Update to VEN36239.E of 23 January 2001 on the situation of gays; reports of targeting on the basis of sexual orientation and information on protection and support organizations available [VEN40162.E]

A June 2002 Associated Press (AP) article reports that approximately 1200 Venezuelans participated in the second annual gay pride parade in the capital city of Caracas this year (30 June 2002). The article describes the current legal climate and prevalent attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people as follows:

A gay rights movement is gradually emerging in Venezuela with the formation of new organizations and events like the pride parade.
The issue is seldom a matter of public discussion in this predominantly Roman Catholic country. Although labor laws prohibit discrimination against gays, employers often fire homosexuals after discovering their sexual orientation, said Jose Ramon Merentes, coordinator of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transsexual unit of Venezuela's Amnesty International chapter.
Gay rights activists are pushing for a law that would grant homosexual couples housing and health benefits enjoyed by married heterosexual couples. Congress is discussing prohibiting the broadcasting and publishing of anti-gay messages under a new law to regulate media content.
"The attitude in this society is one of general tolerance but incomprehension and ignorance prevails," Merentes said. "There isn't widespread violence against gays but they fear losing their jobs. Abuses are not vigorously investigated" (AP 30 June 2002).

Other 2002 sources consulted by the Research Directorate concentrate on the city of Valencia in Carabobo state where, according to one Amnesty International report:

Valencia's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community are at constant risk of harassment, ill-treatment and arbitrary detention by police. The Governor of Carabobo State, Henrique Salas Feo-Romer, has reportedly refused to address the problem. The commander of police in Carabobo has said that homosexuals and prostitutes are to be ruled by a police code. They cannot move freely in the streets. In effect, this means that police use administrative detentions widely (AI 12 Feb. 2002).

News articles and human rights alerts report that three transgender people were murdered this year and Maury Oviedo, a prominent transgender activist with the organization Respect for the Personality (Respeto a la Personalidad), has gone into hiding (Weekly News Update on the Americas 31 Mar. 2002; IGLHRC 12 Feb. 2002; Rex Wockner 27 Feb. 2002; AI 12 Feb. 2002). Two of the victims were from Valencia, as is Maury Oviedo (Weekly News Update on the Americas 31 Mar. 2002).

Valencia police are suspected by human rights groups to have been involved in the murders and other abuses against transgender individuals:

The local transgender organization Respeto a la Personalidad and the local Ombudsman, Mr. Israel Alvarez de Armas, have documented a pattern of police abuse against transgender people in Carabobo, including cases of harassment, arbitrary arrest, physical abuse, and possible murders (IGLHRC 12 Feb. 2002).

In Maury Oviedo's words:

"they [the police] will beat me hard, because I have created much noise at the international level. I consider myself a public enemy of the Carababo State Governor, because he is the force behind all the abuses suffered by transsexual people in the State" (ibid.).

No 2002 reports of abuses based on sexual orientation from other regions of Venezuela could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

As for protection and support organizations available, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) sent to the Research Directorate the attached list of organizations that provide information, support and/or advocacy for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual people in Venezuela. The Bureau of Venezuela Website also includes a Spanish-language directory of community and human rights organizations, their mandates and local contact information at http://www.burodevenezuela.com/comdir/minorcat.cfm?cid=8&maj=Comunidades%2FAsociaciones&ckid=163&min=Derecho%2Fjustica.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References


Amnesty International (AI). 12 February 2002. "Possible Extrajudicial Execution/Fear for Safety." http://www.amnestyusa.org/urgent/action/venezuela02122002.html [Accessed 25 Sept. 2002]

Associated Press Worldstream (AP). 30 June 2002. Alexandra Olson. "Hundreds of Venezuelans March in Second Annual Gay Pride Parade." (NEXIS)

International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). 12 February 2002. "Transgender Activist in Hiding After Threat From Police: Act Now For the Life of Maury Oviedo." http://www.iglhrc.org/world/southamerica/Venezuela2002Feb_2.html [Accessed 25 Sept. 2002]

Rex Wockner. Chicago 27 February 02. "Amnesty Targets Venezuela." http://www.outlineschicago.com/0outlines/feb27~02/wnews.html [Accessed 25 Sept. 2002]

Weekly News Update on the Americas [New York]. 31 March 2002. Issue No. 635. "Venezuela: Transgender People Murdered." (NEXIS)

Attachment


International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). 30 September 2002. "Organizations List." Document attached to correspondence received by the Research Directorate.

Additional Sources Consulted


IRB Databases

World News Connection (WNC)

Websites including:

Amnesty International (AI)

Amnesty International 's Outfront Page

Bureau of Venezuela

Gay Financial Network

Human Rights Watch (HRW)

International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)

International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA)

Queer Resources Directory

Search engines including:

Google

Yahoo