LGBT community faces continued discrimination in Peru

It amazes me how many parts of the world that a person cannot feel safe in. Because you are a woman, because you are a racial minority, because you are disabled, or because you are gay….

The LGBT community I know has struggled a lot over the last few years, even in more liberal countries like Canada. You hear about kids being beaten up because they are gay, or kids who are to afraid to tell their parents that they are gay because of the reaction they stand to face.

I didn’t know what it was like in Peru. I’m not gay, but even if I was I went to Peru with my mother so it wasn’t like I risked being discriminated against for being gay because I wasn’t with a special someone.

Honestly, I loved Peru. I thought it was a beautiful country, I thought I was treated really well by everyone. However, machismo was very, very apparent. Men would approach me and start talking to me and they were just a little bit too aggressive… Without really being aggressive… Who knew you could be aggressively friendly? But honestly, you can tell when someone is standing a little to close.

Machismo isn’t all bad, but it does easily pave the way for strongly traditional gender norms. According to Wikipedia, machismo is basically the way that men are trying to work for strong, traditional norms of men – and a women – where men are strong, providers, and not sensitive. This is a very traditional view of gender that easily lends itself to patriarchy and traditional lifestyles – the kind of traditions and societal attitudes that reject homosexuality.

Unfortunately, because of the religious and societal attitudes in Peru, the country continues to lag behind in the treatment of LGBT people compared to other Latin American countries.

There has been one congressman by the name of Carlos Bruce who has been fighting to pass a civil union bill for a few years now. His major opponent is the Catholic Archbishop in Lima, Juan Luis Cipriani. Originally, Cipriani was attacking Bruce saying that the only reason he wants the bill passed is because he is gay. Bruce would say that it didn’t matter what his own sexuality was, that he was trying to protect a human rights issue NOT his own interests (Nelson, 2013). While it turns out that Bruce really is gay (Lavers, 2014), his point remains the same. There are some supporters of the legislation but a poll shows that 65% of the country is still against civil unions for same-sex couples (Lavers, 2014). This seems like a shockingly high number because, even though I know homophobia exists in Canada, it is legal to get married here.

In my essay, I wrote about how Archbishop Cipriani was pissed because he presumed that Congressman Bruce was trying to ruin the sanctity of a Christian marriage. This isn’t what he was trying to do – he was trying to ensure that the LGBT community would be protected by law. I think it is hard for someone who isn’t very conservative/traditional in their religious views to see Archbishop Cipriani’s concerns as reasonable, but that is a tragically common view. ***SIDE NOTE: I know that not all religious people carry this view, that is why I stated that it is a very conservative/traditional view. I just want to make sure that is clear because I don’t want people misunderstanding my explanation.

So people have actually been attacked for being gay, a few people have even been killed for being gay. This also happens in the USA (and probably even in Canada), though it is a less common occurrence when you get to more and more liberal areas. It happens more than it should in Peru. Because there is little legal recognition or protection for the LGBT community, there is little to do to prevent hate crimes against those people – it isn’t even recognized as a hate crime last I checked

The Catholic Church is a major force in not allowing civil unions. Despite the fact that Peru is a secular country, the Catholic Church continues to wield a lot of power. As far as I know, the Catholic Church holds so much power because it really helped out the government when Peru first became an independent country and they continue to get to have a lot of say, even if it is on more of a social level now. There are actually a number of politicians who support the LGBT community and are supporting the legislation, and this supposedly also includes the president, so there is just a lot of disagreement abound here.

It is certainly a movement in the government and by the public to push for more rights for the LGBT people. This includes the work of MHOL, which is an advocacy group. MHOL, when translated into English (from Spanish), it is the Homosexual Movement of Lima.

If you are considering visiting Peru, and you are openly gay, it is advised that you be discreet in your romantic or sexual gestures. I hate having to say that. I hate that there are places in this world where a straight person can openly and fearlessly hold their partner hand when a gay person can’t because of the discrimination they might face. But I need to say that for the sake of the safety of people who are gay. A big city like Lima (the capital of Peru) has a larger LGBT community, but in smaller communities the general public isn’t likely to tolerate homosexual behaviour very well. – Sourced from Frommer’s and Trip Advisor

I do believe that Peru will improve in time. I hope it will improve soon because I loved Peru when I  visited and it makes me sad that people would have to be discriminated against in such a fascinating country.

Sources:

– “Machismo”, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machismo

– “Homosexuality and Catholicism in Peru”, me (Nelson), 2013 – this is a university essay I wrote, I would be happy to break down the sources if anyone is interested

– Peru ‘is not Uganda’ on LGBT Rights, Michael K. Lavers, http://www.washingtonblade.com/2014/09/18/peru-uganda-lgbt-rights/

– “Tips for Gay and Lesbian Travelers”, Frommer’s, http://www.frommers.com/destinations/peru/620917#sthash.w4twKoBc.dpbs

– “Lima: Gay Lima”, Trip Advisor, http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g294316-c50832/Lima:Peru:Gay.Lima.html

–  “It Gets Better: Peruvian Politician Comes Out Amid Debate for Same Sex Civil Unions, Show Cases Peru’s Fight Against Homophobia”, Patricia Ray Mallen, http://www.ibtimes.com/it-gets-better-peruvian-politician-comes-out-amid-debate-same-sex-civil-unions-showcases-1587266

– “Peru Gay Rights Activists Push for More Rights in Law, Mattia Cabitza, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-16965382

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