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Mercosur

in BRAZIL, 29/09/2006

Mercosur Countries and associated states commit themselves to the fight against homophobia

The Brazilian LGBT movement is very satisfied with the results of the V Meeting of High Level Authorities in Human Rights of the Mercosur and Associated States, held in Brasília on August 28th to 30th, with representatives from Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela and Chile.

For the first time the issue of sexual orientation and gender identity was put on the agenda of the 10 countries that make up the bloc. It was also the first time that civil society has taken part in the high level meeting and been able to dialogue with governments and international human rights organisms.
ABGLT – the Brazilian Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Association was the only national LGBT civil society organisation present at the meeting, represented by four of its directors: Toni Reis from Grupo Dignidade; Cláudio Nascimento from Grupo Arco-Íris; Alexandre Böer from Grupo SOMOS Comunicação, Saúde e Sexualidade. Beto de Jesus, from Instituto Edson Néris, also represented ILGA-LAC – International Lesbian and Gay Association – Latin American and Caribbean Region.

Even though the activists had a limited amount of time to participate, they were able to promote an action of advocacy with the Minister of the Special Department on Human Rights, Paulo Vannuchi and with the Minister for the Promotion of Racial Equality, Matilde Ribeiro, in that the issue of sexual orientation and gender identity was included on the agenda of the V Meeting.

The Spanish version of the “Brazil without Homophobia” Programme was also launched at the meeting and the executive secretary of the National Council for the Combat of Discrimination, Ivair Augusto Alves dos Santos, stressed the importance of building public policies in partnership with civil society. He also presented the Brazilian Government’s proposal to introduce the issue of sexual orientation and gender identity on the human rights agenda of Mercosur countries. After the presentation, all the countries present stated that they are in favour of the introduction of this issue, and that it would be complemented with actions already being developed in the different countries.

The Minister for Human Rights, Paulo Vannuchi, who chaired the entire event, stressed the importance of the Brazil Without Homophobia Programme and the commitment of the Brazilian State to this matter, despite having withdrawn the Brazilian Resolution from the United Nations’ agenda. According to Vannuchi, this withdrawal occurred for strategic reasons at the time in question, but Brazil remains committed to this issue. He also stressed the importance of sexual orientation and gender identity being reflected in the concerns of the countries that comprise the Mercosur and associated states.
“We must believe in the Mercosur as a first step in building a large South American bloc of united nations, which later may become a Latin American bloc and, who knows, one day, a single American bloc”, he stated.

In order to overcome the present situation of human rights violations, Vannuchi defended that a change in political culture must be promoted. In the Minister’s opinion this process will only occur when society takes action. “For changes to happen the State can have the role of inducing them, committing itself to developing public policies capable of mobilising society so as to replicate them. But we must never believe that the State alone is capable of provoking such cultural changes, They will only bear fruits if they result from actions undertaken by society itself”, he affirmed.

During the presentation of the proposal to include the issue of sexual orientation and gender identity on the human rights agenda, the Brazilian Government proposed the holding of a Mercosur seminar to debate the legal situation in each country on sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as to scale up the exchange of experiences on work undertaken to combat discrimination in the Member States and associate countries, in addition to a meeting with civil society. Argentina presented a counter proposal, accepted by all the countries, which is the holding of a single large seminar in the second half of 2007, bringing together not only the executive governments of the countries, but also the judiciary and legislative authorities and civil society.

For Beto de Jesus, ILGA Secretary for the Latin American and Caribbean region, who has been accompanying this discussion at the UNO since 2003, this result could not be better: “we have taken a very important step forward, since the Southern countries are committing themselves to designing jointly coordinated actions on combating homophobia and promoting LGBT citizenship, and this will undoubtedly reverberate in other regions, thus creating a very special synergy for Latin America.”

Claudio Nascimento, who also represented the National Council for the Combat of Discrimination at the meeting, believes that the experience of the Brazil Without Homophobia programme can be reproduced in Latin America and the Caribbean. Toni Reis, who coordinates one of ABGLT’s advocacy projects, also stressed the importance of interlocution with the legislative authorities of other countries so as to achieve common legal parameters on LGBT issues.

Alexandre Böer who, together with Beto de Jesus, develops an advocacy project involving the UNO with the aim of obtaining the approval of an international resolution that recognises the right to sexual orientation and gender identity as being Human Rights, states “we are in a stronger position after this meeting and enthusiastic about articulating with the Mercosur countries a new Resolution to be submitted to the UNO, even more so now that we have a common agenda”.

(Translation of a press release sent by Beto de Jesus and Alexandre Böer)

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