Driven by growing activism from the civil society, countries in Latin America such as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Uruguay, have advanced issues for the LGBTQ+ community. But although these collective efforts have successfully partnered with institutions and the international network to advance their demands, LGBTQ+ political representation in the region remains weak, or in some countries even absent.
Thankfully, young Latin Americans have jumped from being private activists to politics, slowly providing a greater political platform to the LGBTQ+ cause to enact laws seeking equal rights and sanctioning violence against the community.
Cultural diversity in Latin America is unique. The same goes for its LGBTQ+ movement. Although the region remains predominantly machista and conservative, it is also known as one of the most progressive in the world in terms of LGBTQ+ issues.
Leading the promotion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights on constitutional grounds, in July 2010, Argentina passed Latin America’s first same-sex marriage law and legalized adoption for same-sex couples. That same year, Mexico City legalized gay marriage, and since then, nine other states in the country have done so as well. In the case of Brazil and Colombia supreme courts have endorsed constitutional rights for same sex marriage, ahead of the United States. In terms of counteracting violence and discrimination, Ecuador is among the few countries that constitutionally banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Chilean Congress approved hate crime legislation in 2012.
Unfortunately, these victories haven’t stopped or decreased the killings of the LGBTQ+ community members. Along with femicide rates on the rise in 2017, violent acts and killings against LGBTQ+ people in Latin America remain troubling by any global standards with Brazil registering the highest LGBTQ+ murder rate in the world with a killing every 28 hours.
Between January 2013 and March 2014—the latest period analyzed by the Registry of Violence Against LGBT Persons from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)—770 acts of violence against LGBTQ+ persons were registered, resulting in 594 killings among 25 member states of the Organization of American States (OAS). Recently the IACHR also reported that in the first three months of 2017, at least 41 serious crimes against LGBTQ+ persons have occurred in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, the U.S., and Venezuela. Sadly, many other cases remain underreported due to corrupt judicial systems or the fear of reprisals from the community to openly identify as LGBTQ+.
The lack of effective measures to prevent, investigate, and sanction acts of violence committed against LGBTQ+ persons has triggered an even more integrated activist bloc. According to information estimated by the third LGBTI Political Leadership Summit for Latin America and the Caribbean, around 70 openly LGBTQ+ people currently hold elected and government positions in the region. Although there’s still a small number of openly LGBTQ+ political leaders advocating for an equal rights agenda—whether through a personal experience, or a civil society engagement background—more and more young members of the LGBTQ+ community are jumping into politics, slowly increasing political representation in Latin America to properly implement existing laws and enact further efforts in terms of awareness and education, reproductive and sexual health, and the training of personnel to adequately attend LGBTQ+ victims of violence.
Backing law enforcement mechanisms is just as important as the fight in itself. Meet five Latin Americans that are leading the LGBTQ+ cause in the political frontline.