More than 150 activists from around the world gathered in Uruguay last week for the first global LGBT rights conference to have taken place in Latin America.
Uruguayan Minister of Exterior Relations Rodolfo Nin Novoa on Tuesday spoke at the opening of the conference that is taking place in his country’s capital of Montevideo.
“We are gathered together for the purpose of effecting very significant cultural changes for our countries, keeping in mind the universality of human rights and fundamental liberties that are inherent to each person without exception,” he said.
Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Bert Koenders spoke at conference — which his country co-organized with Uruguay — on Wednesday.
“Human rights apply to all human beings,” he said. “The choice to exclude certain groups from protection endangers not just these groups, but society as a whole.”
Ovejas Negras, a Uruguayan advocacy group, and COC Nederland, a Dutch LGBT organization, co-hosted the gathering.
Mauricio Coitiño of Ovejas Negras told on Thursday in an email from Montevideo that his country’s decision to co-sponsor the conference “is a new significant sign” of the Uruguayan government’s support of LGBT-specific issues. He added the gathering also provides an opportunity to hold officials accountable for preventing anti-gay violence, expanding anti-discrimination campaigns, ensuring LGBT Uruguayans have equal access to the country’s judicial system and other issues.
“It represents an opportunity to bring new attention to the situation of LGBTI people in Uruguay and the challenges we still face, even in the context of legal equality,” Coitiño told.
Conference ‘a great opportunity’ to advance global LGBT rights
Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in more than 70 countries around the world. Iran, Saudi Arabia and Mauritania are among the handful of nations in which homosexuality remains punishable by death.
The U.S. and Chile last August co-hosted the first LGBT-specific U.N. Security Council meeting that focused on the so-called Islamic State’s persecution of Syrian and Iraqi men accused of committing sodomy. The U.N. Human Rights Council on June 30 approved a resolution co-sponsored by Uruguay that creates organization’s first-ever watchdog to fight discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
LGBT Federation of Argentina President Marcela Romero, who is also the regional coordinator of the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Trans People, is among the activists who are attending the conference.
She told in a statement that the gathering “is a great opportunity.” Romero said it also provides an opportunity for countries to recommit themselves to do more to support their trans citizens.
“There are really good practices in our region that need to be shared and there’s still a lot to do for the life of trans people,” she said. “States in the world need to know there’s a trans population that needs a gender identity law that recognizes their rights to be able to enjoy full citizenship.”