Venezuela: Regarding the Discussion of the Draft Organic Law for Gender Equity and Equality

Currently under discussion in the National Assembly is the draft law for gender equity and equality, although we do not know if the proposal of Romelia Matute, MP, which establishes that "everyone has the right to exercise their sexual orientation and identity freely and without discrimination, and consequently, the state shall recognize cohabitation partnerships (civil unions) between two people consisting of same sex by mutual agreement" is included.

By Jessie Blanco - Marea Socialista
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Currently under discussion in the National Assembly is the draft law for gender equity and equality, adopted in the first round of discussion and on the point of being approved in the second, although we do not know if the proposal of Romelia Matute, MP and promoter of Article 8 of the controversial bill which establishes that "everyone has the right to exercise their sexual orientation and identity freely and without discrimination, and consequently, the state shall recognize cohabitation partnerships (civil unions) between two people consisting of same sex by mutual agreement" is included. The article also states that people who "change their sex by surgical or other procedures, have the right to be recognized by their identity and to obtain or modify documents associated with their identification", helping the state to creating the conditions for their social integration "under conditions of equality."

This bill aims to ensure and promote the rights of women and men based on equality, justice, responsibility and non-discrimination enshrined in the constitution and international treaties and conventions signed by our country. It includes within sexual and reproductive rights, the freedom to decide whether or not to procreate (based on Article 76 of the Constitution). However, note that the first draft, which was amended substantially in the first discussion, included a broader definition of sexual and reproductive rights including "the right not to die due to predictable and preventable causes related to sexual and reproductive health."

It is worth recalling that one of the causes of death among women is related to reproductive health, not just motherhood, but to unsafe clandestine abortions because of their status of illegality. While rich women pay a private clinic for their illegal abortions or travel to countries where they are decriminalized, the poor die from abortions performed in unsafe conditions and due to its criminalisation.

In this way, the discussion on the topic of the decriminalization of abortion and the related issue of same sex unions - with all the heavy baggage that accompanies it - reappears in the public debate. Both agendas, of feminist struggle and sexual diversity are a stone in the shoe for the anachronistic morals of the Catholic hierarchy.

But this debate is not new in our country, and it is important to recount history: in 2004 the Broad Women's Movement introduced in the joint committee of the National Assembly a proposal to be included in the reform of the penal code that the interruption of pregnancy be penalized only: when carried out without the informed consent of the woman and when it is done in unsafe conditions. Later, in view of the reform of the constitution in 2007, for the first time in the history of our country, feminists united with the movement for sexual diversity, through the creation of the "S group," to the request the implementation of Article 88 of the constitution including a cash pension for homemakers; parity with alternability in the nomination of popularly elected officials at national, state, regional and local level; the decriminalization of abortion in all cases except when carried out without the woman's consent or without medical safety; the right to recognition of legal identity and the amendment of documents according to the gender identity of transgender and inter-sex persons; an end to discrimination for reasons of identity and gender expression and recognition by the state of stable unions of persons of one sex; as well as the right to co-maternity and co-paternity of children adopted or conceived by any member of a same-sex couple. The proposal failed not only because of the negative result in the referendum but also because of the rejection and lack of understanding of the deputies themselves in the National Assembly. 

With the emergence of this bill that seeks to repeal the law on equal opportunities for women, that by decree defines the role of the INAMUJER [the National Women's Institute], the aim is to establish the functions of the nascent Ministry of Popular Power for Women and Gender Equality, and open a new opportunity to incorporate old demands of the feminist and sexual diversity movements, including the decriminalization of abortion and same sex unions, as progressive conquests of these rights. It is time to put into practice the word of the President who said, "by December 15 not a single anti-revolutionary law should remain." But above all, to remove the veils and demystify moralistic prejudices that still prevail among the deputies. It is not enough for the state to be secular if its representatives embody homophobic, transphobic and often misogynist morals that impede the achievements of these rights even when the conditions exist from the standpoint of formal equality.

Jessie Blanco is the editor of MATEA, magazine for feminist debate.

Translated by Kiraz Janicke for Venezuelanalysis.com