The Coalition of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Travesti, Transgender, Transsexual and Intersex Organizations from Latin America and the Caribbean (LGBTTTI Coalition) that brings together groups from more than 20 countries was part of the Civil Society and the Youth Forum at the 7th Summit of the Americas that took place in Panama City, Panama, April 8-10, 2015.
This was a Summit unlike any other in which all the attention was focused on the USA’s bilateral relationships with Cuba and Venezuela. As a Latin American Coalition, we recognize the importance of these matters and we also know that our region is facing a historical moment in which traditional structures (like the OAS) coexist and clash with newer ones (like UNASUR, the Pacific Alliance, etc.) reflecting the power struggles between countries and models. It is in this context that our work aims to position issues of human rights and sexual orientation, gender identity and expression in as many spaces as possible, because we are part of all peoples, and all political decisions made in our region affect us.
In our weighing up of this 7th Summit we highlight:
- Our condemnation of the Panamanian government as the organizer of the Civil Society Forum, a task it delegated to local organizations without providing them with adequate support. The worst expression of this neglect was the lack of mediation and appeasement on its part when violent clashes between different civil society actors occurred.
- For the first time, religious fundamentalist and anti-rights groups organized to take part in a Summit and we held strong arguments with them. These groups attacked the OAS for “interferring with State sovereignty” by “imposing” secularism, women’s, sexual and gender diversity rights on them.
- In such a difficult context, the involvement of the LGBTTTI Coalition was critical to ensure that issues of sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression were included in the outcome documents from the Working Groups on Education, Migration and Safety and Citizens’ Participation, as well as in the Youth Forum (for the latter, a historical first). Also, the term “sexual rights” was mentioned for the first time in a Civil Society Forum document. Fundamentalist groups only managed to exclude our contributions from the document on Health. All these Working Group’s outcome documents were submitted to the Chiefs of State and delegations from member states as well as to the OAS authorities.
- In response to our interventions, the United States President Barack Obama — at a time when discriminatory laws, unheard of in our region, like the one in Indiana are being pushed in his country —condemned the criminalization of LGBT people and also highlighted the importance of fighting against all forms of discrimination, including that based on sexual orientation, at the Forum’s Plenary. It was a powerful message to his own people that is to be commended.
- “Many Latin American countries already recognized LGBTTTI rights. The President of one of them – Dilma Rousseff, from Brazil – also emphasized the need for regional cooperation to address the causes and consequences of violence against different groups, including women and ‘persons discriminated against on the grounds of their sexual orientation and gender identity’”.
Just as we have been doing for the last 9 years, the Coalition will continue to push for States to guarantee adequate spaces for civil society participation in the Inter-American system. And we will continue facing our opponents with arguments, with life stories and with conviction. For us, the days of struggle are always joyful days.
Panama City, Panama, April 10, 2015