|Stephen Barris, ILGA|
|Stephen Barris, ILGA|
Gloria Careaga, co-secretary of ILGA and member of the Council of ILGA-LAC explains the perspective of the LGBT movement in the Latin American and Caribbean region with a particular focus on the strong presence of lesbian activists in the V conference of ILGA LAC that is currently (26-30 Jan 2010) taking place in Curitiba, Brazil.
My first experience with ILGA was in 1991, a rather not very successful conference to start, it was planned to be held in Mexico. The choice of the city was unwillingly changed since the local government did not grant the permission at the last moment and we had to move it to another city, which did generate many problems at that time. For me it was a great opportunity to get involved with ILGA and in an international context to meet the associates and people it comprised then.
Latin America has obtained decriminalization for being gay or lesbian. Transgender and intersex people also have an increasing visibility. We have taken some important steps and worked very hard to reach this stage: we have left behind and overcome the idea of the sin, of the disease. Today we are activists, we are citizens, we are legitimate interlocutors with the governments in almost all the countries. It seems to me that this is an opportunity for ILGA-LAC to begin building a much clearer agenda, define our next steps for the future and most importantly define its direction. I believe that, as LGBT movement, it is more and more clear that we are against all forms of discrimination as a whole, that with our political force, we can indeed contribute to a transformation of society. The present conditions that prevail in the region are favourable.
In our efforts to influence politics, it became clearer that it is the State, the Government and its institutions which are responsible to guarantee our rights. In many countries, discrimination and violence used to come from these institutions. In this sense, it seems that engaging at a political level with the institutions of the government was a vital, very important, step. Though, it was not the unique task and objective that we considered: the challenge to be visible was a very accurate strategy and worked simultaneously. The criminalization of homosexuality in certain countries (in the Caribbean) is utterly unacceptable and we have to fight against it.
In addition, we also participated more in international work and agreements. For this, it is necessary and essential that we stay close to the governments and that we monitor every movement and document their commitments. Signatures on international documents need to become a reality and not only remain on paper. Governments need to take action to protect our rights.
The political map in the region is currently very complex. The definitions of right-wing or left-wing governments no longer necessarily correspond with the traditional ideas we had. And in this sense, today, this situation demands from us to have a much detailed and precise analysis. As I mentioned earlier, it demands us to construct alliances with other social movements that will allow us to advance indeed in the construction of democratic states, and in the combat of the poverty and against the discrimination of any type.
In another way, I believe that, if we as individuals only watch out for our rights, not only do we not fully take into account the situation that we live but we also do not take into account the diversity that is within our very same movement. I mean to say that it could appear that the LGBT movement only comprise of middle-class educated people. We know that this is not the reality, and much less in this region. We therefore need to know clearly what are the several dimensions that cut across the profiles of our LGBT population. And we need to contribute to the civil movement, we need to ally with other social movements that are going to empower us. Being part of a much bigger social movement, we can really contribute to the transformation of the society.
The challenges that I considered when I decided to present myself as a candidate to be the co- Secretary General of ILGA, were to improve and fortify ILGA in its structures. Driving the process of institutionalization in the whole organization is key. In this sense, for me, one of the results of this conference of ILGA-LAC will mainly be, since we are the second region in numerical importance for ILGA world, that we have a more solid structure, representing all organizations of the region with a very clear agenda set by this conference. It is this conference which will decide the route ILGA LAC is going to follow.
With respect to the lesbians, what interests me is that we should have a greater visibility. Lesbians have to be more visible, not only numerically, but also participating more actively in different activities. There is a defined strategy already in the program of the conference so that lesbians are more visible since numbers are not with us. This was also the objective that we had with the leadership workshop which we had in the pre-conference sessions. The discussion that we had in the pre-conference was also very interesting. It showed the maturity we’ve achieved. Our political analysis shows we are able to define a better strategy. ILGA already has a policy of positive actions towards women to achieve a better balance in representation. Nevertheless, it seems those have not been sufficient to place the women in the position that corresponds to them. Identifying some of the gaps that are visible at this moment, we have decided to begin a project of empowerment and political action for women.