Last Updated: Friday, 21 November 2014, 13:47 GMT

Costa Rica: Same-sex marriage; in particular, whether the authorities actively enforce Article 176 of the Penal Code (2002 - August 2007)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 12 September 2007
Citation / Document Symbol CRI102589.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Costa Rica: Same-sex marriage; in particular, whether the authorities actively enforce Article 176 of the Penal Code (2002 - August 2007), 12 September 2007, CRI102589.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/474e895ac.html [accessed 23 November 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Legislation

Article 14, subsection 6 of the Family Code (Codigo de Familia) states that marriage is illegal between persons of the same sex (Costa Rica 5 Aug. 1974). Penalties for breaking this law are outlined in Article 176 of the Penal Code (Codigo Penal), which provides for a prison sentence of between six months and three years for anyone who knowingly enters into an illegal marriage (ibid. 15 May 1971).

Situation

In 27 March 2007 correspondence with the Research Directorate, a representative of the San Jose-based homosexual rights organization, Diversity Movement (Movimiento Diversidad) provided all of the information for this section of this Response. While same-sex marriage is illegal in Costa Rica, Yashin Castrillo, a lawyer, launched a court challenge in 2003 questioning the constitutionality of the legal framework for the illegality of same-sex unions, and namely of Article 14.6 of the Family Code and Article 176 of the Penal Code. On 23 May 2006, the court ruled against the challenge, but the case was subsequently brought before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Information about the status of the case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints for this Response.

At the end of August 2006, the Diversity Movement presented a bill on same-sex unions to members of the Legislative Assembly (Asamblea Legislativa) that was accepted by certain members of the Assembly from the Christian Social Unity Party (Partido Unidad Social Cristiana), the Broad Front (Frente Amplio) and the Libertarian Movement Party (Partido Movimiento Libertario) (see also IPS 19 Sept. 2006). On 27 September 2006, the bill was sent to the Legal Services Commission (Comision de Asuntos Juridicos). Information on the status of the bill since it was sent to the Legal Services Commission could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Treatment

In separate August 2007 communication with the Research Directorate, a representative of the Central American Human Rights Research and Promotion Centre (Centro de Investigacion y Promocion para America Central de Derechos Humanos, CIPACDH), based in San Jose, Costa Rica, and an official at the government's Office of the Ombudsman (Defensoria de los Habitantes) in San Jose both stated that neither they nor members of their organizations were aware of any cases in which persons had been arrested, tried or convicted under Article 176 in relation to a same-sex marriage (CIPACDH 9 Aug. 2007; Costa Rica 22 Aug. 2007). Moreover, the CIPACDH Representative noted that individuals working in favour of or against same-sex unions at the legislative level have not been prevented from doing so (9 Aug. 2007).

The Diversity Movement Representative indicated that in essence, the government views same-sex couples as it would any other couple that wishes to live together without entering a legal union (Movimiento Diversidad 27 Mar. 2007). Furthermore, according to the Representative, since 1987, police repression that previously targeted homosexual establishments no longer occurs (ibid.).

A 17 June 2002 news article that appeared in the San Jose-based Internet newspaper AM Costa Rica noted that while same-sex unions were not legal, same-sex commitment ceremonies for foreign couples were "flourishing with society's increased acceptance of gay/lesbian lifestyles."

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

AM Costa Rica [San Jose]. 17 June 2002. Patricia Martin. "Costa Rica Rapidly Becoming World Wedding Capital." [Accessed 16 Mar. 2007]

Centro de Investigacion y Promocion para America Central de Derechos Humanos (CIPACDH). 9 August 2007. Correspondence from a representative.

Costa Rica. 22 August 2007. Defensoria de los Habitantes. Telephone interview with an official in the Judicial Services (Asuntos Juridicos) section.
_____. 5 August 1974. Ley No. 5476. Codigo de Familia. (Inter-American Children's Institute website) [Accessed 31 Aug. 2007]
_____. 15 May 1971. Ley No. 4573. Codigo Penal. (Organization of American States website). [Accessed 31 Aug. 2007]

Inter Press Service (IPS). 19 September 2006. Daniel Zueras. "Costa Rica: Congress to Study Bill on Homosexual Civil Unions." [Accessed 16 Mar. 2007]

Movimiento Diversidad. 27 March 2007. Correspondence from a representative.

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: 365gay.com, Agua Buena Human Rights Association, Al Dia [San Jose], Amnesty International (AI), Costa Rica - Defensoria de los Habitantes, Freedom House, Gay and Lesbian Guide to Costa Rica, Gay and Lesbian Times [San Diego], Gay Times, Global Gayz, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Inside Costa Rica [San Jose], International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), La Nacion [San Jose], Tico Times [San Jose], United States (US) Department of State, World News Connection/Dialog (WNC/Dialog), World Policy Institute.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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