One year ago, Congress Square in Buenos Aires was alive with people celebrating the approval of a ground-breaking Gender Identity Law in Argentina.
The law, which was drafted by the transgender community, is a model for the world. By allowing transgender Argentineans to change their names without undergoing complicated and expensive requirements, the bill promotes the individual’s right to make the decision. Under the new law, transgender people over 18 can go to a government office and change their gender listed on official documents if they choose to. The law is meant to include all transgender people who undergo gender reassignment surgery or hormone treatments to physically resemble the opposite sex, but it goes further than that.
Why is it such a significant step? It’s simple. Without an identity, we do not exist. This means we have no rights, no benefits. We always say that the transgender population has been forgotten by democracy, and that democracy in Latin America has a debt with us: the gender identity law. Not only in Latin America, but across the world transgender people are suffering social exclusion and discrimination.
One of the struggles of our population is to emphasise to UN agencies and governments that we are not men who have sex with men, we have a feminine gender identity and we are the target of gender based violence.
With the Gender Identity Law, my country has made a step in repairing a historical human right violation against transgender people. It has been a hugely important achievement for our population, and sets an important precedent both in the region, and beyond. The Argentinean President, Cristina Kirchner personally promulgated the law in front of national media, handing transgender people their first ever ID cards in their names. To translate the laws into practice, we need government leadership. It is important to have our leaders speak up and show that they are behind us, sending a clear and strong message that it’s not ok to violate our rights.
So we are going for more! We are campaigning for similar laws to be passed across Latin America. Intense advocacy efforts are underway in Bolivia, Brazil, El Salvador and Guatemala, where our national chapters are working on drafting gender identity laws and meeting with decision makers to push the agenda forward.
Since this time last year, our campaign has gained enormous profile. Together with the Alliance, we produced a human rights report, ‘The Night is Another Country’, about the violence faced by transgender women human rights defenders in Latin America, and the surrounding impunity. In March this year, we travelled to London, Geneva, Brussels and Washington with the author of the report, Monica Leonardo, to speak at a series of events and bilateral meetings with decision makers, donors and other stakeholders.
This political tour accompanied the campaign, ‘Just Like You’, which urges governments to promote and approve a Gender Identity Law in their countries, as well as to implement a national plan against discrimination and for the protection and promotion of the human rights of transgender people.