Monday, July 30, 2007

Gay Rights Progress in...Colombia

I wrote about this about a month ago, and, as I predicted, the national law establishing equal rights for gays is back in the picture. Those of you who read this space regularly may recall that I described the "fight" against this law as a procedural fight (i.e. Congressmen not showing up to the inter-chamber reconciliation vote) and that I predicted the bill would be back on the table in August. That looks to be occuring.

The Miami Herald has an excellent article summarizing the current "debate" about the bill and its prospects for passage. I put "debate" in quotes because there is really little opposition. The Herald describes the Catholic Church´s opposition as "tepid" which is akin to saying "virtually non-existant".

One thing I find really interesting about this issue is that Colombia is a very conservative and Catholic country, moreso than the US, yet they are on the verge of passing comprehensive legislation that gives complete same sex benefits to gay couples. This is not the final peice of the struggle - there is an obvious need for legislation that tackles discrimination, adoption, and eventually, civil unions. But, in Latin America, this is a huge step forward.

Readers who are not familiar with Latin culture probably know that it is a macho culture. Even with the progress of modernity in terms of women´s rights, equal pay, etc, Colombia (my experience base) still feels a bit in the dark ages in terms of women. There are every day occurences that I term "discriminatory" (or tacit evidence of inequality) that Colombian people just write off as "machismo". Jokes about women being inferior in any capacity except a traditional role are common. Ignoring women in group settings like when they respond to a question put forth to the group is another common example. I consider these activities to be offensive and objectionable, but Latin women generally just accept it and internalize it as "boys being boys" if you will.

At any rate, this "macho" culture makes the environment generally hostile towards gays and lesbians so I am somewhat shocked that Colombia is going to pass this legislation. But then, the Miami Herald has the explanation. Colombia is conservative, but not "moralist". It´s moments like this when I realize just how much the US has to learn. They call Colombia the "tierra de libertad" or "land of freedom", just as we call the US the land of the free. Sadly, only one of the above actually resembles the motto in deed.


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