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Country: Colombia Region: Americas


Sexual Behaviour








Street Violence and Police Harassment


*Background information, government attitudes, country situation
For a horrifying account of "Social cleansing", and also of the legal situation and community organising in Colombia, see "Cleaning up the Streets - Human Rights Violations in Colombia and Honduras" by Juan Pablo Ordoñez and Richard Elliott

27-Oct-97: "The Colombian province of Valle del Cauca, where Cali is located, elected an openly gay governor Oct. 26, reports Colombian correspondent David Olson. Coalition candidate Gustavo Alvarez Gardeazabal, a well-known author who served previously as mayor of the small city of Tulua, defeated Conservative Carlos Holguin by a margin of approximately two-to-one, according to preliminary results. "He was a student at the Universidad del Valle when I was teaching there in 1968," Olson said. "Today he is well-known for several novels [and] some of his works have been dramatized on Colombian television. As mayor of Tulua, Alvarez Gardeazabal was known as an incorruptible administrator". (RW/2898)

9/1995: At UN 4th Conference on Women in Beijing supported (unsuccessful) proposal for inclusion of references to "sexual orientation" in the draft "Platform for Action" ("Finding A Place in International Law" - Douglas Sanders)

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*Laws covering sexual activity
Same-sex male Legal Same-sex female Legal
Description of discriminatory sexual offence laws and their application
"Consensual homosexual activity was decriminalised in 1980 with amendments to the Criminal Code, and there is a single age of consent (14 years). The new Constitution enacted in 1991 prohibits the death penalty, forced disappearances, torture, and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, and "guarantees" equal protection of the law, the right to "personal and family intimacy", rights to free expression, assembly and association, and the right to "the free development of one’s personality." (Ordoñez and Elliott)

A statute, which stated that homosexuality behavior is in contradiction with the dignity of Justice, was overruled by the Supreme Court of Justice as contrary to the Constitution. Society in general has a negative attitude towards homosexuality. Reports of rightwing death squads kidnapping and murdering homosexual. Grupo de Ambiente docemented 328 murders by death squads (paramilitary groups) of lesbians and gay men between 1986 and 1990. Many of the bodies found showed signs of torture and multilation (Eurol. 13/93).

Age of consent
Same-sex male 14 Same-sex female 14
Heterosexual 14  
see above

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*Denial of Freedom of Association and Expression
Freedom of Association:
For unsuccessful attempt to provide protection for freedom of association for lgbt people, see below
Freedom of Expression/Censorship:
"... in November 1994, the Constitutional Court ruled against a citizens’ group claiming their rights were violated by the National Television Council’s refusal to prevent the broadcast of a TV commercial about AIDS which showed 2 men kissing. Writing for the court, Judge Vladimiro Naranjo Mesa dismissed the claim on the technical ground that the legal mechanism invoked by the citizens’ group was inappropriate, but felt the need to dispel any question as to his own sexual orientation by proceeding to unnecessarily condemn characterise homosexuality as a "deviant personality trait" threatening children’s psycho-sexual development. Interestingly, although they concurred in the decision to dismiss the complaint on the technical argument, the other two judges explicitly disassociated themselves from the anti-gay/lesbian language of their colleague, stating that homosexuals were entitled to the same constitutional protections and should be afforded equal treatment under the law." (Ordoñez and Elliott)

28-May-97: "Lesbian kissing on the Colombian soap opera "The Perfume of Agony" led the Inextra corporation (part of Procter and Gamble) to cancel its advertising on the show, El Tiempo reported May 15. The move will cost the producers 50 millions pesos a month ($47,259), El Tiempo said." (RW/2783)

For unsuccessful attempt to provide protection for freedom of expression for lgbt people, see below

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*Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Vilification Legislation
Anti-discrimination laws and cases:
09-Apr-98: "Colombia’s Constitutional Court ruled March 26 that private religious schools cannot ban gay students. Two effeminate teenage boys, Gustavo and Andres, had been prohibited from re-enrolling in a school in Ginebra after they had dropped out for financial reasons. The court declared: "Homosexuality is a condition of the human person that implies the choice of a life option equally as respectable and valid as any other.
"It is clear to the court ... that the rector of the school that was sued was operating from a discriminatory and intolerant attitude that is unacceptable in a person who has as his charge the direction of the educative process, whose principal objective is precisely the integral formation of children and youths." (RW/3075)

For unsuccessful attempt to add sexual orientation to the categories included in Colombia's bias crimes legislation, see below

Anti-vilification laws and cases:

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Employment protection law and cases:
10 September 1998: Schoolteacher homosexuality no longer grounds for dismissal
BOGOTA—Schoolteachers cannot be fired for revealing they are gay, Colombia’s highest court has ruled. In a 5-4 vote Wednesday, the Constitutional Court overturned as discriminatory a 1979 law which made a teacher’s homosexuality grounds for dismissal. "Homosexuality is not contagious," said German Humberto Rincon, the lawyer who brought the suit before the court. No teachers had been fired under the 1979 law, but the court action was important to prevent that from happening, Rincon said. The decision applied to teachers from grade school through university—about 250,000 public school teachers in all.
There are no reliable estimates of the homosexual population in this conservative and heavily Catholic nation, where homosexuality is generally kept hidden. Last week, a lesbian teacher wore a mask when testifying at hearings on the issue. (Associated Press)
Access to military:
"In March 1994, a gay man challenged his expulsion from the national Police Academy for the "misconduct" of engaging in homosexual acts. The Constitutional Court decided that the army’s sanctioning of a person for their homosexuality could not be based on a "moral" judgement or the hypothetical possibility that the institution would be harmed, but only on a clear, objective showing that the normal development and objectives of the military have been affected. The Court specifically referred to the constitutional rights to equality, intimacy, and the free development of personality. While this is a victory, harassment and mistreatment of gays in the military continues." (Ordoñez and Elliott)

Colombian Supremes OK Gays In The Military: Colombia’s Constitutional Court ruled unanimously July 14 that the armed forces cannot bar homosexuals. The existing ban violated gay soldiers’ constitutional rights to intimacy, free development of one’s personality, and defense of one’s family, the court said. Magistrate Vladimiro Naranjo Mesa said military gays are now free to reveal their sexual orientation, live on base with a partner, and be affectionate with each other away from work. (Rex Wockner #274 - Jul 26, 1999)

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*Partnership Recognition (other than parenting)
Is comprehensive legal recognition of partnerships available?
07-Mar-96: "Colombia’s Supreme Court said no to marriage rights for gay couples March 7. "The family is the only social unit and it is formed when a man and a woman freely decide to get married," the court ruled in a case brought by gays seeking spousal rights in such areas as inheritance, medical care and alimony." (RW/1701)

December 1998: two gay men get "married" in a notarised ceremony - see" Domestic Partnership in Colombia"; see also an account of how this private contract form of marriage was developed: Colombia - marriage for gay and lesbian couples

Senator pushes civil rights bill in Colombia:
"September 24th 1999: A member of the Colombian Senate has introduced a bill to give Gay Colombians equal rights in several arenas. The bill, introduced Sept. 8 by Sen. Margarita Londono, addresses seven issues, according to a press release from the Colombian Gay and Lesbian Association in New York. Adding sexual orientation to the existing list of Colombian bias crimes categories and creating legal partnerships for same-sex couples called "valid social patrimony agreements" are the bill’s most basic goals. The bill also calls for extending the country’s Obligatory Health Plan Coverage - roughly the equivalent of Medicaid in the United States - to families registered under the proposed "valid social patrimony agreements." It would extend social security benefits to couples registered under the proposed agreements and their families. It would provide Obligatory Health Plan coverage for sex change operations. And it would protect the "liberty of association and congregation between homosexuals" and call on the National Ministry of Education to remove anti-Gay bias from textbooks. The bill has not yet been voted on." (Washington Blade.)

27 Sept 99: These proposals were rejected almost immediately - see: "Colombian equality and anti-discrimination proposals rejected - article by the Senator who had proposed them"

Immigration rights:
Inheritance laws:
May 2000: The first verdict ever issued by a Family Court in Colombia recognizing inheritance rights for gay couples: see Colombian Family Court Issues Ground-Breaking Verdict In Favour Of Gay Widow
Domestic partnership employment benefits:
Social welfare:
3 Nov 1999: See: Colombian Social Security Institute Compelled To Extend Disability Benefits To Person With Aids In A Same Sex Relationship - Domestic partnership recognised for first time
Succession rights in housing:
Other areas of the law in which Domestic Partnerships recognised:
"conjugal visits by same-sex partners have been denied to both female and male inmates in numerous cases. In September 1994, a lesbian in La Badea prison was denied her request for a visit by her lover, and her challenge to this discrimination was eventually stalled by procedural rulings in the courts and leave to appeal was refused. She has since been subjected to further harassment by prison authorities." (Ordoñez and Elliott)

30th Sept 99: This case is now the subject of proceedings before the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights

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Custody of own children:
Adoption and fostering:
Parenting rights for non-biological partner
Access to reproductive technologies:

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Are LGBT refugees granted asylum by this country?
Are this country’s LGBT citizens accepted for asylum by other countries?
5 gay men, 1 lesbian and 1 transgendered person are known to have been granted asylum between 1994 and 1996 by Australia (1), and the US (5) (IGLHRC AP)

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*Transgender Rights
26 Oct 1999: Colombia High Court Restricts Intersex Genital Mutilation: First High Court to Address Human Rights Violation

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*Street Violence, "Social Cleansing", Police Harassment, etc
"In 1993, statistics from the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office showed that over 80% of those accused in complaints of human rights violations were members of the National Police or the military......Sexual minorities have become targets of the phenomenon known as "social cleansing"—the frequent, and often systematic, murder of those groups commonly referred to in Colombian society as "disposables"...Indeed, the violence of social cleansing against sexual minorities is widely accepted....Witness, for example, the openly expressed views of the human rights ombudsman of Barranquilla that "faggots" are "abnormal" and should be subject to "social control", and his blunt statement that "[T]he moment a faggot begins hanging around my house, his human rights are over."
Given such official attitudes, it is not surprising that the few social spaces open to sexual minorities (principally gay men, with little lesbian social space) are frequently harassed by police and army officers....In June 1992, in a town on the outskirts of Medellín, 5 gay men were taken from a gay bar and killed with submachine guns by a group of men... Expressions of physical affection in public are likely to provoke police extortion of money under threats of charges for public indecency or "outing" to employers or family." (Ordoñez and Elliott)

07-Jul-94: "Around 7,000 of the 40,000 murders in Colombia last year were right-wing death-squad "cleansings" of gays, transvestites and prostitutes, says Juan Pablo Ordonez, a lawyer who fled to the U.S. recently after his investigations of the killings resulted in alleged persecution from police."(RW/798)

18 Dec 1999: Lesbian Inmate Subjected To Punitive Sanctions And Inhuman Treatment, In Response To Petition Claiming Her Rights

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*HIV/AIDS Human Rights Issues
"HIV/AIDS-related violence also informs "social cleansing" violence. In December 1993, a bomb was detonated at a shelter for people living with HIV/AIDS in Bogotá operated by Fundación EUDES, a Catholic NGO serving poor HIV+ people, including many former sex trade workers. Less than a month later, 18 heavily armed men attacked the shelter, stealing items and threatening to kill the residents if they did not leave. Similarly, the organisation was forced to abandon a donated house in the city of Cali because of death threats. Police did not intervene to protect the shelter, nor did the Catholic hierarchy condemn the violence." (Ordoñez and Elliott)
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