Text: Teddy Baca
Graphic: Daniel Fonseca
Translated by: Jorge Paz Reyes
There exist three political realities in Honduras that we need to take into consideration when talking about the LGBTQI+ community; the first one is that what is not named does not exist, the second is we are all inherently political because we seek to be part of the decision-making process and third is that human rights are progressive, the government cannot center itself in conservatism if it wants to promote a liberal democratic lifestyle.
In Honduras, the National Party has been biggest detractor of the human rights of women and LGTBIQ people, but they have not been the only one. To prove it, there is at least nine serious areas where the National Party along with other political parties and actors have come together to socially and legally exclude LGBTIQ+ people.
1. Banning the Emergency Contraceptive Pill (Plan B) [Legalized in March 8, 2023]
While the prohibition of this method is the fault of both the Liberal and National parties because they agreed with the churches in 2009 on the strategy of eliminating comprehensive sexual education in schools. When Porfirio Lobo assumed the presidency in 2010, Plan B was demonized in pro-government media and the “debates” (which were non-existent as such) were monopolized by religious figures, such as Martha Lorena Alvarado, an ultra-conservative militant of the ill-named “Provida” group.
This did not change at all with Juan Orlando Hernández; moreover, evangelical groups continued to gain ground to impose their doctrines and visions that violate the right to decide of women and LGTBIQ people. The church has achieved its influence at the cost of alliances and involvement in decision-making spaces in which members of the Evangelical Fellowship, such as Alberto Solórzano and Oswaldo Canales, were participants, as happened with the health commission.
2. The elimination of comprehensive sex education
After the coup d’état in 2009, all conservative parties eliminated (or burned) the comprehensive sex education booklets, making this topic optional for schools and colleges, and only abstinence was openly promoted, a method that has never worked for the population.
In the extinct Department of Development and Social Inclusion, the teenage pregnancy prevention program was based on abstinence. However, in 2021 it became evident that pregnancies increased by 30% in Tegucigalpa alone. Currently, nationalist activists such as Byron Sabio label comprehensive sex education as “gender ideology” because in their worldview, the only natural thing is to be heterosexual and preserve virginity until marriage, which is false, nature itself says so, we are the only species that has marriage but not the only one to establish relationships between same-sex couples.
3. The prohibition of equal marriage.
Evangelical groups quite close to the National Party pushed for the prohibition of equal marriage, this started with Ricardo Maduro with the support of Porfirio Lobo in 2004 and was ratified by Juan Orlando Hernandez through the Legislative power led by Mauricio Oliva.
Marriage is a civil right and although the Constitution of the Republic does not differentiate between Hondurans (article 60) this did not interest the nationalists at all. Unconstitutionally and with the support of Mauricio Oliva, Yuri Sabas, Tomas Zambrano and Luis Redondo – of the Salvador de Honduras party – in 2020 in the Congress this prohibition was armored even when the advisory opinion of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights asked the countries to legally recognize marriage between same sex couples.
It still stigmatizes homosexual affection. Nationalists David Chavez and Tomas Zambrano have expressed in the media their repudiation of two men kissing or marrying. If that is not homophobia then what is?
4. Satanization of abortion
The reform of the penal code during the administration of Mauricio Oliva brought with it less penalties for drug trafficking but more penalties for abortion, and constitutionally prohibited abortion on all grounds without considering that most of the pregnancies resulting from sexual violence were of minors..
5. The pantomime of compromise
Despite everything they have done, the authorities say they respect us and do not discriminate against us. In 2013, the LGTBIQ population was included in the Public Policy and National Plan of Action on Human Rights. However, of the 33 actions aimed at sexual diversity, only two were fulfilled: develop training programs and training for the National Police and judicial officials to promote respect for the rights of all people, without discrimination of any kind and design and implement awareness campaigns against homophobia, transphobia, lesphobia and biphobia due to sexual orientation and gender identity.
The commitment has already expired and the lack of interest in promoting the true respect and guarantee of human rights is quite evident, it does not take a magnifying glass to see it.
Another example is the case of Africo Madrid, former Minister of the Interior under Porfirio Lobo and supposed expert in human rights. Madrid had the legal status of the Association for a Better Life suspended “because it was against morality” just for making same-sex couples visible in informative material. This can be considered as criminalization of sexual diversity and, therefore, is very far from the vision of guaranteeing human rights that the state should have. It is worth mentioning that Madrid considers that equal marriage attacks freedom of worship, he seems not to understand that no one is forcing fundamentalist churches to marry same-sex couples by force, but to allow the state to recognize marriages and churches that do approve them. Marriage is a legal thing.
6. Subtle pathologization
Homosexuality, bisexuality and trans identities are not disorders or diseases; in spite of this, there have been many nationalist leaders and their evangelical allies who have labeled us as “aberrations”. That was the reason why in 2004 they did not authorize legal status to LGTBIQ organizations. In spite of that, they did not manage to prevent the organizations from being authorized thanks to international pressure and the risk of a possible lawsuit for denying the right of association. However, it would not be strange that in the future they will oppose the prohibition of the wrongly called conversion therapies, fraudulent and harmful methodologies to our mental health and even a risk of death.
This scenario is the one we are currently living in Costa Rica, ultraconservative parties use excuses to endorse conversion methods. I invite human rights organizations to be alert.
7. Opposition to the Vicky Hernandez Sentence
The case of Vicky Hernandez, trans woman and first murder victim during the coup d’état, was taken to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the sentence was conclusive, the state was responsible for her death and one of the sanctions was that the state must adopt a gender identity law. Juan Orlando Hernandez did not implement it, and although the current administration has not done so either, it is necessary to mention that the nationalist bench has shown itself against obeying in case the proposed law passes to the legislative branch.
8. Stigmatization of Human Rights Defenders
The greatest example of this was Juan Orlando Hernández’s speech at the 2021 independence celebrations in which he openly said that those who defended abortion and equal marriage were enemies of independence. This speech can be considered the epitome of the promotion of hatred and impunity, something that was not new in the public arena, but had not escalated to such a high level until then.
After all the accusations of drug trafficking, corruption, nepotism and violence, the current leaders of the National Party use as a slogan “Defend democracy, life and family”. I wonder where were those values when they allowed the reelection of Juan Orlando, the deaths of activists, the deaths of patients of the Honduran Social Security Institute as a result of embezzlement, impunity for femicides and child abuse?
I do not know if it is a true consensus or not, but Tomás Zambrano has said on several occasions that the entire national party is against abortion and equal marriage for the reasons described above. Although the congressman is singled out for corruption and even infidelity, he proudly assumed the slogan in the Supreme Court of Justice election claiming that they did not want “a court tailored to Libre” but apparently they do want one tailored to them and their agenda which, as I mentioned, is against women’s rights and sexual diversity.
Our generation and those that follow need an urgent voice and vote in decision making; none of us have imposed that others should have a particular sexual orientation or gender identity or that they should be forcibly aborted. However, we have always been told that if we are not cissexual we will have to shut up or “change,” we have been told that we have to comply with religious mandates even if we do not believe in them, including forced parenthood.
Today more than ever we need to articulate spaces for social participation, no one deserves to be marginalized or excluded from their rights for not being heterosexual or cisgender.
Whether we share the struggles or not, we must be clear that recognizing the freedom of others is not libertarianism, it is not ideology, it is simply respect and coexistence.