This month, we are featuring stories of movement building from several groups of grantee partners: Colombia Diversa, Taller de Comunicacion Mujer, and Aireana bringing visibility to lesbian human rights in the Americas; and Streetwise and Safe, Audre Lorde Project, and FIERCE challenging stop and frisk in New York City. We also report on El/La Para TransLatinas’ rally in the wake of ongoing violence in the Mission District of San Francisco.
A Historic Hearing on Lesbian Human Rights
Colombia Diversa, Taller de Comunicacion Mujer, and Aireana spoke at a historic hearing, the 147th Session of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on March 15th. The three Astraea grantee partners presented on the Situation of the Human Rights of Lesbians in the Americas. This marks a milestone for the groups who, respectively from Colombia, Ecuador, and Paraguay, have been advocating for five years to address regional lesbian human rights issues.
The organizations conducted policy advocacy work at the Organization of American States (OAS), which spearheads the IACHR, as part of the Coalition of LGBTTTI Organizations of Latin America and the Caribbean, criticizing the heteronormative framework of women rights in the OAS and calling for inclusivity and visibility of lesbian rights within women’s rights. They also made the case for childrens rights to include lesbian girls and youth.
The groups shed important light on the disproportionate violence against lesbians, calling for specific attention to the needs of the lesbian community. They refuted the assumption that lesbians experience less violence within LGBTTTI communities. Instead, they pointed to evidence that lesbians are “invisible in all aspects,” due in large part to lack of overall reporting and documentation of violence, as well as high levels of domestic violence.
In the hearing, the three organizations highlighted institutional violence, demanding the definition of torture be broadened to include torture of LBTI people in the hands of state agents, the military and other armed forces, the police, and civilians including specific attention to the horrific practice of corrective rape perpetuated by the police, the military, and civilians. In addition, the groups advocated for lesbianism to no longer be considered a legitimate cause for the conviction of a crime. They also demanded lesbians have rights to motherhood free from prejudice and legal obstacles to adoption.
In response to the extraordinary human rights violations of so-called Lesbian Torture Clinics or rehabilitation clinics, they demanded action to monitor and ultimately close all clinics, and called for government monitoring and accountability. Qualifying lesbianism as an addiction or a disorder, these centers subject women to torture, enforced feminine dress codes, electric shock, verbal harassment, forced sexual relationships with other patients of opposite sex, and cold water showers at night. Testimonies offered reports of being chained, receiving threats, experiencing sexual harassment, and being threatened with rape by health professionals. The groups pointed to the need for intervention by the OAS since women are afraid to denounce these treatments and are often forced to sign the admission contract, or are forced into “clinics” by families that sign contracts for them. Watch the groundbreaking hearing in Spanish.
FIERCE member Lee speaks at CPR rally
New York Grantees Call for Police Reform
Floyd vs. the City of New York, an historic trial challenging discriminatory police practices is currently underway in New York. Communities United for Police Reform, which includes Astraea grantee partners Streetwise and Safe, Audre Lorde Project, and FIERCE, has organized a large-scale community mobilization effort around the trial. Each day, different members of the coalition pack the court to show support and monitor the trial, and organize press conferences to highlight how police misconduct affects the lives of people living in New York City. The trial painstakingly reveals how the stop and frisk policy is maintained not by hard evidence of crime prevention but by veiled NYPD “performance goals” and racial discrimination.
On March 28th, with a room packed with LGBTQI supporters, the court was forced to open a large overflow room for more community members to bear witness to the proceedings. The subsequent “Fabulous & United” press conference included powerful testimonies from trans immigrant women who have been profiled as sex workers simply for carrying condoms, queer youth of color who have been harassed, and a black gay male survivor of violence who had been stopped and frisked so often that he was unable to go to the police for help when he was assaulted. You can watch the press conference and read recent NY Times coverage of the issue. Astraea is an official organizational endorser of Communities United for Police Reform and their campaign to pass the NYC Community Safety Act.
Activists rally to bring awareness of transphobic violence in the Mission
El/La Para TransLatinas Speaks Out Against Violence in the Mission
In the wake of ongoing violence in the Mission District of San Francisco targeting the transgender community, El/La Para TransLatinas organized a rally on March 28th to raise awareness. The action drew public attention to transphobic and homophobic attacks in the Mission. At the rally, the group called for solidarity and support from the city, inviting the public to “come and know more about your sisters and brothers in your LGBTQQ community.”
The action received attention from city officials, local media sources including the San Francisco Examiner and the Bay Area Reporter, as well as the San Francisco Police Department. In attendance were two San Francisco Supervisors and representatives from the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office and the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.
El/La Para TransLatinas is an HIV prevention and human rights program for transgender Latinas, providing safe space, health education counseling, and anti-violence and harm reduction support in the Mission District of San Francisco.