MEXICO’s top court to vote on gay marriage in Yucatan state – other states could follow

by Christine Murray

 

If the Supreme Court orders Yucatan state to legalize same-same marriage, other states across Mexico could follow

 

Openly News (24.02.2021) – https://bit.ly/3bBUUou – Mexico’s top court is due to vote Wednesday whether to order the state of Yucatan to legalize gay marriage, a move that would open the door to similar judgments elsewhere in the country.

 

The Supreme Court in 2015 said that banning gay marriage was unconstitutional, but many states have yet to amend their laws. Some allow same-sex unions while in others gay and lesbian couples must ask a judge to approve their application to marry.

 

The state Congress in southeastern Yucatan rejected a 2019 initiative to allow equal marriage – a decision that LGBT+ rights group Colectivo por la Proteccion de Todas las Familias en Yucatan (Colectivo PTFY) is now challenging.

 

“It would be a historic, social revindication after more than 20 years of different organizations … fighting for this cause in the Yucatan,” Kalycho Escoffie, a lawyer with the collective, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

 

An increasing number of countries in traditionally Catholic Latin America have legalized same-sex marriage. Gay couples can now marry in Costa Rica, Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay and in some states in Mexico.

 

If the Supreme Court decides on Wednesday that Yucatan must legalize same-sex unions, similar cases could be brought in the remaining 11 of Mexico’s 31 states that do not allow gay marriage, Escoffie said.

 

LGBT+ people in Mexico face discrimination in access to education, work and health and families with same-sex partners who cannot marry are blocked from a range of rights and social benefits.

 

About 3% of people surveyed told Mexico’s statistics body in 2017 that they were not heterosexual, although government anti-discrimination body CONAPRED said the true number is likely to be higher.

 

 

Photo credits: Openly News / Thomson Reuters Foundation




‘My spirit broken’: Mexicans battle to ban conversion therapy

In Mexico, LGBT+ people often are subjected to conversion therapy aimed at trying to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, but now lawmakers want it to stop.

 

By Oscar Lopez

 

Thomson Reuters Foundation (17.08.2020) – https://bit.ly/32maakF – When she was 15 years old, Paola Santillan was raped by two men who claimed they would “take the lesbian” out of her. She kept the experience a secret for 10 years.

 

“I lived that stage of my life in confinement. I lived it in fear, with uncertainty, with the promise of having my spirit broken,” the 27-year-old said. “Everything changed in that moment.”

 

Santillan is one of an untold number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Mexico who have undergone traumatic experiences aimed at altering their sexual orientation or gender identity in what is known as conversion therapy.

 

Widely condemned by leading medical groups, including the World Psychiatric Association, conversion therapy can range from psychological counseling to religious practices and even sexual abuse in an effort to change someone from gay to straight.

 

Official statistics on conversion therapy in Mexico are not widely available, but mental health experts and rights activists say the practice is widespread.

 

“This has become fairly normalized in our society,” Ivan Tagle, director general of advocacy group Yaaj told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

 

Up to six out of every 10 young people who come to Yaaj have endured conversion therapy, he said.

 

The United Nations has called for a global ban on the practice, but worldwide, only a handful of countries – Brazil, Ecuador and Malta – have nationwide bans.

 

This month, Queensland became the first state in Australia to outlaw conversion therapy, and in July, Mexico City became the country’s first jurisdiction to do so, with providers facing up to five years in prison.

 

But now supporters are pushing for Mexico to take the law nationwide.

 

A bill to ban the practice nationally was approved by Senate committees earlier this year, and lawmakers say a vote by the full chamber will take place next month.

 

“When I found out that these tortuous and inhumane practices existed … I decided work on the issue,” said Citlalli Hernandez, a senator with the ruling Morena party who has championed the bill.

 

If the measure is approved by the Senate, Hernandez said she hopes it will pass to the House of Deputies by November. Then it will need approval from the Morena-controlled lower chamber before moving to the president’s desk for signature.

 

‘A good Christian’

 

In a socially conservative country where the Catholic church is often critical of gay rights, LGBT+ issues are divisive and for many, being gay or trans in Mexico means enduring violence and discrimination.

 

According to a 2016 study from Yaaj, more than a third of Mexican LGBT+ young people had experienced psychological abuse, while a fifth had suffered physical violence.

 

Facing a life of difficulty, many young LGBT+ people seek out conversion therapy themselves or are forced into such treatment by their parents, according to mental health experts and rights advocates.

 

Conversion therapies are often offered by religious groups in Mexico, where 80% of the population identifies as Catholic. Many others are members of evangelical Christian churches.

 

“In Mexico it works because of the guilt … of not being a ‘good Christian’,” said Jonathan Silva, a psychology professor at the IBERO University who treats conversion therapy survivors.

 

Carmen Francisco, 33, said she started going to conversion therapy 10 years ago at an evangelical church because of the guilt she felt being in a relationship with another woman.

 

“Being a Christian … I felt bad, like I was doing something wrong,” she said.

 

At times, she said she thought the process was working, and she went four years without dating women.

 

But she paid a steep price, particularly when sessions devolved into exorcisms with her ‘therapist’ speaking in tongues.

 

“I would ask God to change me,” Francisco recalled. “I remember sessions where I would end up kneeling on the floor crying, and I even remember times when I would end up vomiting.”

 

According to Silva, many interventions take place at intense weekend religious retreats.

 

“Having three days where someone tells you that … your life identity is nothing more than a sin, a piece of shit, the scum of humanity, has very long-term implications,” he said.

 

Trans woman Jazz Bustamante said despite surviving an earlier experience with conversion therapy at a Pentecostal church, she went on a religious retreat at age 21 in her own “spiritual quest”.

 

Over three sleepless nights, Bustamante was told to write down her whole life story on pieces of paper.

 

On the final night, someone identified as a “godfather” took her aside for a ceremony with candles and incense, where she was told to burn every page and ask God for forgiveness.

 

The experience proved traumatic.

 

“The depression and anxiety attacks worsened,” Bustamante said. “There were emotional complications.”

 

‘The survivors’

 

LGBT+ people are also sent for conversion therapy at Mexico’s church-funded addiction treatment and rehabilitation centers, rights advocates say.

 

“They might not promote it in their advertising, but there are these networks for admitting people for (being LGBT+),” said Alex Orue, executive director of youth suicide prevention group It Gets Better Mexico.

 

In places with actual drug addicts and often administered by men, young LGBT+ people, especially lesbian and bisexual women and girls are “easy prey,” said Orue.

 

“There are many reports of these ‘corrective’ rapes.”

 

Mexico’s rampant machismo can make such sexual abuse seem permissible, mental health experts say.

 

“There is a certain ‘authorization’ for men … to impinge on the life and the body of a woman,” said Silva, the psychology professor.

 

But whether the intervention is sexual, psychological or spiritual, the consequences can be devastating.

 

“Everything points to a destruction of any possibility of an identity for a person,” Silva said.

 

For Santillan, after getting raped for being a lesbian, it took a decade before she could talk about it.

 

Now sharing her story and campaigning for a conversion therapy ban has given her new purpose.

 

“I made the personal political,” Santillan said. “Now it’s me who also listens to other testimonies and gives a voice to the survivors that we are.”




MEXICO: Queer couples stage kiss-in protest in shopping mall

 Unfurling a sprawling LGBT+ Pride flag, protesters packed a shopping mall in Mexico on Sunday after security staff banned a gay couple from kissing and holding hands. 

By Josh Milton 

Pink News (02.03.2020) – https://bit.ly/3cOsqHK – “Love is love!” the demonstrators chanted as they walked by luxury fashion stores and coffee house chains, kissing one another and waving flags as shoppers exchanged quizzical looks. 

The Besotón vs Homofobia 2020 march was held in defiance after Galerías Monterrey, Monterrey, security officers demanded a gay couple stop kissing in the plaza. 

Jorge and Iván were waiting in the square until a movie started in the cinema nearby when the patrolling guards cornered them and asked them to leave. 

Officers asked if the couple “could not be groping” outside in case children see them, Jorge, one half of the couple, claimed in a viral Facebook video. 

Regias del Drag, a drag queen collective in the northern city, organised the protest to openly defy the guards who, Jorde said, claimed they were “only following orders”. 

At around 3pm, the shopping center of the plaza was paralyzed by the impassioned protesters, who rolled out rainbow banners and draped flags around them as capes. Some hoisted poles with unmissable trans-inclusive gender symbols on top. 

Chants of “education is the option”, “no to discrimination” and “not a step back” echoed across the canyon of shops as protesters descended down the escalators. 

The group, which included Jorge and Iván alongside dozens of supporters and drag queens, later spilled into one of the major walkways of the shopping mall and kissed and embraced one another. A circle of supporters cheering each on. 

LGBT+ rights in Mexico 

Mexico City, a liberal island in the vastly conservative United Mexican States, first paved the way for marriage equality and a seismic shift towards acceptance in Latin America in 2009. 

In breaking long-held taboos around homosexuality, the jurisdiction became the first to legalise same-sex marriage.

Years on, and each of the 31 states of Mexico have unique codes around marriage, forming a patchwork of states that have various degrees of marriage equality but, overall, it is not illegal. 

Moreover, LGBT+ citizens enjoy study anti-discrimination laws and acceptance is on the up. Although, rights around parenthood and the military remain in limbo. 

Some bills are still pending, clogging the Congress of Mexico, while others, such as banning conversion therapy, are being proposed. 

Furthermore, in 2019, Mexico was considered the world’s second-deadliest country for trans people. 

A study by Mexican LGBT+ rights organisation Letra Ese has shown that, between 2013 and 2016, at least 473 LGBT+ people have been killed in the country, and 261 of these were trans women. 

According to the report, the last two years have been the most violent, with a 30 per cent increase in the number of murders in relation to the average of previous years. 




The grisly deaths of a woman and a girl shock Mexico and test its president

The murders of Ingrid Escamilla, 25, and Fátima Aldrighett, 7, are forcing a reckoning in a country that has wrestled with violence against women. The president’s response has been harshly criticized.

 

By Kirk Semple and Paulina Villegas

 

The New York Times (19.02.2020) – https://nyti.ms/32qYqgu – The gruesome murders this month of a woman and a girl in Mexico have shocked the nation, triggering a groundswell of outrage punctuated by near-daily street protests, unbridled fury on social media and growing demands for incisive government action against gender-based violence.

 

The woman, Ingrid Escamilla, 25, was stabbed, skinned and disemboweled, and the girl, Fátima Cecilia Aldrighett, 7, was abducted from school, her body later found wrapped in a plastic bag. The outcry over their deaths is forcing a reckoning in a country that has long wrestled with violence against women, analysts and activists say.

 

It is also amounting to a major leadership test for President Andrés Manuel López Obrador — and critics, who have called his response at turns anemic, insensitive and condescending, say he is falling far short.

 

Xóchitl Rodríguez, a member of Feminasty, a feminist activist collective, said she has been deeply disappointed by the response of Mr. López Obrador, who campaigned as a transformative figure who would defend marginalized populations.

 

“He was supposed to represent a change and it turns out that he is not,” she said. “The fact that you wake up in the morning and your president cannot reassure you on what specific actions he is taking to deal with the issue, is outrageous.”

 

In 2019, the Mexican government recorded 1,006 incidents of femicide, the crime of killing women or girls because of their gender — a 10 percent increase from 2018. The overall number of women who die violently in Mexico has also increased, rising to 10 killings per day in 2019 from seven per day in 2017, according to the Mexico office of U.N. Women.

 

“Women are demanding a shift of paradigm and nothing less,” said Estefanía Vela, executive director of Intersecta, a Mexico City-based group that promotes gender equality. “These are not only hashtags. These are students protesting at the universities, and mothers demanding justice for their daughters.”

 

But Mr. López Obrador has seemed to struggle with how to respond to the issue.

 

Speaking at one of his regular morning news conference last week, the president bristled at journalists’ questions about femicide, and tried to bring the conversation back to his announcement that the government had recovered more than $100 million in criminal assets and would be channeling it into poor communities.

 

“Look, I don’t want the topic to be only femicide,” he said. “This issue has been manipulated a lot in the media.”

 

And on Monday, when asked about Fátima’s death, he sought to blame femicides on what he called the “neoliberal policies” of his predecessors.

 

Mexican society, he said, “fell into a decline, it was a process of progressive degradation that had to do with the neoliberal model.”

 

Amid the escalating violence and facing a lack of what they consider effective government response, a feminist protest movement has gained momentum in the past year and become more violent, with some protesters smashing windows of police stations and spraying graffiti on monuments.

 

The deaths of Fátima and Ms. Escamilla, both in the past two weeks, have injected even greater urgency into the debate surrounding gender violence and machismo and have intensified the demands for a more effective government response.

 

The killing of Ms. Escamilla, whose body was found on Feb. 9, was so ghoulish it managed to transcend the daily drumbeat of bloodshed and shock the nation. A man, found covered in blood and said to be her domestic partner, was arrested and confessed to the crime, the authorities said.

 

Adding to the outrage was the fact that photos of Ms. Escamilla’s mutilated body were leaked to tabloids, which published the images on their front pages.

 

On Feb. 11, Fátima went missing after she was led away from her primary school by an unidentified woman — an abduction that was captured by security cameras. The discovery of the girl’s body over the weekend, wrapped in a plastic bag and dumped next to a construction site on the outskirts of the capital, added to the rising anger.

 

Last Friday, protesters, most of them women, spray-painted “Femicide State” and “Not One More” on the facade and main doorway of the National Palace in Mexico.

 

Claudia Sheinbaum, the mayor of Mexico City, said Wednesday night on Twitter that suspects in the killing of Fátima had been detained in the State of Mexico. Several days ago, the mayor said prosecutors would seek the maximum sentence against Ms. Escamilla’s killer and called femicide “an absolutely condemnable crime.”

 

“Justice must be done,” Ms. Sheinbaum said.

 

In the lower house of the Mexican Congress on Tuesday, lawmakers approved a reform to the penal code that would increase the maximum prison sentence for a femicide conviction to 65 years from 60 years. The measure has been sent to the Senate for a vote.

 

Also on Tuesday, a coalition of representatives from several political parties issued a declaration condemning gender-based violence and demanding that all levels of government strengthen the fight against it.

 

“This is a national crisis,” Ana Patricia Peralta, a representative from Morena, Mr. López Obrador’s party, said in a speech on Tuesday. “What else needs to happen for us to accept that violence against women in our country is an epidemic that has extended to all social strata?”

 

A senator from the National Action Party, Josefina Vázquez Mota, filed a proposal in the Senate to create a special commission that would monitor the prosecution of femicides against minors.

 

But Mr. López Obrador has been seen as dismissive. To the women who spray-painted calls for change on the National Palace, for example, he said “I ask feminists, with all due respect, not to paint the doors, the walls. We are working so that there are no femicides.”

 

His attitude was met with scorn by critics, particularly women’s rights activists.

 

“If trashing monuments makes authorities look at us and listen to our demands, then we will continue to do so,” said Beatriz Belmont, a student in economics and international relations at ITAM, a Mexico City university, and a member of the Fourth Wave, a feminist student collective.

 

She called the president’s responses to the crisis “unacceptable and unfitting for someone who should be acting as a national leader.”

 

“It seems like he is closing his eyes before a reality that is not only sitting in front of him but is slapping him in the face,” Ms. Belmont said.

 

On Wednesday morning, however, Mr. López Obrador seemed more receptive to the protesters’ demands, applauding the congressional vote in favor of harsher prison terms and attributing it in part to societal pressure. He even drew a parallel between the protesters and leaders of the Mexican Revolution.

 

“That is why the participation of citizens is important,” he said. “If there hadn’t been a Revolution, we wouldn’t have the 1917 Constitution.”




Mexico trans women fight for justice as killings go unpunished

By Associated Press

 

The LA Times (09.09.2019) – https://lat.ms/2m5wei0 – Months after Kenya Cuevas’ friend was killed in front of her, a funeral wreath with Cuevas’ name on it arrived at her doorstep. The implication was clear: Keep making noise about slain transgender women and you’ll be next.

 

Mexico has become the world’s second deadliest country after Brazil for transgender people, with 261 transgender women slain in 2013-2018, according to a recent study by the LGBTQ rights group Letra S.

 

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took office Dec. 1, has promised his government will carry out “effective” investigations into LGBTQ hate crimes, but the grisly rate continues. Sixteen transgender women were reported killed in the first four months of 2019 and at least six more since then, according to an Associated Press count of cases reported in local media.

 

Like most crime in Mexico, nearly all such slayings go unsolved and unpunished — less than 3% of the killings of LGBTQ members have resulted in convictions since 2013. So transgender community leaders and activists are largely on their own in pursuing long-denied justice.

 

Cuevas became an activist on Sept. 29, 2016. That night, her friend and fellow transgender sex worker Paola Buenrostro got into a client’s Nissan and was shot multiple times. When Cuevas ran to the car’s passenger side, the man pointed the gun at her head and pulled the trigger. The weapon jammed.

 

Cuevas grabbed the man and held him until police arrived, at which point she began recording on her cellphone. But despite multiple witnesses to the killing and Cuevas’ video, the man was released from custody a few days later.

 

An angry Cuevas soon quit sex work and founded the organization Casa de Muñecas, Spanish for “house of dolls,” to campaign for protections for transgender women. She is now one of the most visible transgender activists among a growing chorus of women seeking change from Mexico’s government.

 

Death threats have followed, and Cuevas now has security cameras installed at her home and is accompanied by two bodyguards provided by a governmental program that tries to protect activists and journalists.

 

“When that happened to Paola, I protested and I did it publicly, asking for justice the entire time,” Cuevas said. “I don’t want special treatment. Just give me justice — do your job.”

 

Lina Perez, president of the pro-LGBTQ organization Cuenta Conmigo, said slain transgender women rarely receive justice because authorities often look down on them.

 

“It’s easier to grant impunity because the same people that oversee the law think that they’re sick, that there is something wrong with them,” Perez said.

 

Activists do point to some victories in recent years. A major one came in 2014 when Mexico City became the first place in the country to let transgender people change their gender and names on their birth certificates, a law that has since been adopted by six of Mexico’s 31 states.

 

That change was pushed for in part by the activist group ProDiana, which is led by Diana Sanchez Barrios.

 

Sanchez Barrios said that before the law, transgender people had to go through expensive judicial processes to amend identifying documents. She was forced to undergo tests on her mental state, produce a litany of witnesses from throughout her life and spend thousands of dollars to legally change her gender and name a decade ago.

 

“It’s like you were on trial being made guilty just for being a trans woman,” Sanchez said.

 

About 4,000 transgender women have changed their official documents since Mexico City’s laws became more accepting, but violence persists.

 

“We’re always the most vulnerable,” Sanchez said. “We’re the perfect target for discrimination.”

 

ProDiana now is pushing for institutional reforms to prevent discrimination by key areas of the government, like the police.

 

Sanchez said police “have not been a great ally for trans women.” She described years of extortion and violence suffered at the hands of officers who are supposed to protect citizens.

 

A common thread of vulnerability runs through the lives of transgender women, who are often shunned by their own families and forced into the streets. Cuevas and Sanchez both ran away from home at a young age to begin their transitions.

 

“We went to the funerals of murdered friends and the families didn’t want us there,” Sanchez said. “We have to be very far from certain relationships in our friends’ lives.”

 

Many employers also refuse to hire transgender women, forcing them to rely on sex work and exposing them to the dangers of the streets, activists say.

 

Killings of transgender women mirror Mexico’s broader struggle against cartel and gang violence, with homicide totals setting new records several years running.

 

Last year, 53 transgender women were killed in Mexico. They include a woman found in a trash bin with her face pummeled beyond recognition by a rock. One was tortured to death by captors while her family heard her last moments over the phone. Another was found naked and strangled in her bedroom. No suspects have been publicly identified in those cases.

 

Most recently, on Aug. 13, a transgender woman died from eight stab wounds in Mexico City, local media reported. Her attacker escaped and police have named no suspects.

 

While Lopez Obrador’s government has publicly sided with LGBTQ rights, it’s not clear what protections might be put in place or envisioned to combat violence against the community.

 

Alexandra Haas, director of the federal National Council to Prevent Discrimination, said the administration wants to retrain local prosecutors and police in handling cases involving transgender sex workers. She said the government is working with the attorney general’s office to establish unified protocols across Mexico.

 

“It’s very important to us that we make it so local prosecutors take these cases seriously,” Haas said.

 

Sanchez said there is a lot of work to be done at all levels of government. She would like to see the federal government pass a marriage equality law, as it is currently governed on a state-by-state case, and challenge other local decisions that may infringe on rights such as legally changing one’s gender.

 

“This leftist government that has majority control of Congress and the Senate and locally in Mexico City has to generate laws in favor of sexual diversity,” Sanchez said.

 

In the capital’s Pride parade in June, Cuevas rode down the city’s premier avenue on top of a hearse to call attention to the violence against the transgender community.

 

Death has not stopped following her. Last January, Cuevas’ friend Pamela Sandoval became the first known transgender woman to be killed under the new administration.

 

Cuevas said she is willing to endure the death threats if it means she can help secure a safer world for Mexico’s transgender community.

 

“If I don’t do it, the government isn’t going to do it,” Cuevas said. “And if I wait for the government to do it, how many more people are going to be killed?”