From Resolutions to Conventions: Achieving Recognition of SOGI Rights in the Americas

Mónica Enríquez-Enríquez and Sarah Gunther, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice

Sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) rights advocates made increasing gains in 2011, yet funders know it takes years of building to achieve wins – and years more for those wins to make a difference in people’s lives.

In addition to providing long-term core funding for grassroots LGBTQI groups, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice supports grantee partners to engage in regional and international advocacy to broaden the human rights framework and press for policy change in their own countries. Over the years, Astraea has provided 38 travel grants to grantee partners in Latin America and the Caribbean to advocate at the Organization of American States (OAS). They are part of the LGBTTTI Coalition, founded in 2006 and composed of 28 LGBTTI and human rights organizations from 23 countries.

In 2011, the Coalition’s advocacy contributed to the OAS passing the fourth of seven resolutions on human rights and SOGI issues and the creation of a dedicated LGBTI Unit at the Inter American Commission on Human Rights. Tasked with collecting information about LGBTI human rights violations, producing reports, and providing technical advice to OAS member states, the Unit has played a fundamental role in advancing SOGI rights in the Americas.

The coalition’s many years of work further paid off in 2013, when eight Astraea grantee partners and other civil society organizations played a central role in the passage of two conventions protecting sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in the Americas. These two landmark conventions (the Convention Against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance, and the Convention Against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance) marked a key regional victory for the inclusion of SOGI issues in an international human rights instrument. Activists now have new tools to pressure the 35 OAS member states to protect LGBTI rights.

Astraea grantee partners contributing to and celebrating this landmark victory include Aireana in Paraguay, Santamaría Fundación in Colombia, J-FLAG in Jamaica, Mulabi in Costa Rica, Organización of Transexuales por la Dignidad de la Diversidad (OTD) in Chile, Organización Trans Reinas de la Noche (OTRANS) in Guatemala, Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) in Guyana, CAISO in Trinidad & Tobago, and United and Strong in Saint Lucia.

This win is one step in the decades-long struggle for the realization of the rights of LGBTI people in the Americas. Many Caribbean nations have historically resisted endorsing SOGI resolutions, demonstrating that strong cultural change strategies are needed alongside policy change work. Astraea will continue to provide long-term core funding to grantee partners to advance their work on the ground.

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