Versión en español disponible aquí.

Commissioners: Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, Rosa María Ortiz, Tracy Robinson

Petitioners: Ronald Céspedes, Nación Quechua (Bolivia), Amaranta Gómez Regalado, Nación Zapoteca (Mexico), Senador Jack Jackson Jr., Navajo Nation (United States)

State:  n/a

On March 16, 2013, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held a thematic hearing where petitioners expressed their concerns regarding the situation of the treatment of lesbian, gay, transsexual, bisexual, and intersex (LGTBI) members of indigenous communities in the Americas, pointing out that most of the individuals suffer discrimination and rejection by their own people. What LGTBI individuals are looking for, according to the petitioners, is acceptance of their free expression of their sexual orientation.

The petitioning parties came from indigenous communities across the Americas: Ronald Céspedes, from Nación Quechua in Bolivia; Amaranta Gómez Regalado, from Nación Zapoteca  in Mexico; and Arizona State Senator Jack Jackson Jr., from the Navajo Nation in the United States. The petitioners described how before colonization, the freedom to express one’s sexual orientation was a common trait among indigenous groups and that after years of stigmatization and criticism brought by conquering nations, the LGTBI persons want to fight for that right that was taken away from them 500 years ago.

The petitioners presented studies that indicate that when indigenous cultures were flourishing and at their peak, all community members were allowed to express their sexuality and choose their own partners, regardless of gender. But this situation was brought to a halt by the colonial period because of cultural tensions with a religious vision of conquering states that condemned this practice of sexual freedom, leading to repression, persecution, and what the petitioners described as genocide. This view of the place of LGTBI individuals in the community has continued so that even now the individuals willing to express their sexual orientation face discrimination and even exclusion from their communities. The situation affects the rights of all indigenous LGTBI people to be included and accepted in their communities.

In addition to their argument regarding the conquering nations, the petitioners stated that nature allows all species to practice their sexuality freely because sexuality itself is a natural phenomenon. Additionally, acceptance of ancestral diversity implies that the concept can be complimented by the concept of acceptance of sexuality for the LGTBI communities.

The petitioners brought their situation before the IACHR to seek implementation of mechanisms that would allow LGTBI persons to be accepted, recognized, and free from discrimination in their communities. The petitioners’ aim is to show to the indigenous communities that historically sexual freedom was accepted and is part of their culture.

The petitioners presented to the Commission a number of requests to protect LGTBI individuals in the Americas: 1) international cooperation toward protection of the LGTBI communities; 2) implementation of a health services initiative focused principally on HIV/AIDS because of LGTBI individuals’ particular vulnerability regarding this disease; 3) the protection of LGTBI rights by permanent reports from the authorities in the countries, taking into account the historic background and the actual situation of LGTBI rights; 4) the inclusion of the idea of  “ancestral diversity” in the LGTBI name; and 5) creation of public policies that protect the rights of LGTBI members of indigenous communities.

In response to the presentation, Commissioner Rosa María Ortiz asked the petitioners how they propose that the Commission implement tolerance of sexual freedom in indigenous communities, noting that the IACHR has begun to make efforts but a lot remains to be done. She added that although the interventions have been directed toward non-discrimination, it is clear that such discrimination occurs even when it is prohibited.

The petitioners concluded by stating that they are open to dialogue with the governments and that what they really want is the recognition of their rights.