LGBTTTI Coalition Wins Human Rights Protections in the Americas
This June, eight Astraea Foundation grantee partners played a central role in the passing of two conventions that protect human rights around sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in the Americas. Part of an LGBTTTI Coalition working to engage the Organization of American States (OAS), these grantee partners worked diligently for over 8 years for human rights protections for LGBTI people in the Americas alongside several other grassroots and civil society organizations representing 23 countries in the Americas. During the 43rd General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) in La Antigua, Guatemala, two landmark conventions were passed thanks to the LGBTTTI Coalitions efforts: the Convention Against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance, and the Convention Against all Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance.
The passage of these conventions this summer marks an important regional victory for the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in an international instrument of human rights protection. As a result, activists, civil society organizations and grantee partners will have new tools to pressure the 35 OAS member states across North and South America to sign and ratify the conventions and to then adopt policies, measures, and affirmative actions in favor of individuals or groups exposed to discrimination and intolerance as outlined by the convention. Additionally, the OAS General Assembly adopted the fifth resolution Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression which outlines 10 specific demands member states must adopt to protect people from discrimination, acts of violence, and limitations around access to participation in public life on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. The General Assembly also established an Inter-American committee to follow up on the commitments made by the signatory states of the two conventions.
The grantee partners 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. In addition, The Global Initiative for Sexuality and Human Rights (GISHR), part of Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights, was crucial in supporting the coalition to achieve their goals. Heartland Alliance focuses exclusively on building strong and diverse LGBT movements internationally.
During the OAS General Assembly, catholic fundamentalist groups pressured OAS member states to understand families as inherently heterosexual. The LGBTTTI Coalition challenged this political pressure. Johana Ramirez, Director of OTRANS, represented the LGBTTTI coalition in a dialogue between OAS member delegation leaders and civil society leaders. Ramirez presented a list of demands from the LGBTTTI Coalition to member states not only to sign and implement the two conventions but also to adopt public policy, education programs, and legislative frameworks to protect the civil rights, human rights, and health rights of LGBTI people.
While only 6 member states have signed the two conventions (Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Uruguay) and challenges remain even after passage in implementation of conventions, the LGBTTTI Coalitions victory opens space for activists to continue to pressure their governments towards the guarantee of human right protections for LGBTI people. This is a determined step towards freedom from violence, self-determination, and gender justice.
Undocu-Caravan leaders in San Francisco demand immigration justice
Undocu-Caravan Demands Deportation Reform in California
Astraea Foundation grantee partners Immigrant Youth Coalition (IYC) and California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance (CIYJA) organized an Undocu-Caravan Tour, traveling across California to raise awareness about harmful deportation policy and build public support for the TRUST Act. If passed, the TRUST Act would limit collaboration between local law enforcement and national immigration enforcement, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). California legislature approved the TRUST Act last year but Governor Edmund Brown later vetoed the bill.
Partnering with the National Day Laborers Organizing Network (NDLON), IYC and CIYJA kicked off the tour in San Diego on June 24th. They lead community-based actions at various locations throughout California, educating public on the complexities of “the deportation machine” and sharing stories of community members most impacted by deportation.
One of the Undocu-Caravan’s stops centered queer voices within the undocumented movement. Arriving during Pride Weekend in San Francisco, the Undocu-Caravan joined in the East Bay Immigrant Youth Coalition’s July 1st action. Queer undocumented speakers and allies gathered in front of a newly erected billboard at Galaria de la Raza that reads “I AM UNDOCUQUEER!”. They spoke of the personal impact of harsh immigration enforcement policies and demanded change.
The Undocu-Caravan arrived at its final stop in Sacramento on July 2nd in time to testify at the public safety committee in support of the TRUST Act. In a final event in Sacramento, nine immigrant activists, including queer leaders of the IYC, conducted a sit-in at Governor Brown’s office, urging him not to veto the bill again this year. These activists continue to build pressure in support of the bill.
Astraea staff and grantee partners gathered at a dinner meeting
Astraea and Seven Grantee Partners Build Media Skills in Detroit
In June, Astraea Foundation brought a delegation of seven grantee partners to attend the Allied Media Conference (AMC), a vibrant annual gathering of grassroots organizers and media activists from across North America. Three Astraea staff joined members from BreakOUT! (New Orleans), Gender JUST (Chicago), Streetwise and Safe (New York), Gender Justice L.A. (Los Angeles), El/La para Translatinas (San Francisco), Freedom Inc (Madison), and PrYSM (Rhode Island) in Detroit for a week of media skill-building and tool-sharing. The goal of organizing a delegation was to bring together Astraea grantee partners who work on anti-criminalization and addressing violence in their communities. Specific to the selected groups’demographics and missions, the AMC uplifts leadership of youth, LGBTQI, and people of color activists, providing a unique space to build connections and re-energize. The delegation’s travels to Detroit opened conversation on a range of issues including immigration rights, the prison industrial complex, criminalization, labor rights, sex work, children and youth rights, grassroots fundraising, and holistic health and sustainability.
For some grantees, it was their first time at the AMC and for some organization members, the first time boarding a plane and leaving their hometown. Grantees reported that they found the AMC’s comprehensive overview of social justice organizing productive and generative. Some groups held workshops and led caucus meetings. Streetwise and Safe’s workshop on using media to address the criminalization of LGBTQ youth of color was very well attended. Streetwise and Safe and BreakOUT! led a caucus on queer youth of color interventions to criminalization and mobilizing national responses to the issue. In addition, Gender Justice L.A.’s very successful workshop, “Trans Dignity & Justice through Theatre of the Oppressed: Strategies for Immediate Safety & Changing the Culture of Violence Using Theatre as a Tool,” drew a large and engaged crowd of participants. Astraea staff hosted a film screening, “Queer Migrations,” to help build cross-border connections and discussion on asylum, citizenship, and the immigration debate in the U.S. The conference provided Astraea and the delegation many opportunities to build with allies, new and long-time partner organizations, and sibling foundations such as RESIST.