Thursday, May 21, 2009

Peru: A call for an "immediate repeal" of homophobic police regulation

A week after introducing a number of regulations supposedly meant to improve the image of the Peruvian police, Interior Minister Mercedes Cabanillas has been forced to respond to critics who say that the measures are homophobic and unconstitutional, and has stated that the regulations do not specifically call for a ban on gays in the police forces.

As the Associated Press originally reported on May 14th:
Peruvian police officers who "damage the image" of law enforcement by engaging in homosexual behavior can lose their jobs under a new law designed to overhaul an unpopular national police force.

The new law that went into effect [May 12th] also says officers will be fired for taking bribes and abusing detainees.

In sexual matters, however, distinctions are made between heterosexual and homosexual police officers. Those who commit adultery only face suspension, but expulsion is required for those who engage in "sexual relations with people of the same sex that cause a scandal or damage the image of the institution."

Peru's Supreme Court in 2004 overturned a ban on homosexuality in the police and military. But like the U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell policy" — which bans homosexuals from disclosing their sexual orientation — the new law tries to sidestep the issue without banning homosexuality outright.
Criticism of the new regulation was swift. On the 14th, reported that Susana Villarán - a former police department ombudsman who ran unsuccessfully for the presidency in 2006 - joined a number of human rights and LGBT rights advocates in denouncing the norms.

"It's like going back a century," she said, "Peru does not criminalize sexual preferences, except in the police. Peru repealed a law against homosexuality in 1921."

In response, Cabanillas released a statement earlier this week and reiterated that the regulations were meant to stem inappropriate public behaviors that might be scandalous to society and reflect badly on the police department and not a ban on gays serving in the police department.

As Prensa Latina reported on Tuesday:
Faced by such anger, minister Cabanillas said that no police officer will be punished solely based on maintaining a homosexual relationship, because the idea is not to "get in anyone's bed", something that is impossible.

The sanctions, she indicated, will only be applied to scandalous, unseemly or embarrassing public occurrences or attitudes, stemming from these relationships, which have an effect on the image of the police.

In the same manner that heterosexual scandalous behaviors will be punished, which will maintain the principle that equal treatment will be given to police men, women and homosexuals, she said.

Cabanillas said that the regulation is not intended to invade the privacy of the police, because no law or rule may do so.
Villarán, responded on Tuesday according to the AFP, and continued to call it a homophobic and unnecessary regulation noting that the Peruvian armed forces did not have similar norms and that gays and lesbians were allowed to serve in the police without any discriminatory norms until only a few weeks ago.

On Thursday, a number of Peruvian LGBT rights organizations including the Homosexual Movement of Lima (MOhL) released a joint statement calling it a "hate law" and demanding an "immediate repeal" of the norm.


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