Things That Matter

Marriage Equality Could Soon Be The Law Of The Land In Bolivia After Country Recognizes Its First Same-Sex Marriage

LGBTQ Bolivians are celebrating the news of a gay couple who have been together for 11 years and just now had their relationship legally recognized by the government.

After a two year legal battle, the nation’s Constitutional Court ruled that Bolivia’s registró civil must recognize the couple’s relationship and afford them the same rights that opposite-sex couples have.

Many are hoping that this court ruling from the nation’s highest court will lead to additional changes for the country’s LGBTQ community and finally bring marriage equality to one of the few remaining countries in South America that don’t already recognize same-sex marriage.

A gay couple has become the first same-sex couple to get legally married in Bolivia.

After a protracted legal fight, David Aruquipa, a 48-year-old businessman, and Guido Montaño, a 45-year-old lawyer, were able to marry one another thanks to a court ruling in their favor.

Although the country’s constitution still defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, many are seeing this legal ruling as a victory for Bolivia’s LGBTQ community, not to mention the newlywed couple.

Aruquipa and Montaño’s legal battle kicked off in 2018 when the Bolivian civil registry refused to recognize their union, arguing that the country did not allow same-sex marriages.

Bolivia’s constitutional court ruled in July that the civil registry must recognize their relationship as a free union. The court also ruled that the country’s constitution must be interpreted in a way that lines up with human rights and equality standards. Referencing a 2017 opinion published by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the constitutional court ruled that all rights enjoyed by opposite-sex couples should be given to same-sex couples.

And although this court ruling didn’t legalize same-sex marriage in Bolivia, it’s a major step forward towards reforming the country’s marriage laws.

David and Guido have been together for more than 11 years and hope their marriage brings hope to the LGBTQ community.

Aruquipa and Montaño have been together for more than 11 years, with two of those years being involved in this complicated legal battle. So, it was a major win for the couple to be able to finally see their union recognized by the government.

Following the court’s ruling in July, José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch, said: “Gay and lesbian couples are an integral part of Bolivia’s social fabric and deserve to be recognized by the state and its institutions.”

At a press conference following their marriage, Arequipa said of their marriage that “It is an initial step, but what inspires us is [the goal] of transforming the law.” He added that “All civil registries in Bolivia should stop treating us like second class citizens and start recognizing our unions.”

“It is an initial step, but what inspires us is [the goal] of transforming the law,” Aruquipa said at a press conference.

Despite religious pushback, Latin America has gradually come to accept same-sex marriage.

Credit: AIZAR RALDES/AFP via Getty Images

Despite considerable opposition from religious groups, gay marriage has become increasingly accepted in Latin America. In fact, same-sex couples were legally able to marry in Argentina (2010), Brazil and Uruguay (2013) before they were accepted in the United States (2015).

Colombia and Ecuador were ahead of the curve, having de facto recognition of same-sex couples since 2007 and 2009 respectively. Meanwhile, parts of Mexico have been accepting same-sex marriage since 2010.

In January 2018, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that the American Convention on Human Rights recognizes same-sex marriage as a human right. This has made the legalization of such unions mandatory in the following countries: Barbados, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Suriname.

However, public opinion and treatment of the LGBTQ community remains complicated. Paraguay and Bolivia still maintain constitutional bans on same-sex marriage but people’s attitudes can be even more challenging. Violence against same-sex couples and transgendered people are still major issues that affect the LGBTQ community across Latin America.

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Honduras Moves To Enshrine Bans On Abortion And Marriage Equality In The Constitution

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Honduras Moves To Enshrine Bans On Abortion And Marriage Equality In The Constitution

ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP via Getty Images

Honduras already has one of the world’s strictest bans on abortion. It’s completely banned in all circumstances, including even in cases of rape and incest, and when the person’s life and the health are in danger. The country also has a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, including recognizing those that were performed abroad.

So, why is the country moving to further limit access to abortion and marriage equality?

The Honduran Congress has voted to make it impossible to legalize abortion and same-sex marriage.

In the first round of voting, the country’s congress had voted to move forward on complete and total constitutional bans against abortion and marriage equality. But lawmakers are taking it a step further, by increasing the votes needed to undo their constitutional amendments in the future.

One lawmaker referred to the legislation as a “constitutional lock” to prevent any future moderations of the abortion law.

However, the amendments require a second reading/vote and activists across the country (and world) are mobilizing to help stop these amendments from being voted in. But they face an uphill battle, as the legislation has overwhelming support within Congress and from the country’s staunchly conservative president.

Honduras already has among the world’s strictest bans on abortion.

Abortion in Honduras is already illegal in all circumstances. The country’s criminal code imposes prison sentences of up to six years on people who undergo abortions and medical professionals who provide them. The government also bans emergency contraception, or “the morning after pill,” which can prevent pregnancy after rape, unprotected sex, or contraceptive failure.

“Honduras’ draconian legislation already bans abortions, even in cases of rape and incest, when the person’s life and the health are in danger, and when the fetus will not survive outside the womb,” said Ximena Casas, Americas women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “This decree will make it virtually impossible to carry out the recommendations from multiple international human rights bodies to end this violation of reproductive rights.”

Honduras also already has a strict ban on same-sex marriage.

The 2005 constitutional amendment prohibits recognizing marriage between people of the same sex, including same-sex marriages contracted in other countries. Honduras also bans adoption by same-sex couples.

“By seeking to permanently and comprehensively block any possibility of accessing marriage for same-sex couples, the Honduran Congress is entrenching state-sponsored homophobia,” said Cristian González Cabrera, Americas lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“In a country where LGBT people already experience high levels of violence and discrimination, this effort to amend the constitution is sending the message that these people may be further stigmatized.”

Congress is also making it harder for future lawmakers to undo their constitutional amendments.

Not only was it not enough to double down on these draconian bans on abortion and marriage equality, lawmakers are moving to increase the threshold of votes to undo their bans.

Constitutional changes have until now been permitted with a two-thirds majority, but the new legislation raises that bar to three-quarters within the 128-member body. The measure still needs to be ratified by a second vote. However, support was clear on Thursday: with 88 legislators voting in favor, 28 opposed and seven abstentions.

Mario Pérez, a lawmaker with the ruling party of President Juan Orlando Hernandez, formally proposed the change last week, calling it a “constitutional lock” to prevent any future moderations of the abortion law.

Many see the constitutional amendment as a response to Argentina’s move to legalize abortion last month.

It was just last month that Argentina voted in favor of legalizing access to abortion. The South American nation became the largest Latin American country to allow abortion after its senate approved the historic law change by 38 votes in favor to 29 against, with one abstention.

For years, abortion has also been illegal in Argentina. The procedure was illegal except in cases where the mother or baby’s lives were in danger. In 2019, the country passed a law that also included rape victims as exceptions. 

The push towards various kinds of gender rights–including abortion rights–has been central to President Alberto Fernández’s administration. The center-left politician campaigned on a platform that emphasized the rights of women, gay, and trans communities since he was elected in 2019. Even throughout the devastation of the pandemic, Fernández has insisted on keeping his promises towards marginalized communities.

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Evo Morales Enjoys Triumphant Return To Bolivia After A Year In Exile, But What’s Next For The Socialist Leader?

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Evo Morales Enjoys Triumphant Return To Bolivia After A Year In Exile, But What’s Next For The Socialist Leader?

RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP via Getty Images

After spending more than a year in exile, Evo Morales, the former leader of Bolivia, has returned to a Bolivia that is more polarized than ever before. The former president can thank the victory of his left-wing MÁS party for being able to return the country he left last November.

As he returned to the country, he was greeted with a homecoming tour as his supporters hail him for the economic and social progress made during his 14 years in power. But his detractors, of which there are many, aren’t exactly celebrating his return.

Many accuse him of leading the country towards authoritarianism and spreading corruption. In fact, Morales was only forced into exile after trying to secure an unprecedented fourth term as president, which had been rejected in a 2016 referendum where voters decided he should not have that right.

Bolivia’s former leader – Evo Morales – has returned after living a year in exile.

Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first Indigenous president, returned to Bolivia from Argentina one day after Luis Arce, his protégée, was sworn in as the nation’s new president. Arce is now leading Morales’ leftist political party – Movement Towards Socialism (MÁS).

While Arce had been leading in the polls, he surprised many observers by winning outright in the first round. Morales welcomed the news by immediately returning to Bolivia.

It was just over a year ago that Morales was forced into exile after leading the country for almost 14 years. Many were angry that he ran for re-election in 2019 despite a majority voting against dropping presidential term limits from the constitution.

He subsequently lost the support of the chief of the army, who urged him to resign as mass protests over allegations of vote rigging swept across the country.The protests continued for weeks – and combined with pressure from the army and the police – led to Morales’s resignation and his move into exile first in Mexico and then in Argentina.

Morales enjoyed a homecoming tour on his return to Bolivia from exile in Argentina.

Waving the Whipala, the checkered colorful Indigenous flag and chanting, “Evo, Evo,” thousands of supporters welcomed the return of Morales. After crossing the border from Argentina, Morales began a 600-mile homecoming tour backed by a massive motorcade.

“In the past year I’ve never felt abandoned,” he told the crowd, referring to his year in exile. In fact, it was almost a year to the day since he had fled the same city.

The Bolivian leader continues to maintain that the United States had a hand in provoking the “coup d’état” that forced him from power.

Though not all Bolivians are excited about the former president’s return.

As crowds cheered and welcomed the former resident, many Bolivians believe that his return risks derailing the new president’s stated intention to reunite the country after a year of rule by a right-wing interim government.

Morales has repeatedly said that he will not engage in politics, but many remain skeptical. He remains as the head of the MÁS party and many say it would be difficult to imagine a world in which Morales avoids meddling in political matters.

Though his supporters would certainly like to see him get involved.

“Here are his people, he knows how to listen to the Indigenous people,” said Elizabeth Arcaide, a 43-year-old woman who wiped away tears during a rally in Orinoca, where hundreds turned out at a local football field under a scorching sun to welcome home the “son of the people.”

Though it remains to be seen what role Morales could play in the future of Bolivia.

Long a polarizing figure in Bolivian politics, Morales’ future in the country remains to be seen. Arce, often referred to by his nickname Lucho, has insisted that Morales will have no role in his new government.

For his part, Morales has said that he would only be working on organizing with labor unions and to help spread socialist ideas as an advocate.

“I will share my experience in the union struggles, because the fight continues,” he told supporters on Monday. “As long as capitalism exists, the people’s fight will continue, I’m convinced of this.”

But experts said Morales, who remains the head of the MAS and continues to command strong loyalty among his core of supporters in rural areas and Indigenous groups, is likely to continue to loom large not only over the party he founded, but on the politics of the country as a whole.

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