Disappointment for LGBTI activists at 7th Summit of the Americas

(Castries, April 14, 2015) United and Strong’s Board Secretary/PRO Jessica St Rose is expressing disappointment following a much anticipated attendance at the Seventh Summit of the Americas held in Panama City, Panama on April 10-11, 2015.

The Summits of the Americas are institutionalized gatherings of the heads of state and government of the Western Hemisphere where leaders discuss common policy issues, affirm shared values and commit to concerted actions at the national and regional level to address continuing and new challenges faced in the Americas.

As part of a forum that included Civil Society and Social Partners to encourage dialogue and consider the inputs and proposals to the heads of State and delegations participating in the Summit, St. Rose and other LGBT activists indicate they are not pleased with the response given to them at the Summit.

St. Rose with ILGA's Kennedy
St. Rose with ILGA’s Kennedy

“It was indeed a disappointing that at the Summit whose theme for this year is ‘Prosperity with Equity’, attempts by LGBT organizations and activists to include LGBT issues in the policies presented were denied,” states St. Rose. She notes that she held high hopes of attending the summit and having the voices of the LGBT activist and organizations heard and considered on various issues affecting the LGBT and minority groups in the continent and the Caribbean.  She stresses that the summit included many prominent representatives of government from around the region, which made it one of the most important political forums to address the issues brought forward by these activists.

The Coalition of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Travesti, Transgender, Transsexual and Intersex Organizations from Latin America and the Caribbean also notes its disappointment in issuing a list of takeaways from the summit. LGBTTTI Coalition of groups from more than twenty countries, was part of the Civil Society and the Youth Forum and notes in its statement, “This was a Summit unlike any other in which all the attention was focused on the USA’s bilateral relationships with Cuba and Venezuela.

“As a Latin American Coalition, we recognize the importance of these matters and we also know that our region is facing a historical moment in which traditional structures (like the OAS) coexist and clash with newer ones (like UNASUR, the Pacific Alliance, etc.) reflecting the power struggles between countries and models. It is in this context that our work aims to position issues of human rights and sexual orientation, gender identity and expression in as many spaces as possible, because we are part of all peoples, and all political decisions made in our region affect us.”

Civil society advocates fought to have their voices heard
Civil society advocates fought to be heard

Among the LGBTTTI Coalition highlights from the summit are strong support for non-discrimination by United States President Barack Obama and President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil and mention of the term “sexual rights” for the first time in a Civil Society Forum document. Takeaways also include the lack of support for the civil society dialogue and clashes with religious fundamentalist and anti-rights groups.

Helen Kennedy, Co-Secretary General of ILGA World board similarly expressed, “We came here to Panama City with the expectation of a Summit ready to listen to the voices of LGBTI organisations and activists on issues affecting millions of people in the continent, as the presence of prominent representatives from the 35 countries from the region make this the most important political forum of the Americas. Unfortunately. these expectations have turned to bitter disappointment as repeated attempts by ILGA representatives to include LGBTI specific language in important policy documents were denied, while the ‘Health and education forum’ discussion refused to acknowledge intersex people, sogi and non-traditional families.”

United and Strong thanks the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice and ILGA World for making St. Rose’s attendance, and advocacy at the 7th SoA possible.

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