Conflicts & War

Activists mark 1 week chained together in Caracas demanding LGBTI rights

By Hector Pereira

Caracas, Nov 28 (EFE).- Transsexuals may not change their names in Venezuela, where soldiers are imprisoned if they openly express their homosexuality and neither the constitution, the laws not protests have been able to change that reality, a situation that four young and determined men have been seeking to alter for the past week by chaining themselves together on a Caracas square.

Last Monday, the 30-something men – Koddy, Paul and Johan – launched their peaceful, but radical, protest outside the Ombudsman’s Office in downtown Caracas saying that they would not end their demonstration until something positive changed for the LGBTI community here. Jorge, 19, joined the trio on Friday.

Under a pale awning, the quartet has braved the bad weather and the exhaustion of wearing their chains, a visual representation – they say – of the discrimination they have to deal with in Venezuelan society, especially from state institutions that are not respecting their insistent demands that their rights be acknowledged.

Koddy Campos, a full-time activist, knows exactly how many times the Supreme Court has been asked to annul the law penalizing with up to three years in prison engaging in homosexual relations in military barracks, as well as how – starting eight years ago – activists have tried to get the Parliament to approve a same-sex civil union law.

The response has always been silence. This is the same response that’s been received from the National Electoral Council when it’s been asked to abide by the 2009 Civil Registry Law that permits any citizen to change his or her name “when it does not correspond to their gender” although no trans person has managed to obtain an identity document that coincides with their gender orientation.

“We’re being discriminated against by omission. Anyone who doesn’t want to talk about the issue, whoever doesn’t respect us is also discriminating (against us), it’s homophobia, transphobia,” said the man, adding that state action has been lacking and this has resulted in some LGBTI people committing suicide as well as hate crimes committed by others against them.

In August, Paul Martucci went to ask authorities to allow him to legally change his name, given that he was tired of the problems he always has when he presents his identity document. Just like others who preceded him, including former lawmaker Tamara Adrian, Latin America’s first transsexual legislator, officials told him that his case could only be resolved by the Supreme Court.

The high court has received dozens of similar requests, some of them as long as 20 years ago, and none have been granted. In view of that, Paul said he thinks that it’s now time for the state “to rectify that and to accept the fact that they were wrong,” taking the step to implement “historical reparations to the trans community who have been denied their identity.”

“What do we want? For them to rectify the situation and for us to move forward, because identity is the first step, not the only one,” he said.

Johan Chavarria has spent almost half his life in a wheelchair, a disability that he suffered years after he realized he was gay. Some people in his same situation, he said, feel that they have a “double curse” because of the avalanche of discrimination they must deal with in a country that has a long way to go in terms of accepting LGBTI people.

But he’s not intimidated. He works as a barber and at many other jobs, and he sets aside time to push forward with fighting for his community, a vocation that led him to stage this protest, during which he fell ill for several days due to the rainy weather.

“Yes, there’s discrimination in both sectors and it’s not each to be in society being doubly discriminated against,” he emphasized, adding that he had gotten a message in the past few days from a trans woman who, like him, is in a wheelchair but who thanked him for his example and for inspiring her.

Jorge Moreno is 19 and recently he finished high school and learned of the statute sanctioning “unnatural sexual acts” in the Venezuelan military. Quickly, he learned that he would be unable to realize his dream of becoming a pilot by first learning to fly at the military air force academy.

“If I had entered (the military academy), I’d be in prison,” said the young man, who joined the protest last Tuesday, but chained himself to the other three activists on Friday, having become tired of having stones thrown at him or being expelled from a public park by homophobes who refused to tolerate the fact that he was openly walking with his boyfriend.

“And when I went to seek justice, when I went to file a complaint at the Public Ministry, they discriminated against me … They treated me like a disease. They told me that I couldn’t even hold my boyfriend’s hand because that is completely forbidden,” he said.

The chained-together protesters told EFE that they are expecting the authorities to make a significant announcement pertaining to their protest and the LGBTI community on Tuesday.

EFE hp/sb/bp

Related Articles

Back to top button