LBQ Women’s Rights to Health, Education and Political Participation
Group: Equal Rights Front (Frente por las Derecho Igualitarios – FDI).
Department: National reach
From the voice of: Larissa Arroyo, coordinator.
The Equal Rights Front (FDI) is a union of organizations, collectives and independent activists that work in favor of LGBTIQ rights in Costa Rica. We work for all human rights to be recognized and guaranteed, with a particular emphasis on lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex populations. FDI joins diverse social and political forces, united in the struggle for equal rights, social change, and improved political, social and cultural conditions for the LGBTI community.
Various events sparked the birth of FDI in 2013. Of note was the defeat in 2010 of the “hate referendum,” which sought to block legal recognition of same-sex unions and later, the Invisibles Movement and other protests in 2012 following the appointment of ex-congressman Justo Orozco as the president of the Human Rights Commission in the Legislative Assembly. Working together became a priority for many LGBTI organizations and activists in the country. As a first line of action in 2013, FDI led a process to collect signatures in favor of presenting proposed legislation for marriage equality through a public initiative. In the past several years, we have consolidated our role as an organization of reference and a space for communication, mobilization, reflection and advocacy in favor of respect for and recognition of equal rights.
Advocating on behalf of LBQ rights
While Costa Rica is a democratic country that has made progress in terms of recognizing and guaranteeing the human rights of LGBTI persons, the specific needs of lesbian, bisexual and non-heterosexual women were not being taken into consideration. This made us realize that we had been working on behalf of LGBTI persons, but had not worked directly with LBQ women and this gap had implications for their access to health, education and political participation.
To meet this need, we developed a pioneering and innovative project with lesbian, bisexual and non-heterosexual women, which had a large impact. From this initiative, we were able to achieve the approval of guidelines for lesbian, bisexual and non-heterosexual women’s health, something that had never been thought of before. Social Security (our public health agency) had created guidelines for LBGTI persons, about anti-discrimination, and trans persons, but had never considered the specific needs of lesbian and bisexual women, and that is where we came in to say that the LGBTI needs to be broken down. When we came up with this project, we didn’t realize it would reach this level of success. We knew that it was important and that it make a contribution, but it exceeded our expectations. It’s now a mechanism that the United Nations utilizes, and many people utilize. It’s something that transcends us.
Once in a work session we mentioned that the Costa Rican government had not made progress toward guidelines for lesbian, bisexual and non-heterosexual women, and someone said, “Of course they’ve done things.” So, we asked them to share with us what the government had done, and the first thing they mentioned were the guidelines for bisexual, lesbian and non-heterosexual women that was built by us, by civil society. I was shocked. It was satisfying to see that the materials that had come out of civil society were being adopted. This is an instrument not only for civil society, as we had planned, but the State itself took ownership of this agenda in order to take action. Beyond us, beyond FDI, we believe that this is an effort that fulfilled our expectations for success, to be able to build those guidelines and present that agenda before the government.
Our main achievement, despite internal challenges (from being a small organization, with limited resources, without infrastructure and hired staff) and external challenges (it was very difficult for lesbian and bisexual women to speak out and come to workshops), is positioning our agenda before the government and the United Nations.