Partnerships to Promote Equality for LGBTI People

Credit: UNDP Dominican Republic

By Inka Mattila
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic, May 21 2019 – As states and civil society organizations are increasingly acting to address stigma, discrimination and human rights violations targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, dialogues and alliances jointly tackle these challenges.

The United Nations Development Programme´s (UNDP) motivation to work in promotion of these types of initiatives is based on the principle of the 2030 Agenda; to listen to those unheard voices and reach those furthest left behind.

In the Dominican Republic, the UNDP in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) hosted recently a National LGBTI Dialogue with the presence of participants from government institutions, congress representatives, civil society organizations, UN agencies, religious leaders, academia, private sector, media, international organizations, embassies and LGBTI activists, who, for two days, discussed how to promote public policies and private sector initiatives that advance the social and economic inclusion of LGBTI persons within the framework of the 2030 Agenda and its fundamental commitment to leave no one behind.

Unlike other countries in the region and elsewhere, the Dominican Republic does not penalize same-sex relations between adults. The country’s Constitution guarantees the principle of non-discrimination irrespective of “any condition” and protects the right to free development of personality.

To date six laws include in the right to non-discrimination based on sexual orientation and law the category of gender identity.

During the dialogue, the Dominican Government presented its efforts in reducing discrimination against LGBTI persons in response to HIV through the National Council for HIV and AIDS (CONAVIHSIDA), as well as specific actions to promote the equality of LGBTI persons in its National Human Rights Plan, the National Plan of Gender Equality, as well as initiatives of the Ministry of Labor, the Attorney General’s Office, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health.

Inka Mattila, Resident Representative UNDP Dominican Republic

Nonetheless, there are still many challenges, some of them are to ban discrimination or violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity by the penal code and the labor code. Greater efforts are needed to guarantee equal opportunities in access to employment, health, higher education, justice and poverty reduction.

Globally, sexual and gender minorities are often among the most marginalized and, as such, require specific inclusion and attention in order to drive forward the vision of the SDGs.

The National Dialogue in the Dominican Republic was the result of many years of mobilization by organizations of the LGBTI civil society organization that took advantage of the dialogue to have closer contact with government institutions and other relevant actors.

The recommendations stemming from the Dialogue include an anti-discrimination law that effectively puts into place article 39 (“Right to equal treatment”) of the Dominican Constitution; including the crime of aggravated homicide and torture, due to hate crimes, in the national Criminal Code; a Gender Identity law guaranteeing trans people to right to change their name, image, sex/gender in their identity documents in accordance with their gender identity.; and working towards the elimination of stigma and discrimination on the fulfilment of health, education, security, employment and access to justice rights.

The results of this initiative are to be captured in the first “Being LGBTI in the Dominican Republic” report, a document with first-hand information on the human rights situation of LGBTI people in the country, together with the results of the first National LGBTI Survey, and a regional Intersex Report what documents the realities of this group across four Caribbean countries.

Up to now, there has been a serious gap in the data available to capture the lived realities of LGBT people, and these reports and the survey will help to reflect those realities that are often rendered invisible.

Much work remains to be done, but government institutions and congress representatives have shown the much-needed political will to defend the fundamental human rights of LGBTI persons, essential to guarantee a more just and inclusive Dominican Republic.

At the same time, a survey conducted in 2015 by the UNDP, United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA and the Ministry of Education showed that 80% of female students and 72% of male students expressed respect for people with different sexual orientations than their own, signaling that young Dominicans are in favor of respecting the rights and freedoms LGBTI people.

Now the Dominican Republic has the unique opportunity to set precedence in the advancement of LGBTI human rights and public policies, that could serve as example and lead the agenda in the region.

The LGBTI Dialogue has shown that an all of Government response is needed, we need to develop action plans; set up consultative forums that include LGBTI people and work with civil society partners to tear down the barriers that exclude LGBTI people from the benefits of the 2030 development agenda.

To attain sustainable development, the global community must guarantee everyone, irrespective of sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status, a safe space to learn and grow; when individuals are welcome at home, work and within their communities; when people feel safe, respected, loved and free, nations as a whole win.

Footnote: *On May 17, the United Nations commemorated the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia or Transphobia. In a joint statement, the heads of the UN departments of political affairs, peacekeeping, operational support and management said the Day “is an opportunity to reiterate our continuing commitment to build a more inclusive work environment free of harassment and discrimination, including for those who identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI).”

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