Pedro Paradiso Sottile is the Legal coordinator for the Argentina Homosexual Community (Comunidad Homosexual Argentina/ “CHA”). During his stay at this post, Sottile has worked for LGBTI equality within Argentina. Because of his tireless work to this end, Sottile has been referenced for his knowledge on Argentine LGBTI rights by publications in Argentina, the United States, and Canada, among others. He himself has also published articles regarding the continued fight for complete equality for LGBTI people in Argentina and abroad. He has been an active participant in the International LGBT rights movement and for ILGA specifically, including making a statement with a CHA colleague regarding LGBTI rights on the floor of the UN in Geneva in 2004. He currently serves as the ILGA Latin America & Caribbean regional board secretary and lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Comunidad Homosexual Argentina participated to the first cycle of UPR review process for Argentina in 2008 and it will be involved in its second cycle in 2012.
Interview of Pedro Paradiso Sottile by Patricia Curzi
Argentina has extended marriage to same-sex couples in 2011 and seems to be committed to LGBTI rights, especially after the law on gender identity was approved in May 2012. In spite of that, CHA is planning to participate to the UPR process in 2012. Why?
We think it’s very important to participate in this international forum. This is because although equal marriage and the national law on gender identity were passed in 2010, there are still major issues such as reforming the national anti-discrimination law to include sexual orientation and gender as a basis for discrimination throughout the country. Furthermore, we must remain involved in this process in order to guarantee effective implementation of legally-recognized rights, equal access and exercise of all rights, as well as the implementation of public policy meant to enforce them.
What are the concerns CHA underlined in its 2008 NGO report which still need to be followed up in the UPR review this year?
In our 2008 report, we highlighted that our country made great strides in LGBTI rights by recognizing rights and passing laws, but as I said before, the national anti-discrimination law still does not include sexual orientation and gender identity as one of the basis for discrimination. Resolution 856/2008 of the Health Ministry, which prevents homosexuals from donating blood, remains in force, thereby discriminating against and stigmatizing gays. Furthermore, our country is a federal republic whose provinces have the freedom to pass their own legislation. For example, when the gender identity law was passed by the Argentine Parliament, the Formosa province still had laws on its books punishing cross-dressing with fines and prison sentences. There are also laws which are not enforced, such as the national law on full sexual education which is valid throughout the national territory. The situation of LGBTI in detention remains concerning, given the continued violation of their rights.
Will you partnering with other initiatives such as LGBTI, feminist or human rights organizations to draft this new report?
Partnering with other social and civil society movements is very important four our efforts to gain and maintain inclusive practices and human-rights achievements from States. For 28 years, Comunidad Homosexual Argentina (CHA) has been doing this in Argentina, which is why were allowed to speak in the former UN Human Rights Commission thanks to the generosity of the NGO APDH Argentina, who gave us the floor to speak on the LGBTI situation in the country. We have continued working with them, since it is the only Argentine organization with consultative status in ECOSOC. In this regard, being a member of ILGA (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association) is fundamental for our work, activism, and presence in the United Nations. Furthermore, the National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe and Free Abortion, which was conceived as part of the National Meeting of Women (Encuentro Nacional de Mujeres), an initiative which we accompanied and participated in along with feminist and human rights organizations.
How did the relationship with your government develop since the submission of the first UPR NGO report?
Our relationship with the Argentine Government has been very positive and gets better every year. In 2008, for example, the Government recognized surviving same-sex partner pensions, as the first nationally-recognized right two years before civil marriage was passed without discrimination for sexual orientation. At that time, there were still 10 provinces with laws on the books which criminalized homosexuality and cross-dressing. Now in 2012, there is only one. Furthermore, our country has strongly supported human rights statements on sexual orientation and gender identity in international bodies such as the UN and the OAS. In this context, we should mention that the Executive Branch of the national government is committed to our fight as well as to inclusive democracy. It supports and promotes our agenda, but so do the opposing parties who in their majority have supported our proposed legislation. In some cases, consensus has been achieved by combining multiple bills which were eventually passed.
Based on your experience, what advice would you give to LGBTI organisations which were never involved in the UPR process?
We believe that participating in this process is very important to promote and advocate for LGBTI rights, to have a greater impact locally, and to partner with governments. This is because as NGOs, we must discuss, debate, denounce and demand international accountability from States for human rights violations for reasons of sexual orientation or gender identity. This is an excellent opportunity to monitor countries that have ratified international human rights instruments, treaties, and declarations. It is also an excellent opportunity to ensure domestic laws comply with international laws and partner with organizations that are active in the international arena to build a world which respects differences, inclusion, and dignity.
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a new mechanism set up by the United Nations in 2006 to review the current state of human rights. The first round of all countries finished in 2011, and in June 2012 the second cycle began. Every year 42 countries are reviewed by all other countries. It takes four and a half years to review all countries. The Reviews have four stages: reporting, interactive dialogue with Member States, adoption of the outcomes of recommendations and finally implementation and follow-up. These procedures involve States, national and international NGOs, national human rights institutions and other stakeholders.
In 2012, the 14th Session of the UPR will review Argentina along with 14 other countries. NGO reports must be sent seven months before the Review session.
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Translation from Spanish: Jonathan Sanders