Dominican activists recently held a press conference to denounce the silencing of anti-LGBTQ discrimination by the government.
The collective Red de Voluntarios de Amigos Siempre Amigos (REVASA), the organization Diversidad Dominicana and COIN (an organization geared to fight stigma and promote economic development for marginalized groups) said their actions are necessary to call attention to discrimination. They shared stories of gay men who were expelled from university and from jobs for their manner of dress, of lesbians who were physically attacked because neighbors didn't want them living nearby (and reportedly were confident no one would arrest them for attacking lesbians). Advocates also talked about the plight of transgender women and men who have no documents they can use that correspond to their gender and as a result to do not have access to employment, health care, housing and other basic needs.
Lesbian moms have had their kids taken away from them because of their orientation, said Rosanna Marzan from Diversidad Dominicana. She also shared that women are afraid to denounce instances of "corrective rape" perpetrated by family friends, or family members. She called for justice and anti-discriminatory laws. "We are human beings. We are not asking for new rights we simply want our human rights to be respected," Marzan said.
Breaking the silence and talking about the experiences is vital they say because governmental entities have concluded that there is no anti-LGBTQ discrimination in the country. "When asked about vulnerable groups experiencing Human Rights violations in DR as detailed in a report by the United States Embassy, representatives of the Public Defense Ministry amongst other government functionaries indicated that there is no discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals or trans people, negating the evidence we have presented and ignoring other documents that have made accusations [about the levels of discrimination] similar to ours," Deivis Ventura president of REVASA (the volunteer network of friends always friends, an LGBTQ rights group) stated during the press conference reported in Acento.com.
Francis Taylor from COIN mentioned that this February, Radhys Abreu from the Ministry for Foreign Relations told the UN that "In this country there is no discrimination or stigma towards LGBT groups as evidenced by the fact that they are able to organize diverse public actions like the Pride Caravan."
The Dominican Republic LGBTQ community was most recently in the US news, when President Obama appointed James "Wally" Brewster, an out gay man, to the role of ambassador to the country. Monsignor Pablo Cedano made an outrageous comment before Brewster was confirmed "I hope that he won't come, but if he does he will suffer and will have to leave [DR]." LGBTQ groups in DR organized a show of welcome to the new ambassador.
Ventura, of REVASA, recently visited the US and met with LGBTQ advocates here including GLAAD as part of a delegation of Caribbean, South and Central American activists. The meetings allowed for a free flow of information among Latino/a activists in the US and those back home in the sending countries sharing strategies, commonalities and specifics about the global struggle against discrimination.
Deivis Ventura, Center