Tuesday, June 19, 2018

LGBTTI Coalition Celebrates Adoption of 2018 LGBTTTI resolution at the OAS

LGBTTTI COALITION CELEBRATES YET ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL OAS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Washington DC, June 14, 2018


The Coalition of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender, Transsexuals, Travestis and Intersex (LGBTTTI) people of Latin America and the Caribbean working within the framework of the Organization of American States (OAS) celebrates the adoption of the Omnibus Resolution on Human Rights (OEA/Ser.P/AG/CG/doc.5/18 rev.2), which includes section (xii) focusing on the “human rights and prevention of discrimination and violence against LGBTI persons,” during its 48th Regular Session of the General Assembly, which took place in Washington DC, June 4 and 5, 2018.


THE DIALOGUE WITH HEADS OF DELEGATION THE SECRETARY GENERAL, THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY GENERAL AND REPRESENTATIVES FROM CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS

During this Dialogue we saw an increasing number of allies integrate a message of equality for all and acceptance of sexual and gender diversity, including a newly established coalition entitled Religions, Beliefs and Spiritualities in the Dialogue with Civil Society. We continue to see anti-rights and conservative groups promote messages that violate human dignity and undermine the human rights of LGBTI people in the Americas. Some of these messages include a narrative that fails to recognize the legitimacy of the organs of the Inter-American Human Rights System, including the competence of the Inter-American Commission and Court of Human Rights to monitor States’ compliance with the most basic and undisputed international human rights obligations, such as the obligation to ensure the rights to equality and non-discrimination.

We highlight that despite notable progress in terms of policies, laws and judicial recognition in the Americas, there are many challenges that curtail the full enjoyment and exercise of our rights. We continue to see high levels of violence and discrimination at all levels against LGBTI people, or those perceived as such, in the Americas. This violence is exacerbated when we face multiple factors of discrimination, including because of our race, ethnicity, gender, migration status, age, deprivation of liberty, disability, among others.   There are still laws, policies and state practices that criminalize our relationships, and our gender expression, and violate our human rights. Further, we express our concern due to the crimes based on prejudice committed on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, without the States maintaining official records or disaggregated data on said crimes, which hinders their prevention and investigation.

While in Belize and Trinidad & Tobago progress has been made in decriminalizing same-sexual intimacy, countries in the Anglo-Phone Caribbean remain challenged to recognize that no CARICOM state has language in their constitution which are retrogressive in undermining our human rights.



Regarding autonomous sex work, even though it is not explicitly prohibited in the majority of countries in the Americas, there are legal provisions and laws criminalizing different acts surrounding sex work. This, coupled with the absence of clear regulations recognizing it a work, creates the conditions for institutional violence -including sexual and physical violence, extortion and illegal arrests- as well as obstacles to access basic health and justice services.

Further, we see with great concern the introduction of bills or passing of laws that seek to criminalize HIV transmission, non-disclosure and/or exposure, or the misuse of criminal law to criminalize people living with HIV. 

Also, we believe that in those countries of the region, such as Venezuela, where the AIDS epidemic continues to affect gay and bisexual men and transgender women, efforts must be strengthened to provide comprehensive medical care and treatment access, as well as how the design and implementation of a prevention policy that considers the particularities of risk groups due to their sexual orientation, identity and gender expression, as these actions are fundamental tools to end the AIDS epidemic.


THE OAS GENERAL ASSEMBLY

The LGBTTTI Coalition welcomes the reelection of judges to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (I/A Court H.R.): Humberto Sierra Porto (Colombia) and Eduardo Ferrer Mac-Gregor (Mexico). Sierra Porto and Ferrer Mac-Gregor were sitting judge and vice-president of the I/A Court H.R., respectively, when the highest human rights tribunal in the Americas issued its Advisory Opinion 24/17 in November 2017. This important and binding Advisory Opinion recognizes that the human rights obligations of States vis-à-vis the principles of equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, include the obligation to recognize families composed of same-sex couples and the right of people to rectify their identification documents to match their gender identity, through non-pathologizing processes. This Advisory Opinion reinforces the urgent need of States in the region to adopt measures to ensure both formal and substantial equality of persons with non-normative or diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions in the Americas (see full Advisory Opinion, here. Access a short summary by the LGBTTTI Coalition of this Advisory Opinion, here).

We also congratulate Ricardo Pérez Manrique from Uruguay, as the newly elected judge to the Inter-American Court, who has already publicly expressed his support for Advisory Opinion 24/17. We encourage the Inter-American Court to continue protecting the rights of everyone, without discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics, there by supporting the adequate interpretation of the principles of equality and non-discrimination as enshrined in the inter-American human rights instruments. 


THE RESOLUTION ON THE RIGHTS OF LGBTI PEOPLE

The Resolution has virtually the same content as in previous years: the OAS condemns acts of discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and urges Member States to prevent, investigate, and punish acts of violence and discrimination against LGBTI persons, and to ensure access to justice. There is also mention to the adoption of measures to eliminate barriers faced by LGBTI persons in access to political participation and to avoid interference with their private lives. Reference is made of the need to collect data on violence and 
discrimination, to protect human rights defenders and intersex people from medical interventions that violate human rights. The Resolution also considers the work of the LGBTI Rapporteurship and, for the first time this year, that of the Department of Social Inclusion of the OAS General Secretariat.

This Resolution is the result of the hard work the LGBTTTI Coalition has been developing within the OAS since 2007. As in previous occasions, its presence and ongoing participation in different actions and dialogues with OAS Member States during the General Assembly counteracted the bigot actions and hate speech of fundamentalist and anti-rights organizations who tried to stop the passing and adoption of the Resolution. Thanks to the diplomatic dialogues carried out by Member States -both part of the OAS LGBTI Core Group and allies- the Resolution passed successfully again this year, in spite of the opposition of countries such as Paraguay, St. Lucia and Jamaica, all of which are countries that precisely are noted by their lack of protection of the human rights of LGBTI people. A small minority of OAS Member States included footnotes to the resolution. This is a notable decrease from previous years, particularly 2013/2014, when a larger number of countries had included footnotes to the resolution.

We congratulate Belize, for being the first CARICOM country to co-sponsor this Resolution this year, and Costa Rica for also doing so. We encourage these two Member States and other allies to continue supporting the OAS LGBTI Core Group.

The LGBTTTI Coalition acknowledges the engagement by the Member States of the OAS LGBTI Core Group, comprised of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico, United States of America, and Uruguay. We congratulate El Salvador for being the first non-founding member to join the Core Group, and we encourage other OAS Member States to join the Core Group.


THE ANNUAL MEETING OF THE COALITION

More than 40 LGBT activists from across Latin America and the Caribbean gathered in Washington DC to attend our annual meeting prior and the General Assembly. We congratulate the incorporation to our Coalition of the Red de Trabajadoras Sexuales de Latinoamérica y el Caribe (RedTraSex) – a coalition of organizations of women working for the last 20 years for the recognition of independent sex work, and to give visibility to the egregious human rights violations faced by sex workers in the region. We also note the incorporation to our coalition of: Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE) from the Eastern Caribbean region, Fundación Arcoíris A.C. from Mexico, and, as Associate Member, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network from Canada.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

We would like to thank Akahatá – Equipo de trabajo en Sexualidades y Géneros, the Arcus Foundation, American University Washington College of Law and Professor Macarena Saez, COC Netherlands, IPAS, the Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe de Personas Trans (RedLacTrans), Mayer Brown LLP, Synergía – Initiatives for Human Rights, for their crucial support to ensure our participation in this OAS General Assembly and our annual meeting. 



The LGBTTTI Coalition remarks the commitment of both the Inter-American Commission and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, as well as the leadership of the OAS Secretary General, Luis Almagro, and the Department of Social Inclusion, under the leadership of Mauricio Rands and Betilde Muñoz-Pegossian, in the protection and promotion of our human rights.

We call on all OAS Member States to continue ensuring the protection and promotion of the rights of LGBTI people, and to bring down laws that criminalize us or discriminate against us. We urge all OAS Member States to take measures to promote the legislative, administrative and judicial reforms necessary to bring their legal systems, interpretations and practices in line with the standards established in Advisory Opinion No. 24, issued by the Inter-American Court in November 2017, and to respect the binding nature of this Opinion.

We strongly encourage OAS Member States to follow the leadership shown by Uruguay, which became the first country to ratify this past May 2018 the Inter-American Convention on all Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance.

****

The following people and organizations attended as part of the LGBTTTI Coalition of Latin American and Caribbean Organizations working in the context of the OAS:


  1. ACTION COMMUNAUTAIRE POUR L’INTEGRATION DES FEMMES VULNERABLES EN HAITI (ACIFVH) – Yaisah Val – Haiti,
  2. AIREANA – Mirta Moragas & Judith Grenno – Paraguay,
  3. AKAHATÁ, EQUIPO DE TRABAJO EN SEXUALIDADES Y GÉNEROS – María Luisa Peralta – Argentina,
  4.  ASOCIACIÓN ALFIL – Rashell Erazo – Ecuador,
  5. ASOCIACIÓN ASPIDH ARCOIRIS – Ambar Alfaro – El Salvador,
  6. ASOCIACIÓN ORGANIZANDO TRANS DIVERSIDADES (OTD-Chile) – Franco Fuica – Chile,
  7. ASOCIACIÓN PANAMBI – Yren Rotela – Paraguay,
  8. ASOCIACIÓN PAÑAMENA DE PERSONAS TRANS – Venus Tejada – Panama,
  9. ATTA – Marcela Romero – Argentina,
  10. CENTRO DE PROMOCIÓN Y DEFENSA DE LOS DERECHOS SEXUALES Y REPRODUCTIVOS (PROMSEX) – Brenda Álvarez – Peru, 
  11. COLECTIVO OVEJAS NEGRAS – José Ramallo – Uruguay,
  12. COLECTIVO UNIDAD COLOR ROSA – Gabriela Redondo – Honduras,
  13. COLOMBIA DIVERSA – Lilibeth Cortés Mora – Colombia
  14. COTRAVEDT – Nairovi Castillo – Dominican Republic,
  15. EASTERN CARIBBEAN ALLIANCE FOR DIVERSITY AND EQUALITY (ECADE) – Maria Fontenelle – Eastern Caribbean,
  16.  FUNDACIÓN ARCOÍRIS POR EL RESPETO A LA DIVERSIDAD SEXUAL A.C. – Roberto Baeza – Mexico,
  17.  J-FLAG/EQUALITY FOR ALL FOUNDATION JAMAICA LTD.– Renae Green & Suelle Alin– Jamaica,
  18. LIGA BRASILEIRA DE LÉSBICAS – Mariana Meriqui Rodrígues – Brazil
  19. ORGANIZACIÓN TRANS REINAS DE LA NOCHE – Andrea González – Guatemala
  20. RED DE TRABAJADORAS SEXUALES DE LATINOAMÉRICA Y EL CARIBE (RedTraSex) – Lucy Esquivel – Regional, 
  21. RED LATINOAMERICANA Y DEL CARIBE DE PERSONAS TRANS – Marcela Romero – Regional, 
  22. RED MEXICANA DE MUJERES TRANS – Paty Betancourt – Mexico, 
  23. RED TRANS DEL PERÚ – Miluska Luzquiños – Peru, 
  24. SINDICATO AMANDA JOFRÉ – Alejandra Soto Castillo – Chile, 
  25. SOCIETY AGAINST SEXUAL ORIENTATION DISCRIMINATION (SASOD) – Villini Leicht – Guyana, 
  26. TALLER DE COMUNICACIÓN MUJER – Cayetana Salao S. – Ecuador, 
  27. THE CANADIAN HIV/AIDS LEGAL NETWORK – Maurice Tomlinson – Canada (*Associate Member) 
  28. TIA BELIZE – Zahnia Canul – Belize, 
  29. UNITED BELIZE ADVOCACY MOVEMENT (UNIBAM) – Caleb Orozco – Belize, 
  30. UNITED AND STRONG INC. – Jassica St. Rose – Saint Lucia, 
  31. VENEZUELA DIVERSA A.C. – Yonathan Matheus – Venezuela.
  • Also in attendance: 
  •  HONDUREÑOS CONTRA EL SIDA and SERO PROJECT – Alfredo González – United States, LAS REINAS CHULAS CABARET Y DERECHOS HUMANOS A.C – Luz Aranda Arroyo – Mexico.
Also, participating the organization supporting the coordination of the LGBTTTI Coalition: Synergía – Initiatives for Human Rights (Stefano Fabeni, Marcelo Ernesto Ferreyra and Fanny Catalina Gómez Lugo).

























 


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Giving LGBT Visibility, through National Action, CHOGM and TCEN in 2018


16th May 2018












I will be the first to say that The Commonwealth, as an institution, was perceive as useless, as it operates with political leaders who have had no qualms of jailing, hanging, beating, murdering it own citizens. There is no enforcement mechanism and no redress mechanism. The only moments of exception was when South Africa had to withdraw from the Commonwealth in the 1960's while Pakistan was suspended in 2007 along with Fiji in 2009. As a system its, does not consistently follow its own principles of Democracy, Good Governance, Human Rights, Rule of Law, Tolerance, Respect and Understanding among others. Proof of this, points out that leaders in Africa have made many homophobic remarks like the President of Tanzania, John Magufuli, " even cows disapprove" of homosexuality in 2017 following a crackdown on gay men in his country while in 2014, former Gambian, President Yahya Jammeh said "We will fight these vermins called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively,” he said in a speech made to mark the country’s 49th anniversary of independence from Britain. Even South Africa is not immune in a lapse in leadership as President Zuma once called same-sex marriage, "a disgrace to the nation, and to God". While in the Caribbean leaders have their own brand of homophobia. In Belize the former Minister, Boot Martinez said, in 2011 at an anti-right rally, " “My position is that God never placed anything on me for me to look at a man and jump on a man. I’ll be clear on it … How would you decriminalize that, I am sorry, but that is law. Not only is the law made by man that is a law made from the Bible. Why do you think God made a man and a woman, man has what woman wants, and woman has what man wants, it’s as simple as that. I’ll fight tooth and nail to keep that law.” In Jamaica, former Prime Minister Golding spoke of " not in my cabinet!" when asked about gay men serving senior position in his cabinet. While T.C.E.N was a dirty little secret at the beginning, is clear that with its accreditation, as the only LGBT Network in the Commonwealth,  the doors are slowly being unhinged for better dialogue with political leaders whether its at the Foreign Ministers Roundtable, asking questions between the People, Business and Youth Forums, conducting sessions with T.C.E.N members or getting news coverage we have certainly help to shift the tone of visibility at the moment.


































But what about the substance of the Network.When it has access to rooms of power, it raises visibility to advance the policy norming efforts. The work is complemented by experience at the national level. We know that Human Dignity Trust is a player in 15 commonwealth countries supporting litigation work and regionally and U-RAP work in the Caribbean remains of strategic importance to Belize. The decriminalization work in Belize allowed information exchange about advocacy lessons to inform work in Trinidad and Tobago on decriminalization along  with members of E.C.A.D.E in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. We know that South Africa is playing their part and in Pakistan litigation and political work led to the passage of a Gender Recognition Law. We know in Kenya there have been constitutional challenges among other countries in Africa. One can argue that national work, is now feeding the effort to get the commonwealth to become more inclusive of its citizens in law and development planning. Despite many state criminalizing adult intimacy, no state constitution has ever said that fundamental rights are for straight people only or have used the word, except, when referring to Fundamental rights for LGBT citizens in the commonwealth.  When Climate change is spoken of, leaders speaks to citizens, when economic concerns are addressed leaders speak to citizens. Now, the work is about giving life and values around protection and security to LGBT citizens if the Commonwealth.  

For Belize C.H.O.G.M 2018, continues to add value to The United Belize Advocacy Movement work as a broader advocacy framework that uses , as leverage, a transnational strategy to facilitate information exchange that speak to a long-term outcome of legislative reform that is inclusive of LGBT Belizeans. The United Belize Advocacy Movement saw for the first time a unplanned delegation of individuals from Belize attending sessions that included a session on legal reform that discussed Belize's hybrid strategy of litigation and parliamentary approval of the criminal code amendments. in fact, Belize set the model for the rest of the Commonwealth in how the value of good governance can facilitate arbitration, between two social groups successfully without the sky falling. In addition, we saw Belize's Mayor of Belmopan talk about local government accountability, Belize documented as a best practice in a UK sponsored toolkit on LGBT engagement work,our House Speaker meeting the UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity for the first time at Canada House, Senator Woods working the Open for Business Event at Parliament, along with her colleagues from the Parliamentarians for Global Action. At the Canada house meeting the House Speaker, who double as the Chair for the National AIDS Commission for Belize spoke of her efforts to advance PANCAP model Anti-discrimination legislation. At the Foreign Ministers Roundtable with Civil Society and I mentioned in the room," no commonwealth wealth constitution speaks to fundamental rights  that it is only for straight people, it does not say except, it speaks to citizens." I added, no "Commonwealth state ever spoke about climate change as affecting straight people, they often speak to citizenry." I took great care to transition into the point and said, "which brings me to my point. Great care has been given to ensure that Commonwealth Leaders have security. Could that same care in security be extended to LGBT Commonwealth  Citizens." Boris Johnson, The UK Foreign Secretary answered,"yes!as long as it does not cause harm." But the External Minister for Saint Lucia, Sarah Beaburn Flood could not help herself. Separately, ensured that she had an intervention which spoke to protecting families that are affected by economic and social conditions. Code, for ensuring exclusion of LGBT protections in national law and in any communique. Slightly after, the Canadian representative spoke up and said, "Canada was stronger when it was inclusive and supported diversity and made a reference to the lost of productivity that in business." The rest was a private conversation  that included agreeing that families should be protected," in all its forms" and a small discussion on self-care. what was fascinating was to see our CEO for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the next table and our Speaker of the House at the corner of the room. What is clear, in such room, is that substantive decisions are not made at a round table, they are made in small rooms with technical people. We found out much later that the Communique issued said, " Head Affirmed their unwavering commitment to the Commonwealth fundamental Political values, reflected in the Commonwealth Charter and"emphasized that the full social ,economic and political participation of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race,ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status, is essential for democracy and sustainable development to thrive." TCEN, for now, have done their job. What next, time will tell and show us the way forward in giving life to language.































For Belize the issue is how do we transform language into action at home. It means introducing legal technical experts to the Chair of the National AIDS Commission, partnering with Parliamentarians for Global Action to engage parliamentarians in Belize and opening the conversation among both national parties, setting the psychological and physical structure in place to make things happen like an advocacy and civil rights organization like The United Belize Advocacy Movement. It means sharing our knowledge and best practices with other marginalized groups, conducting research and focusing on socio-economic and legal reform as outcomes. Our work is for the long-haul and its not for the faint of heart. as it means, pissing people off as needed, not waiting for support, risking everything to do the right thing.Along they way, testing our humanity along with our resolve to succeed. the work brings no popularity in society for its about one's conscience. Many will desire, but few will chose such a journey. Welcome to the reality of human rights and knowing the level of expendability and collateral damage in the lost of human lives that occurs as we try to change a process which seeks to maintain the status quo of systemic marginalization which pushes from all corners. The struggle continues!





Source:
South Africa Withdraws from Commonwealth
Pakistan Suspension
Fiji suspension
Tanzania
Gambia

South Africa

Belize:


Not in My Cabinet
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/-Not-in-my-Cabinet--_9858239
Jamaica

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Belize: Challenges and Hopes in Building a LGBT Movement !

29th March, 2018

In Belize's movement building process we are writing our own rules. Over the years we saw a focus on systems, we had no visible pool of leaders. So an investment was made to build a social infrastructure of leaders, but then we discovered visibility in a hostile environment require time to recharge. Many movements focus on strategic planning, resource mobilization and project management and collaboration which are all important and forget that their human capital, the leaders are mortals who are not limitless in their invincibility to challenge social norms in a hostile environment. What we fail to realize is that the human element in the collective must take the time to manage their well-being. Many are affected by cancer, death of a parent, hypertension, depression, personal intimate relationships, violence, back problems, heart diseases and a myriad of other health and psychological issues. healing is as important as organizing.

When one looks at leadership, we don't immediately realize that the humans come with quirks, frailties that include inability to cope with criticisms, stress, impatiences, diverse management and communication styles. More importantly, no human being likes to be pigeon-holed into an expectation.  I have been working on LGBT Health and human rights policy issues for over a decade and this is what I have learned over time. Self-care matters; use your experience to instruct your strategies to mobilise; study the problem and look for social patterns; be solutions oriented at all times;  any effort is a long-term investment in managing the efficient use of human capital.  Last weekend, The United Belize Advocacy Movement coordinated a Cohesion Retreat that was as much about community strategy as it was about self-care. We did massages, ziplining and yoga. In zip-lining I was reminded about the need to, set the example. No screaming, no shaking, just listening to the instructor on how to stop when I was near to the next platform. The result, I simplified my thoughts and focus on the experience! 


I had never done ziplining before, I was nervous, full of anxiety and found it ridiculous, until I saw our trans sister Honey Bee, with legs and hand shaking stepped up to the challenge. I even heard her say later, " if i can do that, I can overcome any fear I have!"  While Honey Bee was shaking all the way, she never wavered in her commitment to reach the end of the platform which had 4 stages. Others joined in the action-oriented effort in setting the tone of silent encouragement to participate.It was a team effort which included, no drama, lots of jokes and a laser sharp focus to reach the other platforms. While one person was not prepared to zipline, she re-purposed herself to be the group's photographer. Without her, we would not have any of these images. Her action reminded me that in movement building, we have an opportunity to define, believe and take ownership of community process and that it is not just defined in strategic plan, project implementation and community. The key lesson here was that she volunteered her time to support collective action of team-building. I never saw an objection to her decision. As we all intuitively knew the value of her decision. This is how leadership advances, we initiate, learn to take risk and set the standard to act.





We learned, as well, that we cope differently with the same challenges. I was chewing gum with a stoic face while other were in a strike a pose moment and making noise for fun while moving done hundreds of feet in the air. I was told ,"My God, you moved like you did this before!" I smiled only, because it was my first time. Movement building,  requires a psychological shift in the impossible , an ah ha moment that leads to defining  your contribution, even if its just, but for a time. What I learned was that a pioneer may volunteer their time to an issue, but the people around study the patterns of social engagement, creating social expectations around that person efforts. I discovered that it not about being liked or validated, its about recognizing that there is an outcome to reach that involves a process that is dynamic. A process that involves listening, strategic communication to motivate, to inform, to inspire, to structure and give life to a vision to act. It is a process of centralized analysis and feelings-based responses. The most intangible things are being able to cope with  fear, lost confidence,failure and to refine disagreements as opportunities to act. We began in fear, but we posed as  individuals in a team prepared to act with all its diversity.



When we finished we took time to reflect about our physical bodies. Yoga, might be a simply act, but its quite effective to raise ones consciousness of breathing movements. Listening, allowed us to examine our psychological and physical limitations as individuals living in a hostile environment. this is important as LGBT work, exist in an environment of hostility. "Faggit!", "battiman!" "Shitty cock!" "You will not make it pass 2016!" "Orozco should be put infront of an Orlando style massacre"  has been words used to attack my dignity and many in the community. And I will be the first to say it has a cumulative effort. Of note, I am reminded that one of our colleagues sister dies, another father died from prostate cancer, my own sister was breathing on 3 pints of blood before the retreat and I had to deal with an attempted murder in our community. The result, is that family issues and work related issues can take a told on our sleep patterns which amplifies our exhaustion and burn out in this work.  Yoga offered us all a short time to be still, to clear our minds to listen to our bodies and what it needs. For me, it was about internal peace! More importantly, we discovered in partner yoga that empathy is a big part of how we negotiate our differences as a movement. I was smiling with my partner, touching his inner thighs as part of our poses to discover that in that moment, we both could touch each other without conflict, feel awkard about the poses and honest about our reactions. We laughed most of the time. In the back to back yoga, it was about feeling the breathing of the other with a deliberate effort to synchronize our breathing patterns. It was clear feeling the patterns of breathing was difficult because we were easily distracted by a minutia of things in the environment. As each person could be easily distracted in their act of coordination, in movement building, personal stress, family conflict, death, depression,  job loss, limited resources can all derail  the pool of leaders involved in a moment. We took the time to be reminded that the work to find balance is a constant struggle. The work to internalize a process of internal peace is about timing and its different for every person.




Our the Two days was not only spent on working on ourselves, we invested time and energy in strategic thinking, in Political, Economic, Social and Technology-base (PEST) analysis, in community mobilization work. the workshop offered the representatives a base-line structure that examined our function and progress in a hostile environment. It offered us a peek into the limits of our leadership base, it offered us insight into the limitations of strategic thinking and advocacy among our community and informed us about our operational values as a collective in how we engage each other. At its core, movements require a diver in a position to find resources, document strategic direction, provide technical, financial and mentoring support and leaders who have a basic support structure to thrive in their visibility and advocacy. Many will exist, but few will be tenacious to stay the course to see social transformation occur. The final lesson is that social inequity will remain in Belize for its our shared silence that will sustain it.  Movement, don't come with a magic bullet or a one size fits all guide book.  




Finally, we closed not with an evaluation, but a pause that our effort to organize is challenged by how we frame a National Social Marketing Research Strategy to take advantage of preliminary data which tells us that there is over 12,000 men who have sex with men and over 1200 Trans Belizeans. We are challenged to leverage the private sector and structure our own community economic productivity and political voice in Belize. One thing I have learnt as a Belizean, there will always be someone who finds the social solutions to transform our society for the better. Many will want to lead, few will be effective, even less will be tenacious to make a long-term investment to stay the course. With luck and tenaciousness, Belize will set the standard among CARICOM member states. The struggle continues! 







  

Saturday, March 3, 2018

An Inconvenient Truth that is all too Human! Belizean Prospective of the Commonwealth.


2nd March, 2018

   
In January, 25 activist and related LGBT organizations met in London for Advocacy Week with the help of Kaleidoscope Trust, our secretariat for the Commonwealth Equality Network. While most of the network are unaware, Belize's only and oldest led LGBT-led policy and advocacy organization the United Belize Advocacy Movement have been engaged in policy and advocacy as a transnational and as a national strategy for over a decade. Our first attempt at building a transnational strategy started with the OAS LGBT Latin American and Caribbean Coalition in the Americas with the help of present Syngeria leaders. Our First meeting was Panama, in 2007. It was an awkward experience for I thought that the person, sitting in the seat during the General Assembly was the Foreign Minister. Oh, how little did I know! Of our political representatives.  How little did I know that most murders of trans people documented by the Trans Monitoring Murder Project in the world happened in Latin America and the Caribbean.The TDoR 2017 update revealed a total of 325 cases of reported killings of trans and gender-diverse people between 1st of October 2016 and 30th of September 2017, constituting an increase of 30 cases compared to last year’s update. The majority of the murders occurred in Brazil (171), Mexico (56), and the United States (25), adding up to a total of 2,609 reported cases in 71 countries worldwide between 1st of January 2008 and 30th of September, 2017.Over a four-year period, there were 1,600 cumulative LGBT murders that occurred in Brazil with 200 LGBT murders occurring in 2017 alone. In the US, FBI reports for 2017 revealed there were 6,063 single-bias incidents involving 7,509 victims− of that, 16.7% and 1.7% were victimized because of offenders sexual-orientation or gender identity bias respectively. In addition, in 2017 alone, there were 100 Anti-LGBT Bills introduced in 2017 in 29 states.







This is why, I am frank in every international space because lives have been lost in Latin America and The Caribbean. We owe it to ourselves to remember the blood spilled, in the name of state complicity through inaction, omission and indifference about the lives of its own LGBT citizens in the commonwealth. This is unacceptable!. And so, protest was abound inside and outside Organization of American States General Assembly meetings for years. Mostly respectfully in our protests, we recognize the stakes were high in trying to get the attention of the diplomats at the General Assembly. 8 years and nine resolutions later on Human Rights: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity we make the point about the power of collective organizing and political visibility in international spaces. Anti-right or not, we are going now where in the Americas nor the Commonwealth.









The Commonwealth Equality Network members intuitively recognizes their colonial history that is generation in the making. We recognized that civility, smart engagement which include a history of national litigation, criminal code reforms, using human rights mechanisms like the Universal Periodic Review are among a  multi-layered transnational strategy to advance change. We also recognize the memories of colonial history which include the 1943 Bengal famine created on Winston Churchill orders that led to three million people starving to death; in Kenya, the October, 1952 state of emergency lead, according to Kenya Human Rights Commission 90,000 Kenyans executed, tortured or maimed during the crackdown, and 160,000 were detained in appalling conditions.  The times have change, but not the violations. LGBT political engagement exists in a fragile power structure of courtesy and communication, around the world.  

During Advocacy week we were able to meet with the Commonwealth Secretariat, its Secretary General, The All Parliamentarians Party Group ( a group of gay politicians that work across party isle) to map out political action and knowledge about advancing LGBT rights in the Commonwealth. The meetings demonstrated that it was possible to be gay and in parliament, it was possible to share national strategy and political communication and refine engagement. It offered members of the Commonwealth Equality Network a moment to strengthen high level communication skills with the political system as its a different political mechanism than the UN, the African  Commission and the Organization of American States. The intangibles cannot be denied, as it reinforced a moment of hope that the UK government will eventually get to all countries, large states and small states alike.



.

For Belize, we have been good at refining our asks and strategies when engaging the All Party Parliamentarian Group meeting; with Baroness Anelay, we took advantage of the time and have documented her efforts asking the right questions in parliament on Belize as well as looking at the need for High Commission Offices to be more locally responsive. 

I can firmly say, When I compare Belize to other Commonwealth countries, on how they responded to the LGBT debate, our government has been constructive and responsible. It did not threaten our freedom of movement, association or expression. It could have created an official position of harassment, jailing, advance administrative tactics to shut us down, incited hate or sustained surveillance. It did not! What it did do, was allow the cultural debate to happen in the media, it respected our right to seek redress in the Court. In addition, left open a social and political conversation that was reflective in national debate about our Gender Policy. What has Belize gotten for our engagement in London over the years. Well, I can point out to a few words on Twitter from Baroness Anelay and Lord Black of Brentwood in 2015  and 2018 offering questions to parliament. along with Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon on separate occasions. The intended result is about increasing engagements with the local UK high Commission.




Furthermore, the work of Commonwealth Equality Network has allowed The United Belize Advocacy Movement to expand its pool of high level communication that would not otherwise be immediately accessible. It has allowed us to inform the FCO on possible national and regional strategy and to leverage communication as evidence that the world has its eye on Belize. The chance encounter of meeting Baroness Anelay with the UK Global Alliance in 2016, showed that while hurdles among various states exists, work to build systems of support continues at the global, regional and hemispheric bodies. Despite death threats, levels of violence in many countries, anti-right resistance, political complicity at the national level, individuals and organizations alike continue to engage every power structure to reduce obstacles focusing on political strategy, resource mobilization,  national and international advocacy and legal defense. No one is giving up the fight to advance the ideals in the Universal Declaration of human rights. A stubborn lot we are, no matter where we are in the world. For me, I never forget the pain that we document in Belize through our Human Rights Observatory. For me, its that pain that informs, sustain and inspires action.
An inconvenient truth in our work is that we aspire to love, to be economically self-reliant, to be educated, to have access to healthcare, to have our systems of support that is called family. Expectations that our state is to acknowledged and support us, as citizens of the commonwealth. 



The work in London has been complemented with high level communication at the UN General Assembly side event in September, 2016 that was organized by the LGBT Core Group. It was an important space to  high light Belize as a country that was struggling to address LGBT rights.No, open LGBT Belizean ever spoke at a UN side Event before in our nations history. I was the first, and made use of the five minutes I was given to speak.



Meeting Joe Biden and talking to the Foreign Minister of the Netherlands at the door was over whelming. I know this because I was busy looking at the large screen in the hall not realizing, that former VP Joe Biden was waving his pencil at me. I was overwhelmed because of the way he spoke of his son before he died on a talk show and I got to not only shake his hand but hug him and talk to him, but for a minute. For me, there is nothing like family which supports us in good times and bad. He lost his wife, his daughter and eventually his son and through it all, he remain a human being. When an article notes," Beau apparently told his father Joe that he must be ok with his death, so he can help look after the wife and children Beau left behind." You know the value of life. For his son Beau Biden, he died at age 46 from a brain tumor called gioblastoma, knowing family matters. The Struggle Continues!

Source:
Trans Monitoring Murder Project 2017

Mau Mau Uprising
http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-12997138

TMM 2016
http://transrespect.org/en/tdov-2017-tmm-update/


Bengal Famine 1943

https://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/fbi-releases-2016-hate-crime-statistics
https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2017/06/12/2016-deadliest-year-lgbtq-pulse/373840001/

Grief of loosing his wife
http://www.elleuk.com/life-and-culture/culture/news/a39976/joe-biden-grief/