Washington, D.C., 9 December 2011 (PAHO/WHO) — A new report that analyzes tendencies in Latin America and the Caribbean in the enjoyment of health and human rights related to young people’s gender identity and sexual orientation was launched Dec. 8 by the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) during an event celebrating Human Rights Day 2011.
PAHO/WHO also honored several international leaders for their contributions to protecting and promoting the right to health.
The new report, “The Right of Young People to Health and Gender Identities Findings, Trends and Targets for Public health Action,” proposes a series of public health actions for adoption by countries in the Americas, including:
- Decriminalization of sexual relations between people of the same sex
- Elimination of other forms of sanction against people of diverse gender identities or sexual orientation
- Expanded access to health services for youths and for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual and intersexual (LGTBI) people.
- Stronger enforcement of laws that prohibit discrimination against women, youths, children, and LGTBI people and against members of other vulnerable groups, such as prisoners, sex workers and drug users.
The report also calls for new mechanisms to protect youths against human rights violations and recommends that violations be investigated to prevent discrimination against youths, women, children, and LGTBI individuals.
The report is based on the results of 11 training workshops carried out by PAHO/WHO in collaboration with the Embassy of Norway in Guatemala, which evaluated the human rights situation of youths and vulnerable groups including women, children, LGTBI people, and people with HIV. The Washington School of Law of the American University also collaborated in the efforts.
Among the main conclusions of the workshops were that stigma, discrimination, and violence against vulnerable groups persist in Latin America and the Caribbean, and that more awareness raising and training is needed about human rights instruments, norms and standards related to these rights. The workshops also highlighted the lack of legislation, policies, and programs that incorporate the needs of adolescents and LGTBI people, as well as the lack of mechanisms for detecting, investigating and punishing violations of human rights.
In presenting the report, PAHO Director Mirta Roses noted that there have been important advances in sexual and reproductive health among women and adolescents. However, “despite the progress achieved, there still exist significant levels of stigma, discrimination and violence against certain groups in vulnerable situations. Our goal is to improve the health of youths independently of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression of these,” she said.
Marcela Romero, founder of REDLACTRANS, thanked Dr. Roses and PAHO/WHO for their work in recent years to promote inclusion and to ensure the right to access to health for transsexuals in the Americas. She asked the Director to be a spokesperson for the elimination of gender disorders as pathologies in the WHO classification of mental and behavioral disorders. “We want Latin America to be a model in this area,” she said.
During the ceremony, PAHO/WHO honored Iranian brothers Arash and Kamiar Alaei, winners of the 2011 Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights. The two physicians were imprisoned in their native country for helping patients with HIV/AIDS. Kamiar was freed at the end of 2010 after two and a half years in prison, and Arash was freed in August 2011 after serving a three-year sentence. Both brothers worked in prison to improve the health and human rights of prisoners.
Also honored was the Arco Iris Association, which works to promote and protect the rights of LGTBI groups, with special recognition for Donny Reyes, who was jailed for a year in Honduras because of his work on behalf of the organization.
PAHO Assistant Director Socorro Gross noted the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to PAHO/WHO’s work. She accepted a special recognition on behalf of PAHO’s country office in Costa Rica, for its work in the area of sexual and reproductive health rights and for training it provided to its staff on human rights instruments.
The freedom kite, the new symbol of the Human Rights Campaign, was displayed prominently during the event, and its creator, David Goldstein, was among the participants.
PAHO was established in 1902 and works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of the people of the Americas. It also serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO).
- The Right of Young People to Health and Gender Identities Findings, Trends and Targets for Public health Action
- The Right of Young People to Health and Gender Identities