• The French “separatism” bill raises concerns for rights and civil liberties

    Dear Commissioner Didier Reynders,

    Dear Michael O’Flaherty,

    Cc: Commissioner Ylva Johansson, Vice President Vera Jourová

    The French “separatism” bill raises concerns for rights and civil liberties: the European Commission must question France

    We, civil society organisations that advocate for rights and values, for the defence of civil liberties and the rule of law, and against any form of discrimination, are writing to raise concerns about the French “separatism” bill («projet de loi confortant le respect des principes de la République») currently under discussion in Parliament.

    Numerous actors including associations in France[1], the national human rights body[2] and European organisations[3] have expressed major concerns over the bill and the implications it would have for rights and civil liberties. Among the provisions raising worries is a so-called “Contract” of Republican Engagement, that the Government will introduce by a Decree, which will give administrative authorities the right to withdraw public funding and extended possibilities for dissolution with a limited role for the judiciary. Additionally, it introduces unnecessary controls on foreign funding that cast a negative presumption on all civic organisations receiving funding from abroad.

    The bill may be considered by EU institutions as implementing EU law on combating terrorism, racism and xenophobia and its provisions may lead to disproportionate restrictions of freedom of association (article 12 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU - CFR), freedom of expression (art. 11 of CFR) and freedom of thought, conscience and religion (art. 10 CFR), as well as to the violation of the right to non-discrimination (art. 21 CFR). There is concern that the bill as currently drafted will affect minorities based on their ethnic origins, Muslim populations or people considered to be Muslim, and associations standing up for their rights.[4]

    Organised civil society is a key pillar of French democracy and an important watchdog in ensuring the respect for the rule of law. We are alarmed by the fact that the law is dramatically increasing the control of public authorities and institutions on the right to associate, departing from the more than centennial liberal framework that made the French civil society sector one of the strongest and most vibrant in Europe and the world. Our concern extends to the fact that the French Government is restricting parliamentary debate to pass the law by a fast-track procedure and without consultation with civil society ahead of the legislative process.

    If the law is passed in its current form, it will also set a dangerous precedent for the rest of Europe. As a recent case in point, legislation stigmatising and restricting access to foreign funding to associations in Hungary was later proposed in Poland and Bulgaria[5].

    The European Commission recognises the important role of civil society in the “ecosystem” of access to rights by all in the EU. The recognition of civil society’s role in safeguarding the rule of law was expressed in the Commission’s first rule of law report, and through the infringement procedure against Hungary’s law on the transparency of organisations supported from abroad. Another very positive development is illustrated by the Citizens, Equality, Rights & Values (CERV) programme funding’s increase for the 2021-2027 period.

    We urge the Commission to show a similar willingness to support civic actors in France by expressing concerns about the draft law. In particular, we call on the European Commission to:

    • Question publicly the provision restricting the right to associate and civil liberties included in the draft proposal, with no delay;
    • Open discussions with the French authorities on the current state of civic space and rule of law in the country and associate French civic actors in appropriate forms.

    We are counting on the European Commission and the European Fundamental Rights Agency to act swiftly in raising concerns regarding restrictions to rights and civil liberties with regards to the draft bill.


    European and global Networks

    • CIVICUS - Global
    • Civil Society Europe - Europe
    • Equinox - Europe
    • European Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ECNL) – Europe
    • European Civic Forum (ECF) - Europe
    • European Network Against Racism (ENAR) - Europe
    • Reclaim EU - Europe

    French organisations

    • Le Mouvement Associatif – France
    • Ligue des droits de L’Homme (LDH) - France
    • Action Droits des Musulmans (ADM) - France
    • Alliance Citoyenne – France

    France Separatism bill


    [1] See, for example, Joint open letter – for the attention of senators: Bill “reinforcing respect for the principles of the republic”, 7 April 2021,  the national platform, Le Mouvement Associatif, “Projet de loi Respect des principes républicains: propositions du Mouvement associative” (lmahdf.org), 13 January 2021; The coalition for associative freedoms, a Coalition bringing together more than 10,800 supporters: "Separatism law": associative freedoms in danger.

    [2] Commission nationale consultative des droits de l’homme , Second avis sur le projet de loi confortant le respect des principes de la République, 4 April 2021.

    [3] COE, The Expert Council on NGO Law is concerned about the restrictions by the Bill to strengthen respect for the principles of the Republic by all, 31 March 2021, The Expert Council on NGO Law is concerned about the restrictions by the Bill to strengthen respect for the principles of the Republic by all - Newsroom (coe.int); ECNL, France aims to strengthen respect of republican values: but how does it affect civic space?, 10 December 2021.

    [4] ADM analysis of the « projet de loi confortant le respect des principes de la République » 

    [5] European Commission, 2020 Rule of Law Report Country Chapter on the rule of law situation in Poland, 30 September 2021, pl_rol_country_chapter.pdf (europa.eu), p. 16; European Commission, 2020 Rule of Law Report Country Chapter on the rule of law situation in Bulgaria, 30 September 2021, bg_rol_country_chapter.pdf (europa.eu), p. 20.

     Civic space in France is rated "Narrowed" by the CIVICUS Monitor.

  • BANGLADESH: ‘The legal vulnerability of LGBTQI+ people leads to harassment and discrimination’

    ShahanurIslamCIVICUS speaks about the state of civic space and the rights of excluded groups in Bangladesh with Shahanur Islam, founder secretary general of JusticeMakers Bangladesh (JMBD) and founder president of JMBD in France.

    JMBD isa human rights organisation working against all forms of discrimination and impunity for violence against ethnic, religious, social and sexual minorities and victims of torture, extrajudicial killings, forced disappearance and organised violence, including women and children. It provides legal support to victims and advocates for justice and human rights through research, awareness-raising campaigns and collaboration with various stakeholders,including other civil society groups, government agencies and international organisations.

  • BELIZE: ‘Many laws remain that keep LGBTQI+ people as second-class citizens’

    Caleb OrozcoCIVICUS speaks about the situation of LGBTQI+ rights in Belize and the ongoing impacts of the British colonial legacy with Caleb Orozco, the chief litigant in a case successfully challenging Belize’s discriminatory laws and co-founder of the United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM).

    Founded in 2006, UNIBAM was the first LGBTQI+-led policy and advocacy civil rights organisation in Belize. Focused on dismantling systemic and structural violence that impacts on human rights, it uses rights-based approaches to reduce stigma and discrimination.

    What was the process leading to the overturn of Belize’s so-called anti-gay laws?

    The process of overturning the sodomy laws contained in Section 53 of the Criminal Code started with a preliminary assessment that guided the development of the University of the West Indies’ Rights Advocacy Project (URAP) led by Tracy Robinson, whose group initiated my case in 2010. In 2011 we worked with Human Dignity Trust, which joined as interested party, to engage on international treaty obligations.

    In 2007, a conversation started at a meeting in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, organised by the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition. URAP engaged by email and Viper Messenger, with additional regional conferences to flesh out legal arguments. The process identified Lisa Shoman as local Senior Counsel and Chris Hamel Smith, who argued the case in 2013.

    Meanwhile, we submitted reports for Belize’s Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations Human Rights Council to test the government’s response to the challenge to the sodomy laws. We also resorted to thematic hearings at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The response of the government was that it needed a ‘political mandate’. We worked with the subcommittee for policy and legislation of the National AIDS Commission to monitor legislative opportunities and gauge the position of the government and the prime minister. We knew the government would not significantly fight the process.

    In late 2010 we filed a challenge to Section 53 and a fight with the group of churches ensued. UNIBAM’s role was eventually reduced to that of an interested party, with the churches relegated to the same role, and I remained as the sole claimant.

    We did not have a communications strategy, so we developed one. Nor did we have a security strategy, but we got help from the Human Dignity Trust. We participated in around 300 media interviews, collectively, over the years. The process included the derailment of the government’s revised national gender policy of 2013, with hundreds protesting across the country. Also, in Jamaica, 25,000 people protested to demand the removal of Professor Brendon Bain, an expert witness in my case in support of the churches, from his job at the University of the West Indies. 

    The case was heard by the Supreme Court in May 2013. We submitted personal experiences of discrimination and tried to strike out the churches, but we failed. Three years later, on 10 August 2016, the judge ruled in our favour, establishing that Section 53 was unconstitutional, which effectively decriminalised consensual same-sex activity held in private by consenting adults.

    The Attorney General launched a partial appeal focused on the freedom of expression and non-discrimination on the grounds of ‘sex’, but the Court of Appeal’s judgment was reaffirmed in December 2019, with the expectation that the sodomy law had to be modified by parliament after the Court reaffirmed its unconstitutionality. Over time, the political tone changed: from claiming a political mandate was needed to change our sodomy law, to supporting 15 out of 17 Universal Periodic Review recommendations on LGBTQI+ rights in 2018. We are now waiting for parliament to modify the law as per the instruction of the Court of Appeal.

    Did you experience backlash?

    I experienced a lot of backlash throughout the process. This included character assassination and death threats, to the point that a personal security plan had to be put in place for me to go to court in 2013 and for my daily movement. Christian TV stations pushed negative propaganda and social media platforms buzzed with homophobia and threats. 

    How much progress has the LGBTQI+ rights movement achieved so far? 

    The LGBTQI+ rights movement became part of a National Working Group, in which I helped draft a cabinet note to advance the Equal Opportunities Bill and Hate Crime Legislation, with support from the Human Dignity Trust. Even though the Equal Opportunities Bill was endorsed by the cabinet, it didn’t reach parliament before the 2020 general election, because the evangelical ‘Kill the Bill’ campaign succeeded in derailing it just in time. We are not giving up in 2022!

    I run the only LGBTQI+-led observatory of human rights in Belize, which provides litigation support to clients. We produce knowledge products on systemic and structural violence that feeds into a national and transnational advocacy framework that includes LGBTQI+ economic inclusion and livelihoods. 

    The process influenced and inspired the development of several niche organisations focused on LGBTQI+ families, health, trans issues and lesbian and bisexual women. It helped launch the global mandate of the Human Dignity Trust’s campaign on decriminalisation. Ours was in fact their first case back in 2011.

    What challenges do LGBTQI+ people continue to face in Belize? How can challenges be addressed?

    There is the denial of gender markers for trans people. Violence against us can take place in the family and the workplace. Kids experience discrimination in schools. In addition, family insecurity for LGBTQI+ parents is a huge deal. We endure economic rights violations and economic exclusion, as well as unequal access to economic benefits such as social security and government pensions. 

    LGBTQI+ Belizeans experience daily deficits in the police’s work that deals with us as victims of violence and detainees. If you’re of African descent and gay, expect police harassment.

    We need resources to advance 20 amendments to laws that exclude LGBTQI+ Belizeans as citizens, which attack our dignity and rights and keep us as second-class citizens. The functions of the Human Rights Observatory, which provides redress to LGBTQI+ Belizeans and marginalised women, should be strengthened.

    What kind of international support does Belizean LGBTQI+ civil society need? 

    International allies can support us with donations through our GoFundMe page. We also really value offers of pro-bono legal support for the work of our Human Rights Observatory, including legal research, legal defence,  protection work, bill drafting, litigation support, and branding strategies, as well as offers of pro bono support to produce investigative or victim advocacy training.

    Civic space in Belize is rated ‘narrowed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with UNIBAMthrough itswebsite and follow@UNIBAMSupport on Twitter.

  • BERMUDA: ‘A right that the LGBTQI+ community enjoyed for four years has been stripped away’

    Adrian Hartnett BeasleyCIVICUS speaks about the recent court decision on same-sex marriage in Bermuda with Adrian Hartnett-Beasley, a founding board member of OUTBermuda.

    OUTBermuda is a civil society organisation that promotes and supports the wellbeing, health, dignity, security, safety and protection of the LGBTQI+ community in Bermuda. It provides educational resources on issues of diversity, inclusiveness, awareness and acceptance of LGBTQI+ people, and advances human rights, conflict resolution and equality and diversity in Bermuda.


    What is the significance of the recent court ruling declaring the ban on same-sex marriage constitutional? How has it affected LGBTQI+ people in Bermuda?

    In March 2022, Bermuda’s highest judicial body, the Privy Council’s Judicial Committee, sided with the government of Bermuda, stating that it may regulate and restrict marriage licences only to unions between a man and a woman. According to the judgement, this does not violate the Bermudian Constitution. It would have violated the Human Rights Act of 1981 if the Bermuda Government had not amended it to allow discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

    This judgement reversed previous decisions that starting in 2017 made it possible for same-sex couples to get legally married in Bermuda. As a result, a right that we as a community enjoyed for four years was stripped away.

    We don’t have survey data, but the general feeling of disappointment is palpable. Our community and our allies are disappointed that this fundamental human rights issue was ever made political in the first place, first with an irresponsible referendum held in 2016 – a non-binding consultation that failed due to low turnout – and then again by successive administrations who used our community as leverage in two electoral campaigns.

    We are still reviewing the case, but overall, we have concerns that our constitution has failed us and what this means, if people are paying attention, is that our constitution is not fit for purpose anymore.

    How was OUTBermuda involved in the case, and what will it do next?

    OUTBermuda was heavily involved throughout the process. We ran very successful arguments at the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, with the guidance and hard work of our legal teams. We believe our leadership and standing helped bring together a consortium of plaintiffs, which together supported the novel and intricate legal arguments being made before the courts, including two churches and a couple of individuals – together encapsulating a broad range of perspectives, as reflected in the evidence we submitted to the courts.

    In its former life, that is, before it became a registered charity, OUTBermuda was known as Bermuda Bred and successfully sued the Bermuda government in 2015 to secure some immigration rights for non-Bermudian same-sex partners to live and work on the island. As a result of that victory, its members pivoted the organisation into OUTBermuda and registered it as a charity. The organisation has been leaning into the empty space in which the LGBTQI+ community had no voice ever since.

    This adverse ruling does not change that. We will continue to advocate for equality, justice and dignity for all LGBTQI+ Bermudians. If anything, the negative decision of the court highlights that OUTBermuda must continue its work.

    What other challenges do LGBTQI+ people face in Bermuda?

    The issues we face are as diverse as the community itself. At the core of all of it is acceptance; without acceptance, our community is subjected to unfair and illegal housing discrimination, which alongside family disapproval results in young people having nowhere to live and having higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse. Not surprisingly, this leads to members of our community staying in the closet longer, or at least being less comfortable about being themselves in public. All of this ends up resulting in our community not reaching its collective full potential.

    OUTBermuda gets requests for help regularly, and this is the typical story we hear over and over. Marriage has been one, very public, issue but it’s by no means the only one – probably not even the most important one. We will continue working to educate people, including our political leaders, about the human rights of LGBTQI+ people. The next government must re-amend the Human Rights Act to reinstate the full protection of sexual orientation.

    How much progress has the LGBTQI+ rights movement achieved so far? Have you experienced any anti-rights backlash?

    We have made a lot of progress. When we started litigating for same-sex marriage, polls showed a slight majority of Bermudians were against it, and within five years, when same-sex marriage became legal, a clear majority supported it.

    A poll we conducted in 2020, three years into same-sex marriage being legal, showed that 92 per cent of Bermudians believed that LGBTQI+ people deserved human rights protection, 95 per cent believed we deserved civil rights protection, 53 per cent were in favour of same-sex marriage and 72 per cent thought that a church should be allowed to perform a wedding between two consenting adults. An overwhelming majority of 75 per cent opposed the government spending more money on litigation to ban same-sex marriage, while a mere three per cent claimed they had been negatively affected by same-sex couples being able to marry, adopt or live together.

    But this progress was met with backlash, particularly by organisations such as Preserve Marriage, which grew markedly since the early days of the public debate on marriage equality. They are well-organised and well-funded and are reacting quite violently to the evidence that public perceptions on all LGBTQI+ issues is increasingly more accepting.

    What kind of support would Bermudian LGBTQI+ civil society need from their international counterparts?

    Bermudian LGBTQI+ civil society, while physically isolated – more than 600 miles away from North Carolina – is fortunate to have great internet accessibility, so resources are easy to access and connections are easy to make. OUTBermuda as an organisation has been fortunate to receive the support of comparable – but larger and more sophisticated – organisations overseas in the form of resources, ideas and solidarity. As we have just hired our first employee – a part-time executive director – we are looking forward to building out those relationships and capitalising on the great work that has already been done in other jurisdictions – while still doing it the uniquely Bermudian way.

    Get in touch with OUTBermuda through itswebsite or itsFacebook page, and follow@OUTBermuda on Twitter. 

  • BOTSWANA: ‘We must strategise so that we don’t merely react to crises and anti-rights action’

    Dumiso GatshaCIVICUS speaks about the struggle for LGBTQI+ rights in Botswana with Dumiso Gatsha, an LGBTQI+ activist and founder of Success Capital.

    Success Capital is a youth and feminist-led organisation working to strengthen youth agency and autonomy in human rights and sustainable development while challenging power, privilege and patriarchy through intersectionality. Its approaches include participatory research, peer-to-peer knowledge sharing and advocacy.

    Has the 2019 High Courtruling that decriminalised same-sex relations led to improvements?

    The 2019 ruling had structural effects: by declaring the criminalisation of same-sex intimacy unconstitutional, it eliminated not only the possibility of prosecution but also the excuse that was often used to exclude LGBTQI+ people from service delivery. It affirmed our existence as Batswana, Africans and people and heralded a new field of untapped opportunities for improving the lives of all people in Botswana, not only LGBTQI+ people.

    Documented instances of violence against queer people in social settings, hate speech and intolerance online have increased. This doesn’t mean violence itself has increased – only that it is now more visible. Decriminalisation has improved the environment to report on and seek redress for human rights violations, injustices and inequities.

    However, there has also been backlash, and violence may be on the rise as a result of the higher visibility, agency and advocacy by LGBTQI+ people.

    It’s true that in Botswana there weren’t any immediate negative reactions to the High Court ruling, unlike in countries such as Kenya or Namibia, where progressive judgements elicited immediate protest action. But, reflective of wider and broader anti-gender ideology influences, earlier this year there have been protest marches led by churches, a whole four years after the High Court ruling. This means that for those opposed to LGBTQI+ rights, the matter is far from settled.

    The anti-rights reaction was triggered by a member of parliament’s request to consult with churches on the procedural steps parliament needed to take to amend the Penal Code in line with the 2021 ruling by the Court of Appeal that upheld the High Court’s decision. From what we understand, this ruling was needed to finally put the matter of decriminalisation to rest, having ensured that all processes had been exhausted within Botswana’s jurisdiction.

    Representatives of churches and members of parliament questioned the very essence of our democracy. They publicly threatened politicians in a pre-election year, bringing confusion about the democratic process and denouncing our existence as citizens who have rights.

    The strength of the backlash despite the time that has passed shows that decriminalisation is only the beginning. It is not the solution or end point in fulfilling human rights, but it serves as a basis for much-needed interventions in social, cultural, institutional and public participation spaces.

    How has civil society, and your organisation in particular, responded?

    Fighting back has been a slow and protracted process because of limited resources. Botswana’s higher middle income country status and narrow avenues for civil society engagement have meant that the gains made from decriminalisation could not be strategically amplified across the human rights, sexual and reproductive rights and democratic landscape.

    Success Capital has less than five per cent of the resources that more prominent civil society organisations have. This means grassroots, hidden and hard-to-reach communities and constituents are left behind – notably in more rural, climate-affected and impoverished areas, where queerness, migrant status, disability, sex work status and being an ethnic minority are all second to socioeconomic status and the need to secure a livelihood.

    Our constituents didn’t feel threatened by the anti-LGBTQI+ protests, which is reflective of their resilience and agency. But this was a moment to gauge how unprepared philanthropy is to respond to backlash and regressive attempts. I was shocked when a funder asked me what I was doing about it while knowing full well that they had delayed disbursing funds aimed at removing human rights barriers for LGBTQI+ people.

    Still, we commemorated Pride and helped host the Changing Faces Changing Spaces conference organised by the East African Sexual Health and Rights Initiative, for which we helped secure visas and provided advice to LGBTQI+ people and sex workers from across Africa. We worked in solidarity with East African groups in the context of increasing anti-LGBTQI+ sentiments, engaged in strategic policy-oriented dialogue with other civil society leaders, made a solidarity visit to Namibia and networked to ensure that we would be prepared for whatever came next. None of this was externally funded – it was pure feminist decolonial action underpinning our belief in our own freedom, with or without decriminalisation.

    Has there been any change in the state of public opinion in Botswana on LGBTQI+ rights?

    The Afrobarometer survey has noted some improvements in public opinion, but intolerance and hate speech remain prevalent. National-level data is not always reflective of the situation in local and grassroots communities. Language, socioeconomic status and the availability of services all contribute to how people in Botswana participate and perceive different issues.

    For example, in our own community engagements in rural locations we have noted that abortion is mostly accepted on the basis of an understanding of the challenges experienced by many who end up pregnant. However, more than one abortion is frowned upon. And we see similar nuances across sexual orientation, sex characteristics and gender identity issues. For instance, feminine queer men tend to be tolerated more than trans women, as are masculine lesbian women giving birth, while bisexual men are emasculated online. Social parameters are too wide to be readily captured without meaningful resources and political will to ensure all LGBTQI+ people are included in state policy and programming.

    Have you experienced any negative repercussions from your work?

    Yes. Invitations have been rescinded and scrutiny increased. We are policed on who can be invited to take part in social participation mechanisms that include government officials. We are denied an audience despite fulfilling all the necessary steps in writing invitations, submitting proposals and following up through the hierarchy. For instance, we applied for approval for civil society participation in the 2023 World Bank-International Monetary Fund Spring meetings, and despite receiving permission from parliamentary caucuses, a ministry interrogated us on what we wanted to do and why we wanted to attend.

    We had our email address blocked to prevent us submitting future statements to the United Nations. We have been denied funding for being too radical, and calling out funders has not really worked for us.

    I’ve had several encounters with law enforcement. The first happened when a fellow volunteer was strangled and I recorded audio of the incident before police confiscated my phone. We are exploring a case on this at the moment. The second happened when a trans colleague was questioned because how she presented was not the same as the gender stated on her identity card. And more recently, we were told of plainclothes police in non-branded cars patrolling and possibly shooting people who don’t stop on highways when instructed to in the middle of nowhere. This kind of policing is harmful, unlawful and abusive, and is being used to target LGBTQI+ people without any accountability.

    Where do these restrictions come from?

    Some restrictions we’ve faced reflect a regional landscape in which LGBTQI+ networks have shut down, limiting representation, and a global trend in which eligibility, visa and logistical support have only worsened, limiting civil society participation in advocacy and governance mechanisms.

    Civil society in Botswana is not immune from these trends. Even within the Global Fund mechanism, the most prominent enabler of those fighting for sexual health rights, delays have taken up most of the current financial year, compromising eight months of service provision.

    I think we are underestimating the reach of anti-rights groups. Although global anti-rights influences have existed for decades, domestic counterparts have recently grown emboldened and are increasingly well resourced. Botswana’s higher middle income country status reflects a skewed and unequal income distribution and hides the fact that the few with capital and wealth side with the conservative, morally driven powerholders and are not afraid to deploy their influence against human rights activists. Criminalisation is good business for the politicians that also run corporations. Inequality is good news for those with means and power to subjugate those left behind.

    How do you connect with LGBTQI+ rights movements abroad and internationally? What international support do you receive, and what further support do you need?

    LGBTQI+ activists are dynamic and diverse. Success Capital has always engaged in collaborative knowledge sharing, linking with other initiatives and sharing the space in advocacy sessions, side events and mobilising actions. We take pride in unearthing young, emergent and nascent activists and movements that operate in the margins and sharing our platform with them. This helps us continue and challenge conversations in rooms we can’t access or engage in.

    Since decriminalisation, international support has been quite high. It has, however, been skewed. It has followed a hierarchy that’s reflective of wider trends, with more institutionalised groups having easier access to funding and benefitting from the development industrial complex the most. Grassroots organisations continue to be left behind, lacking institutional or long-term funding.

    Solidarity is like sunshine – everyone deserves some. That’s why the ecosystem needs to be steered towards collaboration. And it must focus on strategising so that we don’t merely react to crises and anti-rights action, but we take the initiative in the struggle for our rights.

    Civic space in Botswana is rated ‘obstructed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with Success Capital through itswebsite orFacebook page, and follow@ProSuccessBW on Twitter.

  • CIVICUS: #WhyWeMarch

    On Saturday, 21 January 2017, millions will gather in Washington D.C. and in hundreds of other cities around the world to take part in the Women’s March. CIVICUS stands in solidarity with the demonstrators who in the spirit of democracy, seek to honour the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice, and reject the sexist and bigoted rhetoric used during the US election against minorities and excluded groups.

    Globally, the sister marches carry a message of solidarity in celebration of our multiple, diverse and intersecting identities and reject all forms of patriarchy and the discriminatory systems that support them worldwide. We will not rest until women have parity and equity at all levels of leadership in society.

  • COLOMBIA: ‘Civil society is an important pillar in work with the migrant population’

    CarmenAidaFariaCIVICUS speaks with Carmen Aida Faria, director of Fundación Manitas Amarillas (Little Yellow Hands Foundation), about the difficulties faced by Venezuelan migrants in Colombia and the work being done by civil society to facilitate their access to rights.

    Manitas Amarillas is a Colombian civil society organisation (CSO) formed in 2018, in the context of mass Venezuelan migration to Colombia, to provide humanitarian assistance, access to health services and counselling to migrants and refugees.

    How has the situation of Venezuelan migrants in Colombia changed in recent years?

    Migration flows into Colombia have changed over time. The 2015 wave of Venezuelan migration was very important, but the number of migrants increased over the following years, peaking in 2017. Compared to the previous wave, this one included a lot more people in vulnerable situation.

    The new arrivals needed immediate healthcare and access to other fundamental rights that the system could not provide. Colombia did not have the infrastructure or the financial resources to respond, particularly in border areas, where local populations also experience deficits in access to education and healthcare, among other rights.

    Migrants in vulnerable situations were also unable to receive monetary aid through the Colombian government’s social assistance programmes or enter the subsidised health system. To access social programmes, people must have a regular migration status.

    In addition to a permanent migrant population, there is also the population in border areas that constantly crosses the border back and forth to access certain services. For instance, many children who live in Venezuela go to school in Colombia and are not included in school food programmes. There are organisations working specifically to ensure these children have access to food, as they arrive with significant nutritional problems.

    These processes created a demand for the community, but above all for the Colombian state, to respond to. And the country began to operate under a logic of solidarity and gratitude: Colombians remember that in the past it was Venezuela that received Colombian migrants. Thus, the government began to grant special residence permits to regularise this population in some way. But the definite milestone was the Temporary Statute of Protection for Venezuelan Migrants (ETPMV), approved in 2021 under an essentially humanitarian logic.

    What did the implementation of this new policy entail?

    The ETPMV implied temporary regularisation so that Venezuelans could benefit from the same rights and have the same duties as Colombian nationals. Upon receiving an identity document called a Temporary Protection Permit, migrants have the possibility of accessing the health system and the labour market, among other rights.

    Theoretically, the mechanism is well thought out. However, putting it into practice has been hard. Many people have been left out: more than 2.4 million migrants have registered in the Single Registry for Venezuelan Migrants, but there are still more than a million who, having completed the full process, have not received their permit.

    Some people applied for the permit in September 2021, more than a year ago, and have consulted Migración Colombia, the authority for migration control and monitoring, but still do not know what has happened to their application. Some have not received their permits due to logistical problems: this is a highly mobile population and when they change addresses it is often not possible to locate them to deliver the documentation.

    But it is also the case that difficulties continue once the permit has been obtained. This is an indication of deeper problems. When Venezuelans go with their permit to open a bank account or register with the health system, they are often rejected. The Temporary Protection Permit is a new document and many institutions, both public and private, are not yet familiar with it. A lot of education is needed to make these rights effectively accessible.

    The ETPMV was supposed to prioritise the most vulnerable population groups. The first to receive their permits were supposed to be people in need of immediate medical attention and children and adolescents who needed them to enter the education system due to lack of identity papers. This ultimately did not happen, to such an extent that legal appeals have had to be filed to ensure access to healthcare for people with chronic illnesses or other conditions in need of immediate attention.

    How is Colombian civil society supporting Venezuelan migrants?

    Since the last big wave of migration in 2017, many CSOs have emerged. It was the migrant community itself that first began to get together to help other migrants. We started giving food out on the street and providing humanitarian assistance to walkers, as we call the people moving on foot through Colombian territory, who did not have basic information or even warm enough clothing to withstand Colombia’s climate.

    CSOs have become an important pillar in work with the migrant population, because we are on the ground and we know the problems migrants have.

    Currently, many CSOs are working together in coordination with the Mayor’s Office of Bogotá and promoting several joint initiatives. We have launched public campaigns and signed a symbolic pact to promote integration, because Venezuelan migrants in Colombia continue to suffer from xenophobia and discrimination as a result of their poverty. We have asked the media to stop mentioning the nationality of crime perpetrators, because they only do so when the person involved is a foreigner, thus overstating the problem and contributing to discrimination against Venezuelans.

    We are also participating, in collaboration with the Colombian government and international cooperation agencies, in the first ‘Entregatón’, a massive permit delivery operation aimed at distributing 40,000 permits in five days. Migración Colombia has sent messages via mobile phone to migrants whose documents are ready, notifying them of the date and place where they can pick them up.

    But in addition to handing out the documents, as part of the operation, enrolment and biometric registration services are being provided for those who have not yet completed these stages of the process. People who have already received their permits are also offered vaccination services, access to healthcare providers, registration with the social assistance system, legal support and information on various other issues, from the transportation system to school access to programmes targeted at migrant women.

    There is so much work and CSOs are contributing enormously. The government and international cooperation agencies should take us into account not only as sources of diagnoses of migration issues, but also as partners when it comes to jointly implementing public policies arising from those diagnoses.

    Civic space in Colombia is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with Manitas Amarillas through itswebsite orFacebook page, and follow@MANITASAMARI on Twitter.

  • COLOMBIA: ‘Lack of regular migration status imposes barriers to accessing rights’

    Jessica Corredor Villamil and Lina ArroyaveCIVICUS speaks with Jessica Corredor Villamil and Lina Arroyave about the situation of Venezuelan migrants and refugees in Colombia. Jessica is the director of and Lina a researcher in Dejusticia’s international team.

    Dejusticia is a centre for legal and social studies based in Bogotá, Colombia, dedicated to promoting human rights in Colombia and the global south. It promotes social change through action-research, developing public policy proposals, advocacy campaigns and strategic litigation.

    How has Colombia changed its legal framework to accommodate Venezuelan migration?

    There are currently three ways in which Venezuelan nationals can obtain the status that allows them to stay in Colombia for extended periods: visas, refugee status and the Temporary Protection Status for Venezuelan Migrants (ETPMV).

    The ETPMV was established in 2021 to address the situation of mass migration from Venezuela. It has two main objectives: to identify the Venezuelan migrant population and regularise their migratory situation. To this end, two mechanisms are envisaged. The first is the Single Registry of Venezuelan Migrants, which collects personal and socio-economic data of those who register, administered by Migración Colombia, the authority in charge of migration control and surveillance. The second is the Temporary Protection Permit, which authorises its holders to stay in Colombia for 10 years and allows them to access the health, social security, education and financial systems, validate their diplomas, work and leave and re-enter the country.

    Those in Colombia who have regular status, who have requested refuge but have not yet received a response, who entered the country irregularly before 31 January 2021, who have entered the country regularly after May 2021, or do so before late May 2023 are all eligible for temporary protected status. After that cut-off date, it will only be available to children and adolescents.

    Even so, people are not guaranteed temporary protected status if they meet all the requirements, since it is granted at the discretion of Migración Colombia.

    How has the ETPMV system worked during its first year?

    The process has takenlonger than expected, falling short of the goal set by the previous government of delivering 1.8 million identification documents by 2022.

    According to data from Migración Colombia, as of November 2022 about 2.5 million people have entered their data in the Single Registry for Venezuelan Migrants and 1.6 million permits have been approved.

    This gap is worrying because lack of regular migration status imposes barriers to accessing fundamental rights and hinders the socio-economic integration of migrants.

    In addition, many people did not register because they were unable to regularise their migration status. The ETPMV was only available to those in an irregular situation who had entered Colombia before 31 January 2021. This time limitation ignores the fact that irregular migration continues, largely because of the impossibility of obtaining official documents in Venezuela. Irregular status is assumed to be the result of individual decisions, when it is usually results from the impossibility of complying with the requirements imposed.

    What integration barriers do Venezuelan migrants face in Colombia?

    In a recentreport we identified multiple barriers to accessing and remaining in the formal labour market, as well as for setting up a business.

    The main legal barrier is lack of regular migration status. The thousands of people who continue to enter Colombia through informal border crossings are denied access to temporary protected status. This has an impact on both formalising their employment and access to entrepreneurship support funds, particularly from the state, but also from the private sector. A majority of self-employed migrant workers work in the informal sector.

    Widespread ignorance among employers of migration legislation imposes additional barriers. For instance, many are unaware that the validation of university degrees is only required for professions that involve high social risk, such as medicine, or that are regulated by the state, such as architecture or law, for which all applicants must follow a process to validate their diplomas and have professional cards issued. This procedure requires an official certificate that must be obtained in Venezuela, and those who are already in Colombia face immense difficulties in securing this.

    There are also social and cultural factors that can affect the employment situation. Negative perceptions of the Venezuelan migrant population affect recruitment processes. Xenophobia and discrimination deepen in situations of insecurity, although there is no evidence of links between migration and increased crime.

    Lack of social capital – such as well-placed contacts and job references – is also a problem for migrants.

    Additional obstacles make it difficult for migrant workers to remain in the formal economy. For example, many banks refuse to open savings accounts for Venezuelan migrants. They not only require them to prove their regular migration status but also demand an up-to-date passport, which they usually don’t have. Similar challenges come with some health insurers, pension funds and occupational risk insurance companies.

    As a result, to earn an income many migrants are forced into precarious jobs and exploitative working conditions, including extremely long working hours, sub-minimum wages, mistreatment and changes in agreed working conditions. In 2019, the average monthly income of a Venezuelan migrant was less than the legal minimum wage, and the wage gap compared to Colombian nationals was more than 30 percentage points.

    What is Dejusticia doing to promote migrants’ rights?

    As a civil society organisation, we carry out research on migrants’ access to rights that we use to influence decision-making processes on migration policy and formulate public policy recommendations. In the research process leading to ourreport on the labour inclusion of Venezuelan migrants, for example, we organised an event to which we invited various stakeholders, including government agencies, to work on recommendations. Also, when anew government took office in August 2022, we produced a series of recommendations, in partnership with other organisations.

    We also develop strategic litigation and communications campaigns, and work with other organisations, both nationally, regionally and in other regions of the global south, to address the migration phenomenon from a broader perspective.

    What support from the international community do organisations defending the rights of migrants in Colombia need?

    It is important for the international community to shed visibility on and support the processes that are taking place in relation to the rights of Venezuelan migrants. But it is also very important that the support of the international community covers other migratory flows and takes into account the problems happening on the Colombia-Panama border, crossed by migrants of various nationalities trying to head towards the USA.

    It is also important for the international community to remind the Colombian government of the commitments it has made by ratifying treaties and adopting international standards on migration and refugees.

    Civic space in Colombia is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with Dejusticia through itswebsite orFacebook page and follow@DeJusticia and@JessCorredorV on Twitter.

  • COLOMBIA: ‘People are tired of the long hegemony of political elites who are also economic elites’

    Gina RomeroCIVICUS speaks about the recent presidential election in Colombia with Gina Romero, executive director of the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Democracy (RedLad).

    Founded in 2008, RedLad promotes the full exercise of democracy as a way of life for the common good in the Americas. It undertakes advocacy in the inter-American human rights system; research through the Citizen Observatory on Corruption, Observatory on Freedom of Religion and Belief, reporting on 11 countries for the CIVICUS Monitor; work to open democratic dialogue within civil society and among civil society and international bodies, governments, the private sector and others; action to strengthen the capacities of Latin American civil society through leadership training; and advocacy in defence of the rights of vulnerable populations.

    How would you assess the choice available between the two candidates in the second round of Colombia’s presidential election?

    It was very revealing that both candidates called themselves ‘anti-system’, positioned themselves against traditional politics and ran outside traditional political parties. Colombian citizens are tired of the long hegemony of traditional parties and of political elites who are also economic elites.

    The defeated candidate, Rodolfo Hernández, represents a right-wing political sector, although his campaign sought to emphasise his closeness to the people by championing the fight against corruption, despite the fact that he is under investigation for corruption. The winning candidate, Gustavo Petro, represents a left-wing position. The fact that a leftist option was elected for the first time in history says a lot about citizens’ social demands, the same ones that have been expressed publicly on the streets since 2019.

    I believe that the second round was not a polarised confrontation between an extreme right and an extreme left, but rather a confrontation between innovative – one could say populist – proposals outside traditional politics, and particularly against the legacy of former president Álvaro Uribe, which is also embodied by the outgoing incumbent, Iván Duque.

    A citizenry fed up with politics and social inequality, which has intensified as a result of the pandemic, made for a ticking bomb that manifested itself in the elections. It is great that this found expression through democratic channels, rather than through political violence, as used to be the case in the past.

    How do you interpret the fact that Hernández made it into the second round?

    Hernández’s presence in the runoff was quite surprising, since the candidates that were thought to have a chance were Federico Gutiérrez and Gustavo Petro. His discourse was one of closeness to citizens. He campaigned hard on social media, especially TikTok, and focused on the problems people systematically prioritise in the polls, such as corruption.

    Hernández was seen as a simple person, who speaks very simply to ordinary citizens, while other candidates’ discourse sounded too lofty. He convinced many people with the argument that, as a millionaire, he would not steal like the others, and would even refuse the president’s salary. He also mobilised many people who do not understand what it means for Colombia to be going through a peace process, who voted ‘no’ in the 2016 referendum on the peace deal, and who had previously elected right-wing presidents such as Duque and Uribe.

    Added to Hernández’s attractiveness were the big mistakes of centre parties and the fear elicited by Petro, both for being from the left and for being accompanied by a Black vice-presidential candidate, Francia Márquez, who had been a domestic worker and graduated from college at the age of 39. All this contributed to Hernández’s success in the first round, despite the fact that he is completely unfamiliar with politics and is neither fit to govern nor to do a good job as an opposition leader.

    What was the campaign for the runoffs like?

    It was a campaign of strong emotions, more than any other in the past. Political emotions are what ultimately determine the course of an election.

    Fear played a big role. Many people in Colombia are afraid of any left-wing project. Moreover, Colombia is a racist, classist and misogynist country, so a candidate like Márquez also caused fear. I met few people who would vote for Hernández because they liked him rather than because they were afraid of Petro. These people described Hernández as ‘the cute old man who fights corruption and has a lot of money’. This is how right-wing populism gets close to the people.

    The anti-Petro campaign circulated disinformation with the sole objective of generating fear, much as had happened in the campaign for the peace referendum. Among these unfounded fears was that Colombia would become a new Venezuela, as Petro would want to stay in power forever, as Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez once did. People repeated this uncritically without realising that, in Colombia, the one who wanted to do this was Uribe, through a constitutional change in 2004 that allowed him to renew his mandate and stay in office for eight years, after which he tried to do it again.

    Another idea associated with Venezuela’s fate was that of impoverishment, currency devaluation and hyperinflation. There was also much talk of the possible business reaction sector to a left-wing government and the supposed large outflow of companies from the Colombian market that would follow. It is true that the dollar rose the week after the election – as it did in Chile when Gabriel Boric won – but the dollar has been rising in recent years and the initial increase has not been catastrophic.

    Fear was also instilled among the public with the irresponsible use of the term ‘guerrilla’ in reference to Petro, who had in the past been a militant in the M19, a now-deactivated guerrilla group. Petro has had a long civilian political career since, and for decades has had nothing to do with any group outside the law. But the stigma remains, which shows how far Colombia still has to go in its reconciliation process.

    Disinformation and digital violence also targeted the two female candidates who ran in this election, Ingrid Betancourt – who stood in the first round of the presidential election – and Márquez. Much research on digital violence argues that when women are in politics, personal information about them is used and facts are misrepresented. But in the case of Márquez, there was real racialised hate speech. Horrible things were said about her, both because of her personal history and her past as a very poor woman, and because she is a Black woman. The worst racist and misogynist jokes were told.

    Colombia needs a profound reflection on how we construct the identity of the other and how we recognise ourselves as a multicultural country. Cali is the city with the second largest Afro-descendant population on the continent, and the entire Colombian Pacific is full of Afro and Indigenous people. But there is a systemic racism that was very apparent in the campaign.

    For the most part, mainstream media have done much wrong by echoing hate speech. A week before the second round, for example, Semana magazine ran a sensationalist cover story wondering who would get elected, the engineer or the former guerrilla fighter. The ex-guerrilla fighter is also an economist, but this was not about the candidates’ professions, but rather about giving a frightening message. In the last months of the campaign, Petro was forced to deny many things, while Hernández hid and refused to participate in any debate.

    Thus, we were sold the idea that we were ‘between a rock and a hard place’ and had to choose the ‘least worst’ candidate. A public narrative was mounted that since the political elite was not represented in this election, all that was on offer was simply bad.

    What kind of voter backed the candidates?

    There was a fairly close overlap between the Colombia that voted ‘no’ in the referendum on the peace accords, the Colombia that in the past elected Duque and the Colombia that now voted for Hernández. It is made up of culturally conservative citizens who fear change, have identified with traditional political elites and have not been drawn to the peace process or felt the appeal of political progressivism. Hernández’s voters in the cities and other parts of the country fear processes of inclusion of vulnerable populations and hardly include Indigenous or Afro-descendant parts of the population. In places with the largest Indigenous populations Petro won with unprecedented numbers.

    The Colombia that voted ‘yes’ in the referendum coincides with the Colombia that voted for Petro. This is the Colombia of the margins, which brings together the least developed regions of the country. Big cities, with the exception of Medellín, also voted for Petro. This is an urban bloc, which Márquez defines as a citizenry made up of ‘nobodies’. The people who voted for Petro are largely a frustrated citizenry that has been affected by corruption like no other, who are not part of the political elite and who have been historically relegated by development processes. These are people who have little, who see in Petro a promise of improvement. Previous candidates have offered no real solutions to their problems – not even a chance of feeling involved.

    The country is divided, but this is not a new division. Past governments have failed to reconcile these differences. We have two Colombias, with immense polarisation: in the elections with the highest participation in the past 20 years, Petro won by just 800,000 votes. That means there are 10 million people who oppose Petro and 11 million who support him. Petro will have to learn how to speak to these two facets of Colombia and ensure that the Colombia that did not vote for him does not feel left behind.

    What are civil society’s expectations or fears following the result?

    Whoever wins, our work as civil society will always remain the same. But personally, seeing what happened when Petro was mayor of Bogotá, I fear that revanchism could hinder the government’s progress. Polarisation, hate speech and the manipulation of institutions can have very serious effects. The potential reaction of the markets to a left-wing government is also a source of fear.

    There is also the fact that Petro is a very passionate person, and often does not communicate in the best possible way; both his and Hernández’s campaigns attacked the press when media criticised them. The press has a fundamental role, and this can be very annoying for any government, but it is essential that it has sufficient guarantees to do its job. There are fears that Petro could be very hostile to the press that is critical of his government.

    Organisations that, like RedLad, engage in international advocacy, are concerned about how Petro will position himself in relation to other Latin American leftists. Currently Latin America has a left that is the source of a lot of hope, that proposes change and is different from the traditional left; this is the left represented by Boric in Chile. But there is also the left of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico, not to mention the lefts of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, which have caused serious civic space crises. I think Petro is somewhere in the middle and faces the dilemma of who to side with. I think he should go along a more proactive and development-friendly left.

    Although Petro’s party, Pacto Histórico, achieved good legislative representation in the March 2022 parliamentary election, the transformations he has put on the table are quite broad and deep, and their success they will require a wide political agreement, something that is complex to achieve in Colombia. If this is not achieved, the people who voted for Petro and believed his promises will be frustrated. It will be interesting to see how this government, elected under the banner of the 2019 mobilisations, will respond to people if they happen to mobilise again.

    For the great expectations it has created not to wane, Petro’s government will need to score some early victories, showing progress in advancing the peace process and decreasing the number of assassinations of social leaders. I hope that Petro makes progress on international commitments, that civic space is not further reduced but expanded, and that the freedoms of assembly and expression are guaranteed.

    Civic space in Colombia is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with RedLad through itswebsite orFacebook page, and follow@REDLADoficial on Twitter.

  • COLOMBIA: “La carencia de estatus migratorio regular impone barreras de acceso a derechos”

    Jessica Corredor Villamil and Lina ArroyaveCIVICUS conversa con Jessica Corredor Villamil y Lina Arroyave sobre la situación de las personas migrantes y refugiadas venezolanas en Colombia. Jessica esdirectora y Lina es investigadora del área internacional de Dejusticia.

    Dejusticia es un centro de estudios jurídicos y sociales localizado en Bogotá, Colombia, y dedicado a promover los derechos humanos en Colombia y en el sur global. Promueve el cambio social a través de la investigación-acción, desarrollando propuestas de políticas públicas, campañas de incidencia y litigios estratégicos.

    ¿Cómo ha reformado Colombia su marco legal para acoger a la migración venezolana?

    Actualmente hay tres vías mediante las cuales las personas nacionales de Venezuela pueden obtener el estatus migratorio que les permite permanecer en Colombia por períodos prolongados: las visas, la solicitud de la condición de refugiado y el Estatuto Temporal de Protección para Migrantes Venezolanos(ETPMV)

    Este último fue establecido en 2021 para atender la migración masiva procedente de Venezuela. Tiene dos grandes objetivos: identificar a la población migrante venezolana y regularizar su situación migratoria. Para esto prevé dos mecanismos. El primero es el Registro Único de Migrantes Venezolanos, que recoge los datos personales y socioeconómicos de quienes deciden registrarse y es administrado por Migración Colombia, la autoridad de vigilancia y control migratorio. El segundo es el Permiso por Protección Temporal, que autoriza a su portador a permanecer en Colombia por 10 años y le permite acceder a los sistemas de salud y seguridad social, educativo y financiero, convalidar títulos, trabajar y salir del país y reingresar.

    Pueden acogerse al ETPMV quienes se encuentren en Colombia de manera regular, quienes han solicitado refugio pero aún no han recibido respuesta, quienes ingresaron al país de manera irregular antes del 31 de enero de 2021, y quienes lo hicieron de manera regular desde finales de mayo de 2021 o lo hagan antes de finales de mayo de 2023. Luego de esa fecha, solo será una opción para niños, niñas y adolescentes.

    Aun así, el cumplir con todos los requisitos no es garantía de obtención del ETPMV, ya que su otorgamiento es facultad discrecional de Migración Colombia.

    ¿Cómo ha funcionado el ETPMV durante su primer año? 

    El proceso se hademorado más de lo previsto, lo cual impidió cumplir la meta del gobierno anterior de entregar 1.8 millones de documentos de identificación en 2022.

    Según datos de Migración Colombia, hasta noviembre de 2022 cerca de 2,5 millones de personas han ingresado sus datos en el Registro Único para Migrantes Venezolanos, y se han aprobado 1,6 millones de permisos.

    Esta brecha es preocupante porque la carencia de estatus migratorio regular impone barreras de acceso a derechos fundamentales y obstaculiza la integración socioeconómica de la población migrante.

    Además, muchas personas no se inscribieron en el registro por no haber podido regularizar su situación migratoria. El ETPMV solamente estaba disponible para las personas en situación irregular que hubieran ingresado a Colombia hasta el 31 de enero de 2021. Esta limitación temporal ignora el hecho de que la migración irregular continúa, en gran medida a causa de la imposibilidad de acceder a documentos oficiales en Venezuela. Se asume que la situación de irregularidad obedece a una decisión individual, cuando por lo general es el resultado de la imposibilidad de cumplir con los requisitos exigidos.

    ¿Qué barreras de integración enfrentan las personas migrantes venezolanas en Colombia?

    En un recienteinforme identificamos las múltiples barreras de acceso y permanencia en el mercado laboral formal, así como para el desarrollo de emprendimientos.

    La principal barrera legal es la carencia de estatus migratorio regular. Las miles de personas que continúan ingresando a Colombia por pasos fronterizos informales tienen vedado el acceso al ETPMV. Esto tiene impactos tanto para la formalización laboral como para el acceso a fondos de apoyo al emprendimiento, en particular estatales, pero también privados. La mayoría de los trabajadores migrantes independientes trabaja en el sector informal.

    El desconocimiento generalizado de la legislación migratoria por parte de los empleadores impone barreras adicionales. Por ejemplo, muchos desconocen que la convalidación de títulos universitarios solo es imprescindible para profesiones cuyo ejercicio implica altos riesgos sociales, como la medicina, o cuyo ejercicio es regulado por el Estado, como el derecho o la arquitectura, y exigen a todos los postulantes la realización del trámite de convalidación de títulos y expedición de tarjetas profesionales. Este trámite requiere de una apostilla que debe ser obtenida en Venezuela antes de migrar, y quienes ya se encuentran en Colombia enfrentan enormes dificultades para conseguirla.

    También existen factores sociales y culturales que pueden afectar la situación laboral. Las percepciones negativas de la población migrante venezolana afectan los procesos de selección de personal. La xenofobia y la discriminación se profundizan cuando ocurren hechos de inseguridad, pese a que no hay evidencia de vínculos entre el aumento de la criminalidad y el de la migración.

    La falta de capital social, es decir, de contactos bien posicionados y referencias laborales, también es un problema para las personas migrantes.

    Algunos obstáculos adicionales dificultan la permanencia en la economía formal. Por ejemplo, muchos bancos se niegan a abrir cuentas de ahorros a personas migrantes venezolanas ya que les exigen no solamente acreditar estatus migratorio regular sino también presentar su pasaporte actualizado, con el que habitualmente no cuentan. Algo similar ocurre con algunas aseguradoras de salud, fondos de pensiones y aseguradoras de riesgos de trabajo.

    De ahí que muchas personas migrantes con tal de conseguir algún ingreso acepten empleos precarios y se sometan a condiciones de explotación laboral que incluyen jornadas de trabajo extremadamente largas, salarios por debajo del mínimo, malos tratos y cambios en las condiciones laborales acordadas. En 2019, los ingresos mensuales promedio de una persona migrante venezolana fueron inferiores al salario mínimo legal vigente, y la brecha salarial frente a los nacionales colombianos fue de más de 30 puntos porcentuales.

    ¿Qué trabajo hace Dejusticia para promover los derechos de las personas migrantes? 

    En tanto que organización de la sociedad civil, hacemos investigaciones sobre el acceso a derechos de las personas migrantes para sobre esa base hacer incidencia en los procesos de toma de decisiones en materia de política migratoria y formular recomendaciones de política pública. En el proceso de investigación para nuestroinforme sobre la inclusión laboral de las y los migrantes venezolanos, por ejemplo, organizamos un evento al cual invitamos a los diferentes sectores involucrados, incluidas varias agencias gubernamentales, para trabajar en las recomendaciones. Asimismo, al iniciarse unnuevo gobierno en agosto de 2022 elaboramos un documento con recomendaciones, en alianza con otras organizaciones.

    También desarrollamos litigios estratégicos y campañas de comunicación, y trabajamos con otras organizaciones, a nivel tanto nacional como regional y de otras regiones del sur global, para abordar el fenómeno de las migraciones desde una mirada más amplia.

    ¿Qué apoyo de la comunidad internacional necesitan las organizaciones que defienden los derechos de las personas migrantes en Colombia?

    Es importante que la comunidad internacional dé visibilidad y apoye los procesos que se están dando en relación con los derechos de las personas migrantes venezolanas. Pero también es muy importante que el apoyo de la comunidad internacional abarque otros flujos migratorios y dé cuenta de la problemática en la frontera colombo-panameña, paso obligado para personas migrantes de distintas nacionalidades que quieren llegar a los Estados Unidos.

    También es importante que la comunidad internacional le recuerde al gobierno de Colombia los compromisos que ha adquirido a partir de la ratificación de tratados y la adopción de estándares internacionales en materia de migración y refugio.

    El espacio cívico en Colombia es calificado como ‘represivo’ por elCIVICUS Monitor.

    Contáctese con Dejusticia a través de susitio web o su página deFacebook y siga a@DeJusticia y a@JessCorredorV en Twitter.

  • GLOBAL HEALTH: ‘On World AIDS Day we remind people that the HIV pandemic is not over’

    GastonDevisichCIVICUS speaks with Gastón Devisich, Head of Community Engagement of Fundación Huésped’s Research Department, about the role of civil society in the fight against HIV/AIDS, both at the community level and in global governance bodies.

    Fundación Huésped is an Argentinian civil society organisation (CSO) that has been working since 1989 on public health, including on the right to health and disease control. It is a member of the regional platformCoalición Plus and, represented by Gastón, one of the two Latin American and Caribbean organisations that are part of the NGO Delegation to the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board.

    What have been the results of the latest round of pledges to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and what will be their implications?

    The primary goal of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is to make catalytic investments and leverage innovations to drive faster progress in reducing new infections, address structural barriers to improving outcomes for these pandemics and build equity, sustainability and lasting impact. Its new strategy places people and communities front and centre in all its work, challenging power dynamics to ensure that affected communities have a voice in the fight and opportunities for a healthy future.

    The Global Fund’s Seventh Replenishment has brought in a total of US$15.7 billion. It was the culmination of a successful campaign that began more than a year ago. It is a remarkable achievement, not only because several public and private donors increased their pledges, in many cases by more than 30 per cent, but also because a record number of implementing governments – at least 20 – have stepped up to become donors as well.

    This support will be dedicated to saving 20 million lives, averting 450 million new infections and generating new hope for ending AIDS, TB and malaria. This investment will also strengthen health and community systems to increase resilience to future crises.

    Given its central role in the fight against pandemics, the Global Fund also plans to continue contributing to the global pandemic preparedness agenda in coordination with the World Health Organization, the World Bank and other partners.

    What role does civil society have in the governance of UNAIDS?

    The Joint United Nations (UN) Programme on HIV/AIDS, known as UNAIDS, was the first UN programme to have formal civil society representation on its governing body. The participation of CSOs on the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board is critical to the effective inclusion of community voices in this key global policy forum in the area of HIV/AIDS.

    The NGO Delegation is composed of five CSOs, three from developing countries and two from developed countries or countries with economies in transition, plus five more acting as alternate members. Our purpose is to bring the perspectives and experience of people living with HIV/AIDS and those populations particularly affected by the pandemic, as well as civil society, to ensure that UNAIDS is guided by an equitable, rights-based, gender-sensitive approach to ensuring access to comprehensive HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment, care and support for all people.

    The existence of a community delegation within the highest governance body of a programme such as UNAIDS is critical to ensure the meaningful involvement of populations most affected by HIV at all levels of policy and programme development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Strengthening meaningful community engagement fosters a relationship of greater trust and respect with those of us who are the direct beneficiaries of any programme or policy.

    The involvement of all stakeholders, provided it is transparent and based on mutual understanding, can minimise misunderstandings and reduce the likelihood of unnecessary conflict or controversy. This helps improve our access to rights and the provision of quality services necessary to ensure it, as well as addressing power inequalities between decision-makers and the community to establish more equitable and horizontal relationships.

    Why is it important to incorporate the voices of communities in decision-making spaces?

    There is an urgent need to develop additional strategies to address the HIV epidemic. A wide range of factors create, intensify and perpetuate the impact of the virus and its underlying determinants may be rooted in the cultural, legal, institutional and economic fabric of society.

    To achieve a comprehensive response to HIV, it is essential to recognise power imbalances and address them by developing practices that prevent their inadvertent replication or reinforcement throughout the implementation of programmes and policies.

    Local organisations have unique expertise to contribute to the HIV response. We have critical knowledge and understanding of local cultures, perspectives and language, the local dynamics of the HIV epidemic, the concerns of the most vulnerable or marginalised populations and local priorities that other stakeholders may not necessarily have. The community can help ensure that the goals and procedures of HIV response are appropriate and acceptable for them, in order to avoid reinforcing existing inequalities.

    What does Fundación Huésped’s work consist of, both at the national level and within this global space?

    Our comprehensive approach includes the development of research, practical solutions and communication related to public health policies in Argentina and Latin America. We seek to develop scientific studies and preventive actions and advocate for rights to guarantee access to health and reduce the impact of diseases, with a focus on HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis, vaccine-preventable diseases and other communicable diseases, as well as sexual and reproductive health.

    As representatives of civil society in UNAIDS, we actively seek the views of our communities on key issues related to UNAIDS policies and programmes, and advocate with governments and cosponsoring organisations – 10 UN organisations that make up the UNAIDS Joint Programme – for significant improvements in the implementation and evaluation of HIV/AIDS policies and programmes.

    What challenges do organisations working on HIV/AIDS face and what support do they need to continue doing their work?

    The HIV agenda is still current, with new challenges and the persistence of stigma, discrimination and rights violations. Forty years after the first cases of HIV were reported in the world, and thanks to scientific advances, the implementation of policies, plans and programmes, civil society activism and human rights achievements, there are more and better strategies available to control the virus, which could end AIDS today. Yet this year there were 1.5 million new HIV cases and 680,000 new AIDS-related deaths worldwide – including 110,000 cases and 52,000 deaths in Latin America and the Caribbean.

    World AIDS Day, 1 December, is our annual opportunity to remind people that the HIV pandemic is not over. Over the past 40 years science has generated much innovation, but these benefits do not reach all people equally. The best science in the world cannot compete with the debilitating effects of poor health systems. To end AIDS we need to correct the course of the HIV response, starting with ending inequities. A better response is needed today. We cannot afford to waste any more time.

    Get in touch with Fundación Huésped through itswebsite orFacebook page, and follow@FundHuesped on Twitter.

  • INTELLIGENCE ARTIFICIELLE : « Il doit y avoir un équilibre entre la promotion de l’innovation et la protection des droits »

    NadiaBenaissaCIVICUS parle avec Nadia Benaissa, conseillère en politique juridique chez Bits of Freedom, sur les risques que l’intelligence artificielle (IA) fait peser sur les droits humains et sur le rôle que joue la société civile dans l’élaboration d’un cadre juridique pour la gouvernance de l’IA.

    Fondée en 2000, Bits of Freedom est une organisation de la société civile (OSC) néerlandaise qui vise à protéger les droits à la vie privée et à la liberté de communication en influençant la législation et la politique en matière de technologies, en donnant des conseils politiques, en sensibilisant et en entreprenant des actions en justice. Bits of Freedom a également participé aux négociations de la loi de l’Union européenne sur l’IA.

    Quels risques l’IA fait-elle peser sur les droits humains ?

    L’IA présente des risques importants car elle peut exacerber des inégalités sociales préexistantes et profondément ancrées. Les droits à l’égalité, à la liberté religieuse, à la liberté d’expression et à la présomption d’innocence figurent parmi les droits touchés.

    Aux Pays-Bas, nous avons recensé plusieurs cas de systèmes algorithmiques violant les droits humains. L’un de ces cas est le scandale des allocations familiales, dans lequel les parents recevant des allocations pour la garde de leurs enfants ont été injustement ciblés et profilés. Le profilage a surtout touché les personnes racisées, les personnes à faible revenu et les musulmans, que l’administration fiscale a faussement accusés de fraude. Cette situation a entraîné la suspension des allocations pour certains parents et prestataires de soins, ainsi que des enquêtes hostiles sur leurs cas, ce qui a eu de graves répercussions financières.

    Un autre exemple est le programme de prévention de la criminalité ‘Top400' mis en œuvre dans la municipalité d’Amsterdam, qui profile des mineurs et des jeunes afin d’identifier les 400 personnes les plus susceptibles de commettre des délits. Cette pratique affecte de manière disproportionnée les enfants des classes populaires et les enfants non-blancs, car le système se concentre géographiquement sur les quartiers à faibles revenus et les quartiers de migrants.

    Dans ces cas, le manque d’éthique dans l’utilisation d’outils d’intelligence artificielle a entraîné une immense détresse pour les personnes concernées. Le manque de transparence dans la manière dont les décisions automatisées ont été prises n’a fait qu’accroître les difficultés dans la quête de justice et de redevabilité. De nombreuses victimes ont eu du mal à prouver les préjugés et les erreurs du système.

    Existe-t-il des tentatives en cours pour réglementer l’IA ?

    Un processus est en cours au niveau européen. En 2021, la Commission européenne (CE) a proposé un cadre législatif, la loi sur l’IA de l’Union européenne (UE), pour répondre aux défis éthiques et juridiques associés aux technologies de l’IA. L’objectif principal de la loi sur l’IA de l’UE est de créer un ensemble complet de règles régissant le développement, le déploiement et l’utilisation de l’IA dans les États membres de l’UE. Elle cherche à maintenir un équilibre entre la promotion de l’innovation et la protection des valeurs et des droits fondamentaux.

    Il s’agit d’une occasion unique pour l’Europe de se distinguer en donnant la priorité à la protection des droits humains dans la gouvernance de l’IA. Cependant, la loi n’a pas encore été approuvée. Une version a été adoptée par le Parlement européen en juin, mais il reste encore un débat final - un « trilogue » - à mener entre la Commission européenne, le Conseil européen et le Parlement européen. La Commission européenne s’efforce d’achever le processus d’ici la fin de l’année afin qu’il puisse être soumis à un vote avant les élections européennes de 2024.

    Ce trilogue a des défis considérables à relever pour parvenir à une loi sur l’IA complète et efficace. Les questions controversées abondent, y compris les définitions de l’IA et les catégories à haut risque, ainsi que les mécanismes de mise en œuvre et d’application.

    Qu’est-ce que la société civile, y compris Bits of Freedom, apporte à la table des négociations ?

    Alors que les négociations sur la loi se poursuivent, une coalition de 150 OSC, dont Bits of Freedom, demande instamment à la CE, au Conseil et au Parlement d’accorder la priorité aux personnes et à leurs droits fondamentaux.

    Aux côtés d’autres groupes de la société civile, nous avons activement collaboré à la rédaction d’amendements et participé à de nombreuses discussions avec des membres des parlements européen et néerlandais, des décideurs politiques et diverses parties prenantes. Nous avons fermement insisté sur des interdictions concrètes et solides, telles que celles concernant l’identification biométrique et la police prédictive. En outre, nous avons souligné l’importance de la transparence, de la redevabilité et d’un mécanisme de réparation efficace dans le contexte de l’utilisation des systèmes d’IA.

    Nous avons obtenu des résultats significatifs en matière de plaidoyer, notamment l’interdiction de l’identification biométrique en temps réel et a posteriori, une meilleure formulation des interdictions, des évaluations obligatoires de l’impact sur les droits fondamentaux, la reconnaissance de droits supplémentaires en matière de transparence, de redevabilité et de réparation, et la création d’une base de données obligatoire sur l’IA.

    Mais nous reconnaissons qu’il y a encore du travail à faire. Nous continuerons à faire pression pour obtenir la meilleure protection possible des droits humains et à nous concentrer sur les demandes formulées dans notre déclaration au trilogue de l’UE. Celles-ci tendent vers l’établissement d’un cadre de redevabilité, de transparence, d’accessibilité et de réparation pour les personnes touchées par ces enjeux, et à la fixation des limites à la surveillance préjudiciable et discriminatoire exercée par les autorités nationales chargées de la sécurité, de l’application de la loi et de l’immigration. Elles s’opposent ainsi au lobbying des grandes entreprises technologiques en supprimant les lacunes qui sapent la réglementation.

    Le chemin vers une réglementation complète et efficace de l’IA est en cours, et nous restons déterminés à poursuivre nos efforts pour faire en sorte que le cadre législatif final englobe nos demandes essentielles. Ensemble, nous visons à créer un environnement réglementaire en matière d’IA qui donne la priorité aux droits humains et protège les personnes.

    Contactez Bits of Freedom sur sonsite web ou sa pageFacebook, et suivez@bitsoffreedom sur Twitter.

  • JAMAICA: ‘Laws that discriminate against LGBTQI+ people send a signal about our place in society’

    Glenroy MurrayCIVICUS speaks about the situation of LGBTQI+ rights in Jamaica and the ongoing impacts of the British colonial legacy with Glenroy Murray, Executive Director of J-FLAG.

    J-FLAG is a human rights and social justice organisation that advocates for the rights, livelihood and well- being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Jamaica.

    What is the current situation of LGBTQI+ people in Jamaica?

    We continue to face challenges even as we note that there has been progress in the form of moderately increasing positive attitudes towards the community. Based on the 2019 Awareness, Attitude and Perception Survey commissioned by J-FLAG, there was a small but noticeable increase of five percentage points in tolerant and positive attitudes towards LGBTQI+ Jamaicans, from 20 to 25 per cent. A 10-year analysis of the human rights violations being reported to J-FLAG shows a decline in mob violence, arson and murder.

    However, there continues to be reports of verbal harassment, threats, physical violence and displacement of LGBTQI+ Jamaicans by their family and members of their community. According to the 2019 Community Needs Assessment commissioned by J-FLAG, one in five LGBTQI+ Jamaicans have been displaced at some point in their lives, and 46.8 per cent of LGBTQI+ Jamaicans have experienced discrimination.

    That being said, there has been a noticeable increase in the willingness of LGBTQI+ Jamaicans to be more visible and a decline in openly homophobic rhetoric among politicians and key decision-makers, and in violently homophobic lyrics in popular music genres. These qualitative shifts suggest that we are slowly moving in a positive direction as a society, even though the most vulnerable members of the community often continue to face the most severe manifestations of homophobia.

    Do you think there are enough mechanisms in place to address homophobia in Jamaica?

    Quite the opposite: there are specific legislative provisions that are discriminatory. For example, section 76 of the Offences Against the Person Act criminalises anal sex regardless of consent and section 79 generally criminalises male-to-male intimacy. Although these laws are hardly enforced, they send a signal about our place in society. In addition, same-sex couples are deliberately excluded from laws that recognise unmarried couples and provide benefits and protections, including against domestic violence, to people in those relationships.

    Jamaican law does not prohibit discrimination by private people and groups, including companies, on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. While some steps have been taken to prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in policy, this has not always translated into better protection for LGBTQI+ Jamaicans. In addition, there continues to be a reticence among community members to report crimes and violence against them to the police because of experiences of discrimination that they’ve had or are aware of.

    It is critical for the Jamaican government to do more to ensure the inclusion of LGBTQI+ Jamaicans. A 2020 study done by the Caribbean Policy Research Institute revealed that billions of dollars are lost because of discrimination against the community. Beyond this economic burden, the continued exclusion faced by the community puts Jamaica at odds with its international human rights commitments and obligations. The success of our national development plan, Vision 2030, is endangered by this exclusion.

    What work does J-FLAG do, and what challenges has it faced?

    J-FLAG uses a range of approaches to advocate for greater inclusion of LGBTQI+ Jamaicans within society. We continue to agitate for law and policy reform so that criminalising and discriminatory laws are changed and protective laws and policies are introduced. Recognising the need to engender cultural change, we do online and traditional media campaigns to promote tolerance and inclusion.

    We have also invested heavily in building the capacity of members and allies so they can do their personal advocacy independently from us. This has led to increasing visibility among community members, contributing to our efforts to change hearts and minds.

    We also do research around issues facing the community to ensure our advocacy is evidence-based and we are able to act as a repository of knowledge for those who would like to support our work. Additionally, we do capacity building training and sensitisation sessions for a range of public and private groups to improve their engagement with members of the community. Finally, we have hosted seven incident-free PrideJA celebrations since 2015 and are now planning the eighth.

    The major challenge we have faced is fear among a wide range of stakeholders to openly or quietly engage with our work. There are low levels of political will to effect legal and policy change. Community members are reticent to engage with us openly because of fears of discrimination. Various public and private organisations prefer not to work with an openly LGBTQI+ organisation. There has been consistent, though in recent years not as visible, opposition by extremist religious groups.

    Within Jamaican society there are mixed views about our work, but support for it has grown significantly over the last five to 10 years. Some people are curious, others are willing to engage and learn, but among a significant mass there continues to be distrust or outright opposition. 

    How can Commonwealth countries work together to advance LGBTQI+ rights?

    Given the similarities across many Commonwealth countries, there is an opportunity for dialogue and experience-sharing, particularly with countries such as Bahamas, Belize and Trinidad and Tobago, which have taken different routes to decriminalisation.

    As a body, the Commonwealth has a majority of countries from the global south, which while it presents its own challenges, also affords the opportunity to discuss and do work around LGBTQI+ rights with respect for each country’s cultural experiences. Within such a space, there is less potential for global north and western countries to be regarded as pushing ‘a foreign agenda’, and it is more likely for honest and difficult conversations about LGBTQI+ inclusion to happen and for collaboration to emerge. The only challenge will be whether the heads of government of these countries are willing to engage in these conversations.

    International organisations should maintain lines of communication with local organisations such as J-FLAG and TransWave Jamaica, which works on trans health and wellbeing, to develop an informed understanding of LGBTQI+ issues in the Jamaican context and use their various platforms to share that understanding with a wide range of actors. It would also be useful for them to assist in forging partnerships among organisations and movements in places like Jamaica and other parts of the world and offer support to ensure that the Jamaican movement is sustained.

    Civic space in Jamaica is rated ‘narrowed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with J-FLAG through itswebsite orFacebook andInstagram pages, and follow@EqualityJa on Twitter.


  • JAPAN: ‘Links between politics and the religious right have impeded progress on LGBTQI+ rights’

    Akira NishiyamaCIVICUS speaks with Akira Nishiyama, executive officer of the Japan Alliance for Legislation to Remove Social Barriers based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (Japan Alliance for LGBT Legislation, J-ALL).

    J-ALL was founded in 2015 to advocate for legislation to remove the barriers LGBTQI+ people experience due to their sexual orientation or gender identity in Japan. It focuses on raising awareness among the public, producing research and convening consultations, developing policy proposals and lobbying with government officials and legislators.

    What is the situation of LGBTQI+ people in Japan?

    LGBTQI+ people are estimated to make up between three and 10 per cent of Japan’s population. Many are closeted for fear of discrimination and prejudice. According to recent research, over half of teenagers who identify as LGBTQI+ have been bullied, and only about 10 per cent of LGBTQI+ people are able to come out at their workplace. The rate of LGBTQI+ people who have considered suicide is about twice as high as among their heterosexual counterparts and the rate of those who attempt suicide is six times higher – and 10 times higher among transgender people.

    Such a vulnerable status is caused by the absence of a law at the national level that prohibits discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) and raises awareness of LGBTQI+ and SOGI issues. We believe that an anti-discrimination law would enable us to solve social problems such as bullying and SOGI-based discrimination due to prejudice or misunderstanding and effectively deter and remedy human rights violations. It would force governmental agencies, educational institutions and private companies to prepare preventive schemes so that SOGI-related human rights violations would not take place, and make consultation services available.

    Additionally, Japan’s Act on Special Cases in Handling Gender Status of Persons with Gender Identity Disorder sets strict conditions to change one’s legal gender status. Under this law, a person with a so-called ‘gender identity disorder’ must be diagnosed by two or more psychiatrists and must fulfil five conditions to request the family court to make a ruling towards change of their gender status, which is still thought of in binary terms: they must be above 18 years of age, not be married at the time of the gender change, have no children who are still minors, have no reproductive glands, or only reproductive glands that have permanently lost their function, and have body parts that appear to resemble the genitals of the other gender.

    These conditions are considered too strict compared to those of other countries. In 2015, 12 United Nations organisations issued a joint statement asking the Japanese government to ensure the legal recognition of the gender identity of transgender people without such abusive requirements, but the Japanese government has not yet made any moves in that direction.

    What work does J-ALL do?

    J-ALL was established in April 2015 in response to a call from politicians and the LGBTQI+ community to reach a consensus and make effective policy recommendations. For the previous decade or so, civil society organisations (CSOs) in Japan had been lobbying separately on LGBTQI+ and SOGI-related issues.

    J-ALL is an umbrella organisation with 96 member CSOs from throughout Japan. It is run by directors who are leaders of CSOs in various regions. Its secretariat is managed by executive officers who specialise in lobbying, public relations and international affairs, as well as student interns.

    Our lobbying activities have succeeded in pushing forward several SOGI-related laws. For instance, in October 2018 the Tokyo Metropolitan Government adopted an ordinance that protects LGBTQI+ people from SOGI-based discrimination in line with the Olympic Charter. This ordinance clearly stipulates anti-discrimination based on SOGI and was the first ordinance of its kind at the prefectural level.

    In addition, in May 2019 the Japanese government amended the law on harassment. The amended version requires private entities and municipal governments to set guidelines to prohibit harassment and outing based on SOGI in the workplace.

    As the only CSO aimed at proposing SOGI-related bills, J-ALL is pushing politicians and governmental officers at both national and municipal levels by working together with Rengo – the Japanese Trade Union Confederation and a member of the International Trade Union Confederation – eminent scholars and researchers of labour law and international human rights law, and activists fighting to eliminate all kinds of discrimination, including discrimination against women. In recent years, around 40 companies have signed a statement to support the LGBT Equality Law, which would ban anti-LGBTQI+ discrimination. Economic federations have also declared the necessity for legislation on SOGI.

    Have you faced any anti-rights backlash?

    As the social movement to promote the rights of LGBTQI+ people has grown, backlash by religious right-wing groups, ultra-conservative politicians and trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERF) groups has also grown. For instance, several politicians gave discriminatory speeches against LGBTQI+ people in response to discussions regarding the anti-discrimination bill agreed on by LGBT Giren, a nonpartisan political caucus set up to discuss SOGI-related human rights violations in 2021. Bashing against transgender women and LGBTQI+ people based on heteronormativity, conventional understandings of the family and stereotypical images of women are prevalent in both the real world and the internet.

    Japan has not made much progress on gender inequality, let alone LGBTQI+ rights and SOGI-related issues. This is because the Japanese government is closely connected with religious right-wing groups based on the values of male chauvinism and a patriarchal view of the family. Because of these close ties, ruling politicians have long ignored the existence of people with diverse sexualities and gender identities and have sustained a social system that lacks SOGI-related education and allows for SOGI-based human rights violations. As a result, LGBTQI+ people face wide-ranging challenges such as prejudice, bullying and harassment, and victims of SOGI-related human rights violations are not protected by the law.

    We believe that Japanese civil society needs to recognise this connection between mainstream politics and the religious right in order to tackle human rights issues in earnest. It is also important to learn about which groups of people are marginalised by the current social systems built by the majority and what kind of human rights violations they face, and to take actions such as electoral participation and making public comments based on these concerns.

    How is civil society working to achieve marriage equality, and what was the significance of the recent verdicts of the Sapporo and Osaka district courts?

    There is a CSO, Marriage For ALL Japan, that has been working actively and specifically to achieve the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Japan. In 2019 this organisation filed lawsuits in five districts – Fukuoka, Nagoya, Osaka, Sapporo and Tokyo – and has been conducting awareness-raising activities across the nation.

    In March 2021, the Sapporo District Court ruled that not allowing same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. After a careful scrutiny of the scientific and medical arguments currently used to deny legal benefits to same-sex couples, the Sapporo District Court reasoned that the failure to allow ‘even a certain degree’ of legal benefits to same-sex couples based on their sexual orientation is against Article 14 of the Constitution, which stipulates equality under the law. Although the court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claim for compensation, its verdict was viewed as a step that would surely accelerate the movement to legalise same-sex marriage in Japan.

    But then in June 2022, the Osaka District Court concluded that not allowing same-sex marriages does not violate Article 14, given that the legal disadvantages faced by same-sex couples can be compensated by wills or other means. In addition, the court emphasised that the gap between the benefits enjoyed by heterosexual and same-sex couples has been minimised by the recognition of same-sex partnerships at the municipal level. This, however, overlooks the fact that the municipal system of partnership recognition is not legally binding.

    The Osaka District Court also claimed that the ‘true’ elimination of discrimination and prejudice should be achieved by constructing a social system through the democratic process of free discussion by the people. This was criticised by civil society as an abdication of the judiciary’s crucial role as the bastion of human rights. Also under fire is the court’s claim that marriage is purely for the purpose of reproduction.

    How can the international community support LGBTQI+ people fighting for their rights in Japan?

    Since 2020 J-ALL has been running a global campaign, Equality Act Japan (EAJ), alongside Human Rights Watch and other global human rights organisations. We would like you to sign the petition found in our website to ask the Japanese government to enact the LGBT Equality Act.

    If you are a private company, we will appreciate your cooperation in adhering to the Declaration of Business Support for LGBT Equality in Japan, which we promote as a part of the EAJ campaign.

    Last but not least, we would be happy if you could join us by checking out the current situation in Japan, follow our activities through our website or social media, and support us through a one-time or a monthly donation.

    Civic space in Japan is rated as ‘narrowed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with J-ALL through itswebsite orFacebook page, and follow@lgbthourengokai on Twitter. 

  • KENYA: ‘Protests against femicides encouraged survivors to seek justice’

    Wangechi_Wachira.pngCIVICUS speaks with Wangechi Wachira, Executive Director of the Centre for Rights, Education and Awareness (CREAW), about recent protests demanding justice for femicide victims and policy changes to combat gender-based violence (GBV) in Kenya.

    Founded in 1999, CREAW is a national feminist women’s rights civil society organisation (CSO) dedicated to protecting and promoting women’s and girls’ rights and addressing systemic gender inequalities, oppression, exploitation and discrimination.

    Why did protest recently erupt in Kenya?

    On 27 January, thousands of women and men took the streets to protest against femicides. The protests were triggered by 14 cases in January alone, and their primary objective was to demand accountability from state agencies, particularly law enforcement and the judiciary, in prosecuting perpetrators of femicide and ensuring justice for the victims. The case of John Matara, accused of killing Starlet Wahu, highlighted the failures of the legal and judicial systems, because he had been previously reported for GBV multiple times but had remained free.

    Femicide Count reported 48 cases in January and February 2024, compared to 152 cases during 2023, which itself was the highest number in the past five years. Data from Africa Data Hub indicates that over 500 women were killed in acts of femicide from January 2016 to December 2023. It also acknowledges the number is likely much higher, with many killings of women not properly categorised as femicide.

    The protest also aimed to raise awareness about the issue, as many people, including those in public office, do not fully understand the severity of femicide as the most extreme form of GBV. A 2021 report by the United Nations (UN) Office on Drugs and Crime revealed that 56 per cent of all female homicides globally are committed by intimate partners or family members.

    Protesters sought to educate the public on victim-blaming, which empowers perpetrators and deters survivors from reporting abuse. By addressing the victim-blaming and shaming associated with GBV, the protests challenged societal norms and encouraged survivors to seek support and justice.

    What were protesters’ demands to the government?

    We urged the president to issue a declaration recognising GBV and femicides as a national crisis requiring an emergency response. Such a declaration must be accompanied by annual reports provided during the State of the Nation address, outlining measures taken to combat the problem.

    We also urge the government to establish a national public inquiry and official review of events or actions ordered by a government body for all femicide cases to track and ensure accountability.

    Given the lack of integrated official data, we also demand the government improves data collection on femicides and GBV, aligning it with international frameworks. This data is crucial for evidence-based policymaking and effective criminal justice responses.

    Additionally, we call for increased funding for GBV prevention programmes and demand an inclusive appointment process for all public positions, ensuring representation from grassroots feminist organisations and youth groups.

    How big a problem is GBV in Kenya, and what are its root causes?

    GBV is pervasive in Kenya, mirroring global trends. It exists in several forms, including physical, sexual, verbal, emotional and economic abuse. According to the 2022 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, over 40 per cent of women have experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner at some point in their lives. GBV also manifests in harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriages. Femicides are a frequent occurrence and appear to be on the rise.

    The roots of GBV are found in patriarchal underpinnings of our society, which promote harmful social and cultural practices often reinforced by religious beliefs. Power is concentrated in men’s hands and women have little to none. Such unequal dynamics cannot but foster violence.

    Economic factors such as poverty help perpetuate GBV by pushing women to stay in abusive relationships due to lack of financial independence. They also push families in famine-hit areas to marry off young girls for economic gain, and specifically to be able to acquire livestock in return.

    Conflict, crises and displacement leave women and girls especially vulnerable to violence. A recent example is the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw an 80 per cent increase in intimate partner violence in 2020.

    How does civil society work to address GBV in Kenya?

    Civil society plays key roles in addressing GBV. CREAW specifically has a workstream focused on ending violence against women and girls. Over the years, we have provided free legal aid and psychosocial support to over 20,857 GBV survivors. We are among the few CSOs that offer these services. We collaborate closely with state-sponsored legal aid programmes, such as the National Legal Aid Service, to ensure integrated, efficient and timely GBV service delivery. Our work is enhanced by strategic partnerships with various GBV working groups, Court User Committees, relevant health institutions, parts of criminal justice system and community dispute resolution mechanisms.

    CREAW actively engages with legislators and policymakers at both national and county levels to advocate for the development and implementation of regulatory frameworks on GBV. Our advocacy contributed to the passage of the 2006 Sexual Offences Act, 2013 Matrimonial Property Act, 2014 Marriage Act and the 2015 Protection Against Domestic Violence Act.

    The aim of the Sexual Offences Act is to set out what constitute sexual offences, provide ways to prevent illegal sexual acts and protect all people from them. The Matrimonial Property Act sought to provide clear rules for what belongs in a marriage’s matrimonial estate and provide a legal framework for the ownership, management and distribution of matrimonial property that would apply to all types of unions. This was a monumental achievement because it recognised rights women didn’t previously have, such as owning and buying land.

    The Marriage Act consolidated various laws on marriage, provided procedures for separation and divorce and regulated the custody and maintenance of children in the event of separation or divorce. The Protection Against Domestic Violence Act provides avenues for victims and survivors of violence to report their circumstances to relevant authorities, seek legal redress and receive justice.

    CREAW also supports the county governments of Kilifi and Meru, the Kenya Police Service and the Kenyan judiciary in strengthening their mechanisms for implementing existing GBV laws and policies.

    CREAW’s commitment to supporting survivors extends to financial inclusion. Since 2020, we have implemented a programme, the Jasiri Fund (‘bold’ in Swahili) that provides GBV survivors with quality financial services to mitigate the effects of GBV and enable economic empowerment. To date, the project has supported around 1,000 survivors with a total of US$400,000, leading to the establishment of at least 878 women-owned enterprises. The Jasiri Fund offers complementary support, including access to justice, psychosocial support, shelters, business grants and case management grants, accompanied by financial training and business development support. Its success led to its scaling up to cover more counties and support more survivors.

    We are also part of the National Gender Based Violence working group, coordinated by the National Gender and Equality Commission and the National Women’s Steering Committee, and of the National Council on the Administration of Justice Working Committee on GBV.

    CREAW served as a co-convener of the Kenya Chapter of the Africa Unite campaign against GBV. We are also members of the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights and the Sustainable Development Goals Group. We contribute to various campaigns such as Gender is My Agenda and globally contribute to the Generation Equality Forum commitments.

    Civic space in Kenya is rated ‘obstructed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with CREAW through itswebsite or itsFacebook orInstagram pages, and follow@CREAWKenya and@Wwangechi_leah on Twitter.

  • LIBERIA: ‘Anyone who committed crimes during the civil wars should be prosecuted, wherever they are’


    CIVICUS speaks about the current war crime trial against former Liberian rebel commander Kunti Kamara with Adama Dempster, Secretary General of Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia.

    Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia is a civil society network that brings together human rights civil society organisations (CSOs) across Liberia to advocate for human rights and bring justice and redress to the victims of human rights violations.

    What is the significance of the ongoing trial of Kunti Kamara?

    Kuinti Kamara’s trial is significant because it offers hope to the victims and survivors of Liberia’s civil wars, and especially to the direct victims of the atrocities he committed. It is also an indication that no one is above the law regardless of the position of power they occupy.

    Kamara is the former commander of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy. a rebel group active in the early 1990s. He stands accused of imposing a state of terror on the population of Lofa, a county in north-western Liberia, during the first civil war from 1989 to 1996, which left a quarter million people dead.

    Widespread atrocities – unspeakable crimes – were committed in Liberia. Kamara is charged with crimes against humanity, torture and acts of barbarism. He appears to have been involved or complicit with the forced recruitment of child soldiers, gang rapes, sexual slavery, looting, extrajudicial executions and even cannibalism. Nobody who commits such crimes should be able to avoid judgment.

    Kamara is among the second group of people to be prosecuted for their role in the civil wars. His trial has recently begun at a French Court of Appeals in Paris, where he is being prosecuted under the legal principle of universal jurisdiction, according to which crimes against humanity know no borders.

    This means that no matter where the perpetrators find themselves, whether in the country where they committed their crimes or anywhere else, they can still be held accountable, and justice can be served. CSOs on the ground have had the opportunity to speak in trials involving Liberians abroad and victims and survivors have had their say. The international community is helping us seek justice by bringing the accused to trial. That makes it unique and important to the quest for justice in Liberia. 

    How does civil society in general, and your organisation in particular, work for justice and accountability?

    Since the civil wars ended in Liberia in 2003, civil society has played a leading role in seeking justice by investigating and documenting human rights abuses committed during the time of the conflict, advocating against the culture of impunity and helping victims, including by raising their voices.

    To live in an environment that recognises human rights, we must first deal with unaddressed human rights violations that happened in the past. While we advocate for improving the current human rights situation, we also advocate for past human rights violations to be addressed so we can move forward.

    Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia is a coalition of human rights CSOs. Along with the Global Justice Resource Project, a global digital platform that connects local CSOs seeking justice around the world, we document war-related atrocities committed in Liberia and work to make sure those responsible are prosecuted.

    We understand that our society is still traumatised by the civil war, so we work to create awareness, educate and sensitise local communities on human rights issues. We train local human rights community-based CSOs across Liberia so they can also carry out advocacy work and help victims and survivors.

    Advocacy is one of the strong elements of our work, which we use to shift the understanding of human rights issues at the national and regional levels so violations can be addressed. Our advocacy involves engaging with stakeholders from relevant institutions, the government and the international community. We specifically work with foreign governments so that any individual who committed crimes in Liberia during the civil wars can be prosecuted regardless of where they are in the world. Diaspora advocacy is also part of our work.

    Over the years we have engaged in the follow up of the recommendations of the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), issued in 2009 and not yet implemented. We also conduct workshops with university students so they can learn about the importance of the TRC’s recommendations and measures the government should adopt to implement them.

    We have had the opportunity to engage with the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review process by submitting a shadow report on the human rights situation in Liberia, and with the UN Human Rights Committee, where we participated in the review of the implementation of the TRC’s report.

    Have you faced any challenges in the course of your work?

    We have faced several challenges in doing our work. As human rights defenders we face continuous risk and are threatened by the very fact that we live among the people who committed the unspeakable crimes we work to bring justice over.

    We have been placed under surveillance, followed and monitored by various groups that feel targeted by our work. People working on war crime cases have been threatened directly or indirectly through text messages and on social media. There is no law or policy to protect human rights defenders in Liberia. But because we want to see human rights recognised and respected, we continue to take the risk and carry on our work regardless of the threats.

    Following up on the recommendations of the TRC report for more than a decade has also been challenging due to lack of political will and technical and funding support for advocacy around their implementation. Most organisations involved urgently need technical capacity to be able to continue their work. 

    What are the chances that Kamara’s trial will bring justice?

    The Kamara trial has given Liberians hope that when crimes are committed, there is a possibility of justice being done. The fact that charges were brought and Kamara was put on trial made us believe justice will be served. It is also an opportunity for the accused to prove his innocence.

    The trial also made us more hopeful that the Liberian government will realise it must urgently implement a mechanism capable of bringing justice in the country. We understand this might take time due to lack of resources and capacity, but a plan should be put in place towards that end. Kamara’s trial highlights the importance of establishing a mechanism in Liberia so that other people who stand accused can be brought to justice and victims and survivors can receive justice no matter the time or place.

    The recent visit to Liberia by the US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice, Beth Van Schaack, was a strong signal of support for our efforts to bring accountability and has given us a sense of hope and of being on the right path to challenging the culture of impunity.

    What kind of support does Liberian civil society need from the international community?

    We need the international community to encourage our government to live up to its responsibility to bring accountability and justice to its citizens when their human rights are violated. Our government has not shown the required political will so far, but we believe pressure from the international community will make it see the urgent need to hold perpetrators of war crimes accountable. The government should request support from the international community, including technical and financial support to establish a court to that end.

    Funding is also needed to set up programmes to support victims and survivors. Most people who were sexually exploited during the wars have not even had the opportunity to seek medical help. So we also need the international community to help us put together and fund programmes bringing trauma counselling for victims, survivors and their families.

    Read more here.

    Civic space in Liberiais rated‘obstructed’by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with the Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia through itsFacebook page.

  • NATIONS UNIES : « Le pouvoir des groupes anti-droits s’accroît ; des temps difficiles nous attendent »

    CIVICUS échange avec Tamara Adrián, fondatrice et directrice de DIVERLEX-Diversité et égalité par le droit, au sujet de la fructueuse campagne de la société civile pour le renouvellement du mandat de la personne experte indépendante des Nations Unies (ONU) sur l’orientation sexuelle et l’identité de genre.

    Tamara Adrián est avocate et professeure d’université, et la première femme transgenre à être élue dans un parlement national en Amérique latine.

    DIVERLEX est une organisation de la société civile vénézuélienne qui se consacre à la recherche, à la formation, au plaidoyer et aux litiges stratégiques sur la diversité sexuelle. En raison de la crise humanitaire complexe qui touche le Venezuela, la quasi-totalité de ses dirigeants se trouvent actuellement hors du pays, où ils continuent de travailler pour l’amélioration des conditions de vie des personnes LGBTQI+ en exil.

    Tamara Adrian

    Pourquoi le mandat de l’expert indépendant des Nations unies sur l’orientation sexuelle et l’identité de genre est-il si important ?

    Il s’agit d’un mandat extrêmement important. L’arme préférée de toute intolérance est l’invisibilisation de certains groupes et la violation de leurs droits. C’est une constante en ce qui concerne les femmes, les peuples autochtones, les minorités raciales et les minorités religieuses. Tant que les intolérants peuvent dire que le problème n’existe pas, les relations de pouvoir restent penchées en leur faveur et rien ne change. Dans le système universel des droits humains, ce que les intolérants veulent garder invisible ne peut être rendu visible que grâce au travail des experts et des rapporteurs indépendants.

    Le premier expert indépendant, Vitit Muntarbhorn, a été en fonction pendant moins de deux ans et a produit un rapport sur la violence fondée sur l’orientation sexuelle ou l’identité de genre, qu’il a partagé avec le bureau du Haut-Commissariat des Nations Unies aux droits de l’homme. Il a commencé à mettre en évidence les injustices, les inégalités et les violences dont sont victimes les personnes LGBTQI+ dans tout le monde.

    Les trois rapports de l’actuel expert indépendant, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, pointent du doigt de nombreux pays qui manquent à leur devoir de protéger tous leurs citoyens. La Haut-Commissaire aux droits de l’homme elle-même a souligné l’obligation positive des États de garantir l’égalité des droits pour tous et toutes.

    Nous sommes conscients qu’il reste beaucoup à faire et que les rapports - de l’expert indépendant, du Haut-Commissaire et des organismes régionaux tels que l’Organisation des États Américains - sont importants pour ce processus.

    Si importants sont-ils, en effet, que ces travaux ont suscité une forte réaction de la part de groupes fondamentalistes. Ceux-ci se sont réorganisés sous le format d’« organisations non gouvernementales » et ont cherché à obtenir un statut consultatif auprès du Conseil économique et social des Nations Unies pour pouvoir intervenir dans ces processus.

    Comment ces groupes opèrent-ils au sein de l’ONU ?

    Les acteurs anti-droits ont changé de stratégie. Plutôt que de se montrer comme des organisations religieuses, ils ont cherché à se présenter comme des défenseurs de la liberté religieuse et, surtout, de la liberté d’expression. Ils ont promu des stratégies d’unité religieuse, réunissant des fondamentalistes catholiques et des représentants du Saint-Siège avec des fondamentalistes néo-évangéliques et les groupes musulmans les plus rétrogrades.

    Ils ont également affiné leurs arguments. Premièrement, ils affirment que le concept d’orientation sexuelle et d’identité de genre est un concept occidental et non universel, et qu’il ne peut donc pas être protégé par l’ONU. Deuxièmement, ils disent qu’il n’existe aucun traité ni instrument international qui protège contre la discrimination fondée sur l’orientation sexuelle ou l’identité de genre. Troisièmement, ils soutiennent que les pays ayant des valeurs traditionnelles devraient avoir la liberté de préserver leurs lois discriminatoires et criminaliser les relations homosexuelles ou les diverses identités de genre.

    Ces trois arguments ont été implicitement présents dans l’argumentation des pays qui se sont opposés au renouvellement du mandat de l’expert indépendant ou ont proposé des modifications, de même qu’un quatrième, qui soutient qu’aucun pays ne peut protéger des criminels. Selon cette vision, la détermination de ce qui constitue un acte criminel est soumise au droit pénal de chaque pays et non susceptible d’être vérifiée par le système international des droits humains.

    Historiquement, la réponse à ces questions a été fournie par la reconnaissance du fait que chacun a droit à ses propres croyances, et que personne ne peut imposer sa croyance ou priver les autres de leurs droits sur la base de leur foi. Les fondamentalistes cherchent à renverser cette situation afin que les croyants puissent discriminer et refuser des droits aux autres.

    Le pouvoir des acteurs anti-droits a-t-il augmenté ces dernières années ?

    Le pouvoir des acteurs anti-droits est en hausse, ce qui est peut-être lié à la régression qui a lieu aux États-Unis. En effet, lors du vote pour le renouvellement du mandat, nous avons vu deux groupes de pays qui ont résisté : d’une part, les pays qui n’ont jamais avancé dans la reconnaissance des droits et dans lesquels il y a beaucoup de résistance au changement, et d’autre part, les pays qui reculent, comme les États-Unis.

    Aux États-Unis, depuis au moins une décennie, les liens entre le suprémacisme blanc, les groupes néo-pentecôtistes et les secteurs les plus radicaux du parti républicain se sont resserrés. Les groupes anti-droits ont pris de l’espace dans les tribunaux, allant des plus bas à la Cour suprême, ainsi que dans les gouvernorats et les législatures des États, ce qui a donné lieu à de plus en plus de décisions, de lois et de politiques contre les personnes transgenre, l’éducation sexuelle et renforçant la liberté religieuse. Ils n’ont pas caché leur intention de revenir sur le droit à l’avortement, de combattre le concept de genre et de rejeter les droits à l’éducation sexuelle et reproductive et à la contraception, et même les droits des femmes, le mariage pour tous et les protections contre la discrimination raciale.

    Les États-Unis ont également joué un rôle clé dans le financement international du mouvement anti-droits et dans le développement de nouvelles églises néo-pentecôtistes dans le monde, notamment en Afrique et en Amérique latine. Ils ont également influencé la formation d’un phénomène auquel on n’a pas accordé suffisamment d’attention : les courant du féminisme fixés sur la biologie, qui nient le concept de genre avec les mêmes arguments que les églises les plus conservatrices.

    Cette communauté d’argumentation est très suspecte, d’autant plus lorsqu’on observe les flux de financement en provenance des États-Unis qui alimentent ces groupes au Brésil, en Amérique centrale, en Espagne, au Royaume-Uni ou en République dominicaine. Ces groupes ne ciblent plus les personnes LGBTQI+ en général, mais spécifiquement les personnes transgenre. En affirmant le caractère biologique et naturel des différences, ils cherchent à détruire toute la structure de protection fondée sur le genre.

    Honnêtement, il me semble qu’il s’agit d’un plan très réfléchi. Ils ont imité la stratégie que nous avions initialement adoptée pour rendre notre lutte visible, mais ils ont l’avantage d’être au pouvoir. Le nombre de pays qui ont signé une résolution « pro-vie » à l’ONU et se sont déclarés « pays pro-vie » montre que leur objectif n’est plus seulement de s’opposer aux droits des personnes LGBTQI+ mais à tous les droits fondés sur le concept de genre.

    Comment la campagne pour le renouvellement du mandat de l’expert indépendant a-t-elle été organisée ?

    Les organisations qui ont exercé de la pression pour le renouvellement du mandat sont celles qui travaillent ensemble depuis la campagne pour la nomination du premier expert indépendant. Chaque fois, le processus commence longtemps avant la nomination. Cette fois-ci, nous avons commencé il y a environ trois ans : l’année suivant le renouvellement du mandat, nous travaillions déjà à la création d’un groupe central qui travaillerait vers ce nouveau renouvellement.

    Pour les organisations latino-américaines, une limitation récurrente est le manque de connaissance de la langue anglaise, qui restreint la capacité des militants à internationaliser leurs luttes. Pour surmonter ce problème, notre groupe central est composé à la fois de militants hispanophones et de militants anglophones. Cela a été crucial car la coalition était principalement composée de groupes latino-américains.

    Le processus s’est avéré très difficile, et si bien le vote a fini par être favorable, les résultats des sessions au fil des mois ne suscitaient pas une grande confiance. Nous avons constaté une résistance croissante de la part des pays plus fondamentalistes, de plus en plus attachés à l’idée de supprimer des droits.

    Quelles sont les prochaines étapes après le renouvellement du mandat ?

    Je pense que nous ne devrions pas nous détendre. Des temps difficiles nous attendent. De nombreux droits qui semblaient être conquis risquent d’être annulés aux États-Unis, notamment ceux liés à l’égalité raciale. Il ne s’agit même plus de reculer vers une vision du XXe siècle, mais plutôt vers une vision du XVIe ou du XVIIe siècle.

    Cela aura un fort impact au niveau mondial, notamment dans les pays dont les institutions sont moins développées. Les pays dotés d’institutions plus fortes pourront certainement mieux résister aux tentatives de renversement des droits sexuels et reproductifs.

    Pour les prochaines étapes, je pense que les capacités d’organisation seront primordiales. Souvent et dans divers endroits les gens me disent : « ne vous inquiétez pas, cela n’arrivera jamais ici », mais j’insiste sur le fait que nous ne pouvons pas nous détendre. Nous devons nous concentrer sur la construction de coalitions et l’organisation d’alliances plus fortes pour mettre fin à l’avancée des groupes néoconservateurs et reconquérir les espaces de pouvoir qu’ils ont occupé. 

    Contactez Tamara Adrián sur sonsite web ou son profilFacebook et suivez@TamaraAdrian sur Twitter. 

  • NIGERIA: ‘People experience gross rights violations because of their sexual orientation or gender identity’

    Olaide Kayode TimileyinCIVICUS speaks about the situation of LGBTQI+ rights in Nigeria and the ongoing impacts of the British colonial legacy with Olaide Kayode Timileyin, executive director of Queercity Media and Productions.

    Queercity Media is a civil society organisation (CSO) that promotes the rights of LGBTQI+ people in West Africa through advocacy and communications.

    What is the current situation of LGBTQI+ people in Nigeria?

    Nigerian LGBTQI+ people are marginalised. They experience gross violations of their rights because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, including extortion perpetrated by state actors such as the police and military as well as non-state forces such as local boys, landlords and bosses. Other violations include blackmail, mob attacks, assault and battery.

    It is very traumatic to live in an environment that discriminates against you and puts your life in danger. Homophobia is a huge problem. It is disheartening to see cisgender heterosexual people threaten the lives of LGBTQI+ people.

    Does Nigerian legislation discriminate against LGBTQI+ people?

    Yes, Nigerian laws discriminate against LGBTQI+ people. Two major laws criminalise LGBTQI+ people: the Criminal Code Act and the 2013 Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act. Under these laws LGBTQI+ people are not allowed to get married or carry out their advocacy activities. In addition, their way of life is not considered to be normal because it goes against social norms. As a result of these laws, members of our communities are arrested and their rights systematically violated by the police.

    A few states, such as Lagos, also have local laws that criminalise LGBTQI+ people. In the past year Queercity Media has recorded two murders of LGBTQI+ people that were clearly linked to homophobia. In response to these we have held a nationwide digital campaign, with over a hundred people signing our petition on one of the cases.

    It is very unfortunate that we have not seen any form of government response in these cases, or any other hate crime committed on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Instead, rights violations against the Nigerian LGBTQI+ community have only increased. For example, a recently proposed cross-dressers bill further targets and aids the targeting of queer people.

    It is clearly necessary to work on the integration and reintegration of LGBTQI+ people as active members of Nigerian society. Criminalisation not only cripples the socio-economical capacity of this population but also disempowers LGBTQI+ people from active participation in nation-building.

    What does Queercity Media do, and what kind of backlash have you faced?

    We are a community-based media organisation whose four cardinal points are productions, events, campaigns and archiving. These represent our strategic departments, namely Queercity Productions, GLOW UP Pride, Queercity Campaigns and The Nigerian LGBT+ Museum of Arts.

    As well as the rights violations that some of our staff, myself included, have experienced at the hands of the Nigerian police because of our work, the comments section of our Facebook page can sometimes be quite scary. This is one of our main ways of being in direct contact with everyday Nigerians, and it is mostly filled with negative comments or aggressive arguments among strangers.

    Sometimes we learn from these reactions to better design our campaign language and approach. However, funding is a major problem for us and many LGBTQI+ organisations in West Africa, as no one seems to be interested in LGBTQI+ people, organisations or businesses, so we are often self-funded. Lack of access to proper funding also massively limits the reach we have compared to mainstream media organisations.

    How can the international community support LGBTQI+ people fighting for their rights in Commonwealth countries?

    Sadly, partnerships across Commonwealth countries on LGBTQI+ rights and movement-building is slow, and I do not know the reason for this. But I believe if we could find organisations doing the same work we are doing in other Commonwealth countries, it should be easy to create networks and partnerships to foster each organisation’s strategic goals in their home countries.

    The international community and international civil society could help by recognising the socio-political nuances of working with local LGBTQI+ organisations and the need to be more flexible with their partnership and funding approach. That way, the advocacy work of organisations and activists living in contexts of restricted civic space will be enhanced and they will be able to better promote the rights of LGBTQI+ people.

    Civic space in Nigeria is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with Queercity Media and Productions through itswebsite orFacebook andInstagram pages, and follow@PrideInLagos on Twitter. 

  • Pakistani authorities must prevent further attacks on transgender people

    The shooting of a transgender activist one month ago, and a recent wave of attacks against the transgender community in Pakistan, are extremely concerning, according to global civil society alliance CIVICUS. We urge the authorities in Pakistan to organise prompt and impartial investigations into the attacks, and make sure the perpetrators are brought to justice without delay. 

  • PARAGUAY: ‘As long as land remains in private hands, conflict will continue '

    CIVICUS speaks with Alicia Amarilla, national coordinator of the Organisation of Peasant and Indigenous Women (CONAMURI) in Paraguay about conflicts over land rights between the state, the private sector and Indigenous communities. CONAMURI is a Paraguayan organisation of Indigenous and peasant women that has been working for 22 years to defend and promote their rights and seek solutions to situations of poverty, exclusion and discrimination based on ethnicity and gender.

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