“¿Cómo te llamas?” is a powerful question, laden with deeper meanings. It is Spanish for “What’s your name?”, which is straightforward enough. Yet more literally, it means “How do you name yourself?” It is not every day that people win the right to rename themselves, their gender and future in any country, but in Latin America, Bolivia has just approved a new gender identity law – and is very proud of it.
This new legislation, approved last week by the Parliament and the Senate, is the result of a long and persistent struggle led by civil society and organizations such as Capacitación y Derechos Humanos (CDC), Adesproc Libertad, Red Trebol and Fundación Igualdad together with Hivos and Conexion.
From now on, transgender and transsexual people will be able to change their names, sex data and photograph on all public and private identity documents. According to the definitions established by the law, gender identity is a person’s own lived gender experience that corresponds to what he/she feels it should be and the way he/she lives it in society. Gender is not something exclusively connected to the sex assigned to a person at birth.
Bolivia is a polarized country with a complicated political scene. In spite of that, both Democratic Union and Christian Democrat party members voted in favor, declaring they were acting according to conscience. “This is a law that allows us to give back the lives and the possibility of happiness to hundreds of people that suffer discrimination and violence until death,” explained Gabriela Montaño, President of the Parliament.
A matter of Human Rights
Religious groups protested against this legislation after the law’s dissemination, and according to the local newspaper El Deber, the Catholic Church announced it would appeal against it. Simultaneously, Bolivia’s Women’s Movement and organizations such as Colectivo Rebeldia and Campaña 28 de Septiembre have marched in support of the Gender Identity Law, claiming it protects basic human rights.
Bolivia is the third country in Latin America with a Gender Identity Law: In the past years, a Gender Identity Legislation was approved in Argentina and Ecuador as well.
Hivos and Oxfam UK jointly manage the Conexion fund. Conexion provides grants to public and private organizations in Bolivia that stimulate changes in gender relations and have a clear focus on emancipation and economic and social empowerment. The fund is an initiative of the Dutch and Canadian bilateral aid programs in the country; the present phase will continue until 2017.
For many years, Hivos has been working on issues of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), with a strong focus on LGBT Rights, (bodily) self-determination, freedom of choice and pleasure.
In itself, SRHR constitutes a sensitive issue in most countries. However, Hivos consciously chooses to work in areas within the field of SRHR that are especially controversial, such as enhancing the sexual rights and health of marginalized groups.
Read this press item in Spanish.