Friday, November 30, 2007

Peru: Congress shelves youth rights treaty on fears it might have led to same-sex marriages

What was a procedural congressional debate yesterday on whether the Peruvian government would adhere to the Iberian-American Convention on the Rights of Youth - an international treaty that establishes a core set of legal standards to protect young people - became a heated debate on whether the treaty would open the door for same-sex marriage in Peru that exposed unexpected legislative support for same-sex partnerships.

As a result, a vote on the treaty was shelved and the resolution was sent back to the Peruvian Commission of International Relations for further study.

At issue, according to La Razon, were articles 5 and 14 which refer to language prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and the right to one's sexual identity and article 20.1 which speaks of the right to build a family - which some legislators argued clashed with the Peruvian constitution.

La Razon says another article that would require a ban on the death penalty for young men between 18 and 24 years of age also clashed with the country's constitution.

Though it doesn't give an exact number, the paper says that many legislators showed support for ratification of the treaty as it was written including "the right to choose who to marry."

In support of the treaty, Congressman Yonhy Lescano told La Razon that a person's right to individual liberty could not be infringed but that he didn't think that ratifying the treaty would necessarily lead to same-sex marriage as Peruvian law prohibits it.

Rosario Sasieta said that Congress should remember the contributions made by the homosexual community and indicated that the country needed to be more inclusive than ever by adopting the treaty.

Javier Valle-Riestra indicated that if people "are afraid that a young person can have a predetermined sexual identity, it won't be eliminated by a norm. An orientation is irrepressible. It's a natural right."

But the treaty was shelved after a petition for removal was filed by Congressman Alejandro Aurelio Aguinaga Recuenco who also serves as the Director of the Commission of International Relations.

Stating that he did not oppose a young person's right to his or her sexual orientation, Aguinaga Recuenco nevertheless argued that the non-discrimination language as linked to sexual orientation would make denying same-sex marriage rights or adoptions rights to homosexuals discriminatory acts according to Expreso.

He was backed by Raul Castro who also serves as the President of the Commission of Justice who also said that the treaty would open the doors to same-sex marriage.

The treaty, signed in Spain in 2005 by representatives of 19 Latin American countries, Spain and Portugal has already been ratified and adopted by Spain, Ecuador, Honduras and the Dominican Republic. Only one of those countries allows same-sex partners to marry and the decision to recognize same-sex partnerships in that nation had nothing to do with this treaty nor has the treaty led to same-sex marriage in the other four countries.

Peru has a unicameral Congress consisting of 120 members. The Homosexual Movement of Lima (MOHL) says that the vote to shelve the treaty was backed by 57 members of the legislative body recommending that the language on sexual orientation that drew reservations be eliminated.

MOHL questioned media coverage of the debate noting that the treaty at issue does not mention same-sex marriage in any of its articles and expressed concern that the move to send back the treaty might end up stripping protections for LGBT youth and establishing heterosexuality as the only "normal sexuality" in the country further marginalizing gays and lesbian Peruvians.

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