26/01/2021 | Writer: Aslı Saban

“We can still see the existing discrimination against LGBTIQ people for the fact of being LGBTIQ.”

LGBTIQ migrants and refugees in Ecuador: Discrimination continues! Kaos GL - News Portal for LGBTI+

Ecuador is a South American country that is ruled by democracy system. The country has borders with Colombia and Peru. The Galapagos Islands are also within the country borders of Ecuador. Moreover, Charles Darwin, a famous English biologist, and natural historian, conducted his crucial research in the Galapagos Islands and wrote the theory of evolution after completing his research on this island. The country is also located within the Amazon rainforest. Ecuador, which has started to attract attention day by day in the Latin America region, has several signals that it will become an even more popular tourist location in the near future. 

In Turkey, the Latin America region has been increasingly popular by Netflix series. Many people are willing to start learning Spanish significantly to follow the news, culture, and events of Latin America. 

In our “Latin America Region” article series, our guest is Ricardo Chica. He is a human rights defender. He is advocating LGBTIQ+ rights and refugee rights in Ecuador. We discussed with Ricardo migrant rights, xenophobia, discrimination problems. 

Can you introduce yourself? 

My name is Ricardo Chica, I’m 23 years old and I’m from Ecuador. I’m currently living in the capital city that is Quito for about 10 years. I graduated from Law School in February, 2019 and I am honored to say that being in the “Universidad San Francisco de Quito” was an enriching experience. This was where I found my voice and started to develop leadership skills. Moreover, I founded the first safe LGBTIQ+ academic space nationwide. It is a group that exists under the name “Group of Sex-Generic Diversities of USFQ,” and it focuses on societal unification, creating safe spaces for LGBTIQ+ students and building projects from academic educational spaces which purpose is erasing social stereotypes in sexual orientation and gender topics. 

Since 2013, I began to embrace my sexual orientation, which allowed me to accept and empower myself to take the next big step: to get out of the closet. Having broken this huge wall which made it difficult for me to accept myself for who I am, the motivation to start working with people from the LGBTIQ+ community grew in me as it was very difficult from personal experience and I never had a safe space where I could work my insecurities.

How many years have you been working in the human rights Area?

I’ve been working for about 10 years, since I participated the first time at the International Conference “Let’s Take Care of the Planet” in Brasilia, Brazil. I was 13 then, and I had the experience of being on a teen environment with people who had the will to help in social work and teen initiatives. Since 2015, I have volunteered in organizations that work with the human rights of the most vulnerable people in Ecuadorian society. Since 2016, I joined a civil society organization that works with LGBTIQ+ individuals in Ecuador: HIV+ testing, education through empowerment, and free legal services. From this first approach to the community, I found my voice and ever since that year, I promised myself to never stop.

I am also the Director of the first LGBTIQ+ interuniversity network of Ecuador, which includes the participation of seven of the most important universities in the country. The main reason behind the foundation of this network is to replicate safe spaces through all the universities in Ecuador, so the marginalized LGBTIQ+ students can empower themselves through helping others. The main focuses of “LGBTIQ+ Interuniversity Network” are social mobilization, pro-activism and empowering others through education.

Can you give general information about Ecuador? 

Ecuador, like the rest of the countries of Latin America, in the last five years began to receive in an increasingly massive number of Venezuelan citizens. The migration and / or displacement of these people exposes them to a series of violations of their human rights both during their journey, as well as upon entering Ecuador. At the regional level, Ecuador is one of the countries with the highest rate of corruption, without the capacity to respond to the needs of the population: health, housing, education, ways to regularize, job offers and a living wage.

Because of Covid-19 crisis, mainly economy and other areas have been affected. Especially many marginalized groups face serious difficulties while accessing health institutions and services. There are also many problems in health institutions due to the lack of human resources.

Does Ecuador have a refugee community if yes, especially from which countries people have migrated to Ecuador? 

Migratory flows in Ecuador are quite dispersed. When people in a situation of human mobility enter our territory, they are dispersed around urban and rural cities. Depending on each context, we can determine your needs and rights violations. LGBTI + people in a situation of human mobility who are forced to migrate from their country due to lack of work, as well as to seek a better quality of life, to support their family, due to generalized violence, the crisis in the country of origin, seek personal well-being. In other words, the reasons are eminently due to the socio-economic crisis. But the fact that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is not one of the main reasons, does not mean that LGBTI + people are not exposed and that they ultimately end up being one of the reasons to migrate. In this context, we can realize that they are invisible populations due to the fact that at the national and regional level, they face multiple vulnerabilities. Ecuador has communities of migrants and refugees, but they are united by nationality and not by their socioeconomic contexts or diversities. This means that the diagnosis of your needs does not reflect real results. Ecuador, being very close to Venezuela, has received in recent years more than 6 million Venezuelans who, due to their crisis situation, leave their country to have new life projects. However, Ecuador also receives migratory flows from Colombia, Haiti, Cuba, Central America, and the Middle East.

 If we consider the subject in terms of social inclusion of migrants and refugees from other Latin American countries do not have any language and cultural barriers.

Migrants and asylum seekers have faced several serious difficulties in accessing to legal documents. For instance, migrant and asylum seekers who wants to establish their new life in Ecuador must obtain a refugee and asylum seeker visa. The fee of this visa is quite high. In addition, there are several challenges due to both the pandemic and the slow mechanisms of state institutions. The status of some of their documents should be tracked online, but assuming that it is almost impossible for refugees and asylum-seekers. Because they cannot access to the internet therefore their visa application process’ results are negative.

The next step after migrants are informed that a refugee visa has been accepted, they have to go to the relevant government institution and tell them the reason of application of this visa. Migrants are allowed to explain in 5 minutes for their reasons. As we know, people cannot express themselves effectively within 5 minutes. This is a very important problem, and without a refugee visa, working in Ecuador is prohibited. If migrants are disclosed, they have to pay serious payment. In addition, migrants also face many challenges in terms of access to their fundamental rights. Additionally, migrants face with hate speech and xenophobia in Ecuador. 

Although there is no language barrier, the differences such as using words, speech have shown who is from Ecuador and who is a migrant from Venezuela or other Latin American countries. Ecuadorians think that Venezuelans are taking their jobs of their hands; therefore, many Ecuadorians are unemployed. Furthermore, many Ecuadorians think Venezuelans are involved in too many crimes . In parallel with these discourses, the media channels has made and showed news relevant to Venezuelans. These news are also increased xenophobia.

The most common problem of migrants and refugees who are coming from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia is the language barrier. Most of Middle Eastern migrants and refugees can not speak English and Spanish. However, when we compare the Middle Eastern and Venezuelan refugees in Ecuador, the social acceptance of the Middle Eastern migrants and refugees by the Ecuadorian society is higher than Venezuelans. Because middle eastern migrants and refugees do not come from the same geography. Therefore, Ecuadorians can accept them easily then Venezuelans. 

Middle Eastern migrants and asylum seekers can receive easily a refugee visa then Venezuelan migrants and asylum seekers. They can also access their fundamental rights easily. 

Can you give some information about the LGBTI community in Ecuador? 

When we compare with the past, we can see some serious progress for LGBTIQ + community. International organizations are willing to support and advocate LGBTIQ + community in Ecuador. We can also say that LGBTI rights are been accepted as Human Rights in Ecuador. This year, we organized “Pride Week” online because of Covid-19. Local civil society organizations social entrepreneurs are also supporting pride week and other activities of LGBTIQ + community. The Government provide their supporting less than civil society organizations. Many lawyers who have worked in the judiciary and legislative Area in Ecuador are supportive and knowledgeable of LGBTIQ + and Human Rights. As we always support, all activities, programs and projects for supporting LGBTIQ + community should include both refugees and Ecuadorians. In Ecuador many legal regulations, programs are also carried out to support and protect the rights of LGBTIQ +.

Equal civil marriage was approved by the Constitutional Court on 2019. However, despite of all positive legal regulations, LGBTIQ + community is still defined as a marginalized group. The rights of LGBTI people during this pandemic are being violated, such as access to justice, access to health, and equal opportunities and treatment; in addition to the condition of vulnerability to which they are.Therefore socially vulnerable populations are even more invisible, such as: trans women going through a hormonal transition and LGBTIQ + people with HIV. It is necessary to coordinate actions so that these people are not deprived of access to comprehensive health that includes treatments and specialized care.

This can be seen in several ways. For example, within the LGBTIQ + community, generally the most affected people are the trans community who aesthetically do not look according to the binary parameters of gender. For trans people, it is more difficult to hide that they are LGBTIQ +, so they are affected when it comes to being hired or keeping their jobs. We can still see the existing discrimination against LGBTIQ + people for the fact of being LGBTIQ.

It’s not supported. Everyone has the right to access to public health in Ecuador but despite the pandemic, socially vulnerable populations are even more invisible, such as transsexual women going through a hormonal transition and cisgender and LGBTIQ + people with HIV. It is necessary to coordinate actions so that these people are not deprived of access to comprehensive health that includes treatments and specialized care.

Can you give some information about the LGBTI community in the Latin America region? Which countries can be defined as non-friendly to LGBTI Community? Which Countries are friendly? 

Unequal. That is the appropriate adjective to describe the situation of LGTB rights in Latin America and the Caribbean. The part of daily life that depends on the written norm is for this radically different community in Argentina and Guyana, Paraguay and Ecuador: marrying, adopting, working without discrimination, but also belonging to the military forces, the recognition of gender change or even the possibility of donating blood (in which men who have relationships with other men continue to be discriminated against for fear of HIV) are very different in the corners of the region.

It is no coincidence, for example, that the two nations in which an explicit prohibition of homosexual relations remains in the penal code are former British colonies (Jamaica and Guyana). The laws against “sodomy” have a long and deep tradition in the legal framework of the United Kingdom, and that legacy ended up being passed on and remained even after independence. The institutional apparatus in these and other Latin American countries does not facilitate an expansion of rights based on the judicial reinterpretation of the written norm. This, which could be a favorable argument for the majority route, turns against it when one verifies that the anti-expansion of rights majorities are also stronger in the Caribbean, closely followed by Central America and Paraguay.

A year ago, the Constitutional Court of Ecuador ruled in favor of equal marriage. Colombia and Brazil followed that same route, while Uruguay and Argentina did so through parliament. In Mexico, where not all federal entities recognize in their laws the possibility of marriage between persons of the same sex, the guarantee has been offered since 2015 by the Supreme Court of Justice and its mandate to all the country’s judges to recognize any appeal for protection in states where there is no recognition.

Uruguay and Argentina are the most LGBTI friendly countries in the region, because they guarantee basic human rights to the LGBT population years ago. Argentina for one side had approved the same sex marriage in 2010 and was the first country in the region to do that. Uruguay had approved a TRANS LAW dedicated to trans population in 2018.

It’s not supported. Everyone has the right to access to public health in Ecuador but despite the pandemic, socially vulnerable populations are even more invisible, such as transsexual women going through a hormonal transition and cisgender and LGBTIQ + people with HIV. It is necessary to coordinate actions so that these people are not deprived of access to comprehensive health that includes treatments and specialized care.

What’s your message to the youth community if they want to work in civil society and social justice areas? 

They should find their passion and discover what they like. We are a society, we should follow the rules of society. My message to them is to create opportunities for themselves and for people. There are many people are need power. We should empower to them. They should support vulnerable people’s capacities and create new opportunities. We should support diversity. It is very important to be kind to people in need. As we know, life changes so fast. We can be also people in need. We never forget this. We can empower the capacities, energies of vulnerable people and community. They should also educate and improve their skills for having world citizenship. 

If the young generation is willing to work abroad, such as in Latin America, they can access free Spanish courses. They should learn a foreign language and follow internship programs abroad. Of course, whenever they want, they can contact with me!

Tags: human rights, life