Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

IACHR hears LGBT Central and South Americans' concerns


Aldo Davila of the Asociacion Gente Positiva in Guatemala, left, and Irvin Umana of Comunidad Casabierta in Costa Rica, speak about the struggles of LGBT people in Central America at a hearing at the 154th Session of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in D.C. on March 17. Photo: Courtesy Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
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Leaders of member states of the Organization of American States gathered last week to discuss a number of issues, including LGBT rights, at the 154th Period of Sessions of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights in Washington, D.C.

The March 16-17 session commenced as a landmark case got underway by gay activist Maurice Tomlinson, who is challenging Belize and Trinidad and Tobago's laws barring LGBT individuals from entering the country.

Homosexuality remains illegal in many Central and South American countries in spite of recent progress on LGBT rights.

LGBT activists from Central America discussed forced migration and cultural, economic, and social rights of transgender individuals in addition to ongoing violence against LGB people. Several sessions focused on LGBT rights in Trinidad and Tobago, Paraguay, and Venezuela.

Forced migration is a major issue in Central America as LGBT individuals flee more violent countries, such as Honduras, often seeking shelter in LGBT-friendly Costa Rica.

Aldo Davila, of Asociacion Gente Positiva in Guatemala, and Irvin Umana, of Comunidad Casabierta in Costa Rica, discussed the issue in detail, explaining that the LGBT individuals who migrate aren't seeking the "American Dream," but to "save our lives," they told the Washington Blade.

The men played a recording of Alex, a gay Honduran who only went by his first name, who fled to Costa Rica.

He simply said, "We are not seeking glory. We are only seeking well-being and that we are given an opportunity to succeed," reported the Blade.

Violence against LGBT individuals is an ongoing issue in Central and South America.

In Venezuela, Quiteria Franco and Yonatan Matheus, of the LGBTI Network of Venezuela, reported an estimated 46 murders of LGBT individuals committed between 2009 and 2013. The activists also pointed to alarming violence against LGBT youth in schools.

Venezuelan government representatives who participated in the hearing were dismissive of the activists' criticisms, but pledged to address anti-LGBT discrimination in the country, reported the Blade .

The sessions followed a March 12 letter from six U.S. representatives to acting Administrator Alfonso Lenhardt of the U.S. Agency for International Development, urging him to fund Central American organizations supporting LGBT rights. Specifically, the U.S. representatives – Eliot Engel (D-New York), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida), Albio Sires (D-New Jersey), Richard Hanna (R-New York), Chris Gibson (R-New York), and gay Congressman David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) – cited recent reports documenting staggering life threatening violence against LGBT individuals, particularly in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

The legislators requested USAID to use some of the funds from the Central America Regional Security Initiative's $55 million budget to target human rights efforts to protect the "most vulnerable populations, including the LGBT community" to create a secure Northern Triangle region.

OAS is the overarching organization governing the Americas established in 1948. IACHR is an autonomous organization that oversees human rights issues throughout the Americas created by the OAS in 1959.


Uganda finds out the cost of negative PR

In an attempt to repair Uganda's image after the passage of the Anti-Homosexual Act 2014, the country has spent an estimated $208,000 for a public relations campaign.

The law, which was struck down on a technicality last summer, punished LGBT individuals with up to seven years to life in prison for "aggravated homosexuality," among other penalties for gays and allies.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni realized the damage the bill had done to Uganda's public image after multimillion-dollar support was withdrawn from European countries, the U.S., and the World Bank. But the damage was driven home when he was reportedly denied a room at an unnamed hotel during the U.S.-Africa Summit in Washington, D.C. last year, according to media reports.

The revelation was reported on NTV Uganda.

Edwin Sesange, director of the Out and Proud Diamond group, questioned how long Uganda was willing to spend money on the LGBT public relations campaign that could be better spent elsewhere.

"The question is, how much and how long are they willing to spend money that can be used to build schools, hospitals or roads?" asked Sesange, who added that repairing the country's image and relationship with the LGBT community could be "solved without spending any taxpayers' money."

Sesange called for Uganda's government to scrap the colonial and pre-colonial era anti-gay laws.


Trial begins for U.S. marine accused of murdering trans woman

The trial for U.S. Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, who is charged with murdering Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude in October 2014, started March 23.

Laude, 26, was found slumped on the floor half-naked, with her head leaning against the toilet bowl, in the bathroom of the Celzone Lodge in Olongapo City on October 11.

If convicted, Pemberton, who was 19 years old at the time of the murder, would face up to 40 years in jail in the Philippines.

Pemberton has been held in Manila at the Philippine military's main headquarters since he was taken into custody shortly after the killing.

International watchdogs and LGBT activists have been watching this case closely. This is the first case to test the controversial Visiting Forces Agreement between the United States and the Philippines signed nearly a year ago.

Implementation of the agreement has been on hold pending a Supreme Court decision on petitions that have been filed by nationalist groups against the agreement.

Pemberton's attorneys have made several attempts – even offering nearly half a million in U.S. dollars – to get the Laude family to agree to a plea-bargain to settle the case as a homicide, according to media reports. Under Philippine law, homicide is a bailable offence, unlike murder, reported Voice of America.

"We have rejected all posture and we have maintained our position that we want to see justice served and we want to see Pemberton behind bars – for life," said Harry Roque, the Laude family's attorney.

Benjamin Tolosa, one of Pemberton's lawyers, called claims of offering money to the Laude family "absolutely false," reported Radio Australia.

"It's contrary to what happened," said Tolosa.

The trial is expected to proceed until September, reported the radio station.


Got international LGBT news tips? Call or send them to Heather Cassell at 00+1-415-221-3541, Skype: heather.cassell, or



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