LGBT rights in Colombia

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LGBT rights in Colombia
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal
Gender identity/expression None (see below)
Recognition of
"Unregistered cohabitation"
Adoption No
Military service Yes
Discrimination protections None (see below)

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) rights in Colombia have progressed since consensual homosexual activity was decriminalized in 1980 with amendments to the Criminal Code. Between February 2007 and April 2008 three rulings of the Constitutional Court granted registered same-sex couples the same pension, social security and property rights as for registered heterosexual couples. [1] Law reforms in the 1990s equalized the age of consent in Colombia at 14 for both homosexual and heterosexual sex.[1][2]

According to an April 2002 report by the Home Office of the United Kingdom, "It is not against Colombian law to be homosexual, but a considerable amount of public ill-will exists, as in most Latin American countries where a machismo attitude is widespread."[3]

Constitution & Legal

Article 13 of the Colombian Constitution of 1991 states that "the State will provide conditions for the equality to be real and effective, and will adopt measures in favour of marginalised or discriminated groups." However, despite a number of favorable Constitutional Court rulings on LGBT rights, there are no specific laws against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and police harassment of gays and lesbians has been a common occurrence, with transgendered people, especially, being the targets of "widespread ridicule and stigmatization."[1]

A 2002 assessment by the United Kingdom Home Office states that "administrative changes and court decisions since 1995 have brought in a different environment of rights and precedents."[3] In 1998, for example, the Constitutional Court ruled that public schoolteachers cannot be fired for revealing their sexual orientation, nor can private religious schools ban gay students from enrolling.[4] In 1999, the same court unanimously ruled that the armed forces could not ban homosexuals from serving, being a violation of constitutional guarantees of "personal and family intimacy" and "the free development of one's personality."[4]Nevertheless, "harassment and mistreatment of gays in the military continues."[1]

Recognition of same-sex couples

On February 7, 2007, the Colombian Constitutional Court extended common-law marriage property and inheritance rights to same-sex couples,[5][6] thanks to the constitutional action presented by the public interest law group of the Universidad de los Andes against the Ley 54. The decision did not include pension or social security (health insurance) rights. In a second ruling of 5 October 2007 the Constitutional court extended social security (health insurance) benefits to same sex couples, and on a ruling of 17 April 2008 pension rights were extended. With these three rulings same-sex couples in Colombia now enjoy the main benefits as heterosexual couples under the same terms.

These three rulings by the Constitutional Court replace the defeated Civil Union Law that fell in the Congress. On June 19, 2007, a gay rights bill, treating unregistered same-sex partners the same as unregistered opposite-sex partners, was defeated in the Congress of Colombia.[7] Slightly different versions of the bill passed in each house of the legislature, and President Álvaro Uribe indicated he would support it. A compromise bill then passed one house but failed in the other.[8][9]

The bill was defeated by a bloc of conservative senators. The bill, which had been endorsed by President Álvaro Uribe, would have made Colombia the first nation in Latin America to grant gay couples in long-term relationships the same rights to health insurance, inheritance and social security as heterosexual couples. However, with the rulings of the Constitutional Court same-sex couples today enjoy the same rights that this failed bill would have given them. As such, Colombia along with Uruguay are now the only two countries in Latin America that grant same sex couples a nation-wide legal mechanism to register and protect the rights of their civil unions.

Gay life in Colombia today

According to a report in the Washington Post, "Bogota has a thriving gay neighborhood, bars whose patrons are openly gay and a center that provides counseling and legal advice to members of the gay community. Local politicians, among them Mayor Luis Eduardo Garzón and prominent members of Congress such as Senator Armando Benedetti, have supported the drive to give more rights to gay couples . . . but violence against gays is not uncommon and discrimination remains a recurring problem."[10]

As Elizabeth Castillo, a lawyer and gay rights advocate, has stated, "even with the new [same-sex couples] law, many partners in gay relationships would probably be denied health and other benefits. . . . It's possible things won't change for some people," even if the law on same-sex couples' rights were to be enacted.[10]

Social cleansing: Early 1990's

Since the 1980s, amid widespread violence in Colombia, many gay, lesbian, and transgendered Colombians, along with thousands of other adults and children considered "human waste," "disposable people" (desechables),[11][12] have been the victims of assault, extortion, torture, and murder. For example, Grupo de Ambiente, a now-defunct gay-rights group, documented "328 murders by death squads (paramilitary groups) of lesbians and gay men between 1986 and 1990. Many of the bodies found showed signs of torture and mutilation."[4]

According to one report, in June 1992, in a town on the outskirts of Medellín, 5 gay men were taken from a gay bar and killed with submachine guns by a group of men. And in July 1994, human-rights lawyer Juan Pablo Ordonez reported that "around 7,000 of the 40,000 murders in Colombia last year were right-wing death-squad 'cleansings' of gays, transvestites and prostitutes." Ordonez subsequently was forced to flee for his safety to the United States after alleged persecution by Colombian police.[4] According to a 1996 report by Ordonez and Elliott, a Canadian lawyer,

Sexual minorities have become targets of the phenomenon known as "social cleansing" - the frequent, and often systematic, murder of those groups commonly referred to in Colombian society as "disposables": street children, vagrants, prostitutes, homosexuals and transvestites, and suspected petty criminals. The perpetrators point to an ineffective judicial system, and play to widespread fears about public safety, to "justify" their actions as "protecting" or "cleaning up" society, secure in the knowledge that they will never face prosecution or punishment for beating, torturing and murdering those who live on the social and economic fringes of Colombian society.[1]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Ordonez, Juan Pablo; Richard Elliott (1996). "Cleaning up the Streets": Human Rights Violations in Colombia and Honduras. International Lesbian and Gay Association. Archived from the original on 2004-06-24. Retrieved on 2009-11-13.
  2. Interpol report on legal age in Colombia (note that this report in Spanish seems to show the age of consent for females is 12, which contradicts other sources noted in this article).
  3. 3.0 3.1 Colombia Country Assessment (PDF). Country Information and Policy Unit, Immigration and Nationality Directorate, Home Office (United Kingdom). Retrieved on 2007-08-01.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 World Legal Survey: Colombia. International Lesbian and Gay Association (2000-07-31). Archived from the original on 2007-06-29. Retrieved on 2009-11-13.
  5. EL TIEMPO - Corte da primer derecho a parejas gays
  6. "Rights for Colombia gay couples", BBC News, 2007-02-08. Retrieved on 2007-07-30. .
  7. Colombia court backs rights for gay couples
  8. Colombia Gives Gay Couples Same Rights As Marriage. (2007-06-15). Archived from the original on 2007-06-18. Retrieved on 2009-11-13.
  9. Colombia Gay Unions Bill Dies. (2007-06-20). Archived from the original on 2007-06-26. Retrieved on 2009-11-13.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Forero, Juan. "Colombia to Recognize Gay Unions With Extension of Health, Other Benefits",, The Washington Post, 2007-07-16. Retrieved on 2007-07-30. 
  11. Generation Under Fire: Children and Violence in Colombia. Human Rights Watch, 1994 (1994). Retrieved on 2007-08-01.
  12. Althaus, Dudley; Dave Einsel, photographer. "Colombia's Crimson Night (series of articles on the violence and social cleansing in Colombia",, Houston Chronicle, 1997-10-26. Retrieved on 2007-08-01. 

External links


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