By Marina Maria*
The First Brazilian National GLBT Conference will be held in Brasília between June, 6th – 8th, 2008. Roughly 600 participants are expected, 60 percent of them will be civil society representatives and 40 percent will be public servants. The main goals of the conference are: to propose and validate public policies and elaborate the National Plan to Promote the Citizenship and Human Rights of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex persons.
The conference must be situated in relation to the already established Brazilian model of participation and monitoring of public policies, inaugurated with the 8th National Conference of Health, in 1986 in the height of redemocratizing period. From there on similar initiatives were replicated in many others fields, such as children’s and adolescents rights, disabilities, social welfare, education and human rights. In the last six years, the model has been extended to other key policy areas; food security, racial and ethnic inequality and women’s public policies.
Even against this historical backdrop, the First Brazilian GLBT National Conference is to be seen as rather innovative as it addresses an area of public policy that was (and still is) subject to great controversies, at both institutional and societal levels. Its point of departure was the Program Brazil without Homophobia launched in 2003, rights after the election of president Lula. But even so the conference has become a reality because the civil society organizations have, since then, persistently pressured the federal administration.
The participation of civil society in the process crucial because Brazilian LGBTI groups are those who have accumulated enough experience to design the conference conceptual framework and ensure that its outcomes will mean a real differential for the debate on human rights and public policies for the Brazilian LGBTI community.
Among other topics, the conference will discuss the incorporation by the Judiciary, of novel doctrines in regard to the right to same sex relations as to guarantee equality under the law and the dignity of LGBT persons. According to Beto de Jesus, regional secretary of ILGA for Latin America and the Caribbean, and Julian Rodrigues, from the Institute Edson Neris and member of the Conference Organizing Committee:
– The Conference will be a key moment to tell the Congress that it has a historical debt with LGBT community. Until today, no law exists that guarantees equality of rights to lesbians, gays, transgender, travestites and intersex persons. In addition we are struggling to approve a law equating homophobia and racism and includes sanctions and punishment in the case of acts discriminations and aggressions against LGBTI persons.
However, Beto and Julian Rodrigues also underline that the process leading to the conference implies tensions and challenges. They identify, for instance, the lack of political will at the level of the states in terms of designing and implementing policies for the LGBTI community:
– The majority of the states has not formulated any policy in this area. In addition, unlike other similar conferences in this case there is not a rule saying that states and municipalities are legally compelled to call preparatory conferences. Consequently a main difficulty has been that a large number of governors have not called state conferences. Though state level events should have happened until mid- March, in less than fifty percent of them effective mobilization has taken place.
But on the other hand, Beto also calls attention to fundamental innovations brought about by the discussions leading to the event:
– The gender perspective is what determined for us the main framework, both to analyses the effects of homophobia and to define the rules of participation. The Conference rules have established that 50 percent of participants will be from the female gender, meaning both women (be they lesbians or bisexual) and female transexual and transgender persons. The same rule applies for the male participation, fifty percent accounting male transsexual and transgender persons, bisexual and gay men. The rules have also opened the possibility for the participation of heterosexuals that are our allies in the struggles for LGBTI human rights, as researchers, advocates, psychologists, social workers, etc.
In his view this innovation is a breaktrough as it:
– Signals towards the overcoming of the “identities trap”. For several years, many us we do think that though it is necessary to struggle for inclusive public policies recognizing the markers of identity — race/ethnicity, age, gender and sexual orientation –, an entrenched attachment to these identities can also be trap. Among other, because it limits the possibility of broadening the links across our various. We must also remind that we all are a mix of these markers. Moreover, a cross-identity perspective can contribute for a better understanding of the universality of the human rights. Regrettably, however, very often — under the impact of donor agendas and the competition for financial resources — we get stuck with specific identity demands.
The Yogyakarta Principles in the 1st Brazilian GLBT National Conference
In response to the claim made by LGBTI groups, the Special Secretary of Human Rights, through the Program Brazil without Homophobia, will re-publish the Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity to distribute among participants and to the society at large.
Beto and Julian consider that the dissemination of the Yogyakarta Principles will strengthen the understanding that we are engaged in a transnational struggle for human rights. The Principles also signal to state and municipal authorities that issues of sexual orientation and gender identity are not a minor aspect of the human rights agenda, as it is often thought by public officials, often influenced by religious fundamentalist positions. They also stress that:
– It is crucial that LGBTI groups are able to incorporate universal human rights language in their daily advocacy work aimed at the creation and implementation of public policies.
Note of SPW:
>> To learn more about the Yogyakarta Principles and the diverse actors, who are making an effort to disseminate this initiative, read an article by Daniel Sarmento, Constitutional Law Professor UERJ and Federal Prosecutor in Brazil, and more information in SPW website.
For more information about 1st Brazilian GLBT National Conference, click here (in Portuguese).
* Marina Maria is a journalist from the SPW – Abia Secretariat Team
:: Posted in 03/31/2008 ::