LGBTQ+ and intersex activists in Peru are therefore finding hope in international courts like the Inter-American Court of Human Rights as institutions capable of safeguarding their rights. Godoy even believes entities like the court could end up forcing Peru to “expressly recognize same-sex marriage.”
Guerra also believes the court can help achieve human rights victories but posits that this mechanism is not a panacea for achieving rights.
“We still have challenges such as the procedural delay, the delay in their response, and the effective implementation of the reparations of the sentences,” said Guerra.
In Rojas’ case, these delays are apparent.
Last week’s ceremony had an original deadline which passed months ago. Further, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ 2020 ruling includes many other reparation measures which the Peruvian state has yet to carry out.
The court ordered Peru to “provide medical, psychological and/or psychiatric treatment” to Rojas and to prosecute the officers who tortured her. Neither has happened. The ruling also directs Peru to track anti-LGBTQ+ violence in the country and develop a national strategy to respond to it.
Despite the slow pace of implementation, Peru’s Ministry of Justice and Human Rights does appear to be working on carrying out at least some of these reparations.
“I met with my team to redouble all efforts, so that, from [the Ministry of] Justice and Human Rights, we can promote, manage and coordinate the corresponding reparations,” said Justice and Human Rights Minister Félix Chero Medina at last week’s ceremony.
At the apology ceremony, his ministry announced the formation of “a technical team to … investigate and administer justice during criminal proceedings for cases of LGTBI+ people.”
Chero’s new team is perhaps a welcome development to LGBTQ+ and intersex Peruvians who are still waiting for their time in court.
Guerra tells the Blade of many cases of queer and Trans Peruvians who are victims of multiple human rights violations but who have not been able to obtain justice domestically.
Enrique Vega-Dávila, a queer pastor and academic, echoes Guerra’s claim of many LGBTQ+ and intersex Peruvians in search of justice.
“There are lesbians who have suffered corrective rape,” Vega-Dávila said. “Also the bullying of LGBTQ children and adolescents has never received any [official] sanction. The state’s many offenses cause the systematic denial of our identities.”
Many problems remain for Peru’s LGBTQ+ and intersex community. But on the day she awaited for far too long, Rojas was optimistic.
“Today is an historic day,” she said. “This is the new image, the new face of human rights … the beginning of what is yet to come.”
Brazil’s first openly gay state governor wins re-election
Eduardo Leite defeated former Bolsonaro chief-of-staff in Rio Grande do Sul
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil — The first openly gay governor of Brazil on Sunday won re-election.
Rio Grande do Sul Gov. Eduardo Leite, a member of the centrist Brazilian Social Democracy Party, defeated Onyx Lorenzoni of the right-wing Liberal Party who is President Jair Bolsonaro’s former chief-of-staff, by a 57.12-42.88 percent margin.
Lorenzoni defeated Leite in the election’s first round that took place on Oct. 2, but neither received at least 50 percent of the vote. A runoff election took place on Sunday.
“Rio Grande spoke louder,” tweeted Leite after he defeated Lorenzoni. “I appreciate all the votes (we) received. It’s out of love, it’s out of respect, it’s for the project. Starting today, we start another chapter of our history. It is all of us for all of us — and we go much further!”
O Rio Grande falou mais alto. Agradeço todos os votos recebidos. É por amor, é por respeito, é pelo projeto. A partir de hoje, iniciamos mais um capítulo da nossa história. Somos todos nós por todos nós – e vamos muito além!
— Eduardo Leite (@EduardoLeite_) October 31, 2022
Leite, 37, became governor of Brazil’s southernmost state in 2019. He came out in July 2021 during an interview with a late-night talk show host.
Incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro, who is also a member of the Liberal Party, on Sunday lost to former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of the leftist Workers’ Party in the second round of Brazil’s presidential election.
Leite in 2018 endorsed Bolsonaro, despite his rhetoric against LGBTQ+ and intersex Brazilians and his opposition to marriage equality and other issues. Leite, who unsuccessfully sought his party’s nomination to run against Bolsonaro in this year’s presidential election, has sharply criticized the soon-to-be-former president over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil.
Leite is one of the 324 openly LGBTQ+ candidates who ran in this year’s gubernatorial, state legislative, congressional and presidential elections.
Two Transgender women — São Paulo Municipal Councilwoman Erika Hilton of the leftist Socialism and Liberty Party and Belo Horizonte Municipal Councilwoman Duda Salabert of the leftist Democratic Labor Party — on Oct. 2 won seats in Congress. Fábio Felix, a gay member of the Socialism and Liberty Party who is a member of the Federal District’s Legislative Chamber in Brasília, the country’s capital, also won re-election on Oct. 2.
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