Venezuela’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community held their annual pride march in Caracas on July 1.
This year’s march was larger than last year’s event and formed part of continental gay pride activities with large demonstrations held in Colombia, Argentina and Brazil.
More than 40,000 activists demanded action from the government on a number of key issues, including the legalisation of civil unions, the promotion of a law against sexual, identity and/or gender discrimination, extending adoption opportunities to the LGBTI community, and improved access to medication for those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
The march culminated 30 days of cultural, sporting, recreational and political LGBTI activities in Caracas as part of the inaugural Sexual Diversity Rebellion month.
The slogan for this year’s Pride march was “18 years breaking out of the closet in Venezuela” in reference to the renewed prominence and legal rights which the LGBTI community has won during the 19-year-long Bolivarian process.
March participant Oswaldo García said that today he feels free “thanks to the revolution,” claiming that before 1999 the LGBTI community faced social and even police repression when publically taking to the streets.
However, others expressed frustration at the slow pace of progress in changing opinions in society, which, especially in rural areas, continue to be conservative and discriminatory towards LGBTI citizens.
Juan Bolivar came to the activity “to march for my rights, for the right to marry, to express my homosexuality where I want … for the right to show affection in the streets without anyone telling me off.”
“There’s plenty of discrimination in Venezuela,” he added.
His sentiments were echoed by Pamela Monterrubio, a transgender hair stylist, who explained that “we suffer a lot of humiliation and bullying.”
Amid the numerous proposals advanced by the participants, Monterrubio called for a legal change in Venezuela’s identity card system that would allow for transgender citizens to modify their legal status.
In a parallel and smaller activity, LGBTI doctors denounced the lack of HIV/AIDS medical coverage in Venezuela, claiming that 75% of those who suffer from the disease cannot receive treatment.
Venezuela is currently in the midst of a deep economic crisis exacerbated by US-led financial sanctions, which has restricted access to imported food and vital medicines, such as anti-retroviral drugs.
[Abridged from Venezuela Analysis.]