Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 October 2014, 16:06 GMT

Venezuela: Situation and treatment of homosexuals, particularly in Caracas; recourse available to those who have been harrassed based on their sexual orientation (2006 - August 2009)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 17 September 2009
Citation / Document Symbol VEN103243.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Venezuela: Situation and treatment of homosexuals, particularly in Caracas; recourse available to those who have been harrassed based on their sexual orientation (2006 - August 2009), 17 September 2009, VEN103243.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b7cee8c8.html [accessed 22 October 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.

Situation and treatment

Homosexuality is legal in Venezuela (GlobalGayz.com n.d.; ACCSI 2008, 4). Same-sex marriage is not legally recognized (GlobalGayz.com n.d.; Pink News 21 July 2009). However, the Venezuelan National Assembly has engaged in a first round of discussions regarding a proposed law that would acknowledge "the rights of co-habiting same-sex couples and introduce civil unions" (ibid. 21 July 2009; see also ACSOL 18 Aug. 2009).

Globalgayz.com states that Venezuela "is home to a thriving gay community" (n.d.). Cited in a 3 July 2006 Venezuelanalysis.com article, gay health promoter Daniel Romero states that significant discrimination against homosexuals still exists but that "in Caracas things are pretty well liberated." Similarly, an 18 February 2009 article in the Sydney Star Observer reports that although "Venezuelan society has yet to embrace homosexuality completely ... Caracas does have a gay infrastructure with gay bars and a keen activist movement." A representative of Acción Solidaria (ACSOL), a Caracas-based non-profit organization founded in October 1995 to address HIV/AIDS issues (ACSOL n.d.), provided the following information in correspondence with the Research Directorate:

Caracas ... has different realities for homosexuals. On the one hand, there are many meeting venues – bars, saunas – but there is no general openness regarding public showing of one´s sexual orientation or of an affectionate relationship with someone of one´s own sex. (ACSOL 18 Aug. 2009)

According to Venezuelanalysis.com, in 2006, Caracas held its sixth annual gay pride parade (3 July 2006).

A Caracas-based lawyer specializing in gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) issues provided the following information in correspondence with the Research Directorate:

Violence against homosexuals exists, although it is not the worst in Latin America.... 50% of homosexuals report at least one incident with public forces during the previous 6 months (verbal or physical violence, blackmail, etc.). In ... cities [other than Caracas], the situation is worse. (Lawyer 21 Aug. 2009)

Similarly, Acción Ciudadana Contra el SIDA (ACCSI), a non-profit organization focussed on the rights of persons living with HIV/AIDS in Venezuela (n.d.), states that, according to a 2008 survey on homophobia and violence in Venezuela, GLBT persons have had negative experiences with the police, including verbal and physical aggression (ACCSI 2008, 15). According to a representative of Unión Afirmativa de Venezuela (UNAF), an organization focussed on GLBT rights, gay men are sometimes detained and blackmailed by the police (18 Aug. 2009). GlobalGayz.com states that "police harassment and homophobia in the workplace remain as serious problems" (n.d.). The ACSOL Representative claims that there have been murders of gay men that have not been investigated by the police (18 Aug. 2009).

Several sources state that transgender persons are targets of violence (BBC 2 June 2009; IGLHRC 10 June 2009; Lawyer 21 Aug. 2009; ACSOL 18 Aug. 2009; UNAF 18 Aug. 2009). The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) states in a 10 June 2009 article that four murders of transgender persons have occurred in Caracas since 7 November 2008. The ACSOL Representative states that there have been at least six transgender murders in 2009 (18 Aug. 2009).

In contrast, the UNAF Representative states that "violent abuses by police forces or derogatory acts by private citizens against sexual minorities" are rare (18 Aug. 2009).

Available recourse

With respect to discrimination, Article 21 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela states the following:

No discrimination based on race, sex, creed or social standing shall be permitted, nor, in general, any discrimination with the intent or effect of nullifying or encroaching upon the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on equal terms, of the rights and liberties of every individual. (Venezuela 1999)

A 28 February 2008 Venezuelan Supreme Court decision states that Article 21 of the Constitution is interpreted to mean that discrimination based on sexual orientation is not permitted (28 Feb. 2008). The UNAF Representative corroborates that, due to a Supreme Court ruling, the Constitution is interpreted as to forbid discrimination based on sexual orientation (18 Aug. 2009).

In contrast, in a 2 June 2009 article by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Venezuelan law professor Tamara Adriàn states that the GLBT community is "given no legal protection whatsoever." Similarly, the Venezuelanalysis.com article notes that the Venezuelan constitution does not exclusively protect GLBT rights (3 July 2006). The ACSOL Representative corroborates that "there are no specific legal instruments to prevent instances of discrimination or to proceed through the courts once they have taken place" (ACSOL 18 Aug. 2009).

With respect to whether recourse is available to individuals who experience discrimination based on their sexual orientation, the Caracas-based Lawyer stated that while it is theoretically possible, in practical terms, it is "almost impossible" (21 Aug. 2009).

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 sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Acción Ciudadana Contra el SIDA (ACCSI). 2008. "Segundo Informe 2008." Provided in correspondence with the Research Directorate.
_____. N.d. "Antecedentes." [Accessed 8 Sept. 2009]

Acción Solidaria (ACSOL). 18 August 2009. Correspondence with a representative.
_____. N.d. "Organización." [Accessed 26 Aug. 2009]

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 2 June 2009. Will Grant. "Venezuela 'Silent' on Hate Crimes Rise." [Accessed 13 Aug. 2009]

GlobalGayz.com. N.d. "Venezuela." [Accessed 13 Aug. 2009]

International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). 10 June 2009. "Venezuela: Protest the Murder of a Transwoman in Caracas." [Accessed 13 Aug. 2009]

Lawyer [Caracas]. 21 August 2009. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

Pink News [London]. 21 July 2009. Ramsey Dehani. "Venezuelan Government Moves to Estabish Greater LGBT Rights." [Accessed 13 Aug. 2009]

Sydney Star Observer. 18 February 2009. Lyndon Barnett. "Venezuela Lagging on Reform." [Accessed 17 Aug. 2009]

Unión Afirmativa de Venezuela (UNAF). 18 August 2009. Correspondence with a representative.

Venezuela. 28 February 2008. El Tribunal Supremo de Justicia. "Mediante Sentencia No. 190 de 28 Febrero de 2008." [Accessed 8 Sept. 2009]
_____. 1999. Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. (Analitica) [Accessed 2 Sept. 2009]

Venezuelanalysis.com. 3 July 2006. Michael Fox. "6th Annual Gay and Lesbian Pride Celebrated in Venezuela." [Accessed 13 Aug. 2009]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Attempts to contact representatives of Alianza Lambda de Venezuela, Asesoria en educación y salud de Venezuela (ASES) and Movímento Gay Revolucionario de Venezuela were unsuccessful. A representative of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) was unable to provide information.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International (AI), European Country of Origin Information Network (ecoi.net), Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l'homme (FIDH), Freedom House, Gay Times, Human Rights Watch (HRW), International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Pink Triangle Trust, Refworld, Sodomy Laws, United States (US) Department of State, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI).

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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