Friday, July 20, 2012

Panama's Boy Scouts Association vows to cure gay scouts or else ban them from the organization (UPDATED)

Not two days after the Boy Scouts of America reaffirmed their discriminatory ban on gays, the National Association of Boy Scouts in Panama has announced that it will remove any child, young man or adult who is a current member of the Association and is found to be openly gay.

"We cannot allow the participation of people who have tendencies which are opposed to the formation of our values", said the Association's Executive Director Victor Winter to La Prensa.

Winter argued that the removal process would be "subtle" but that the step was needed because "it goes against our principles and ethic and moral values."

The new policy was actually adopted at a meeting that took place on March 21st but was only announced yesterday.

The Association's norms now include a paragraph that says "Discrimination based on gender will not be allowed, with the understanding that no members with obvious homosexual behaviors or who admit being homosexual will be admitted. Sexual harassment will also not be permitted.  Said infractions, if proven, will lead to the expulsion of the person committing them."

Most worrisome, Winters said that the Association already had put into place programs to help homosexual children "revert" their sexual orientation back to straight.  "We have programs," he told La Prensa, "We do put in our grain of sand in straightening their path."

They also said that before kicking out a Boy Scout who was gay they would first reach out to their parents which I assume means that they would offer the "reversion" program to the parents for their gay kids as an alternative to being kicked out.

Ricardo Beteta, Director of The Association of New Men and Women of Panama (AHMNP), the nation's leading LGBT rights organization, told La Prensa that he was a former Boy Scout and Troop Leader from 1965 to 1973 and condemned the announcement.

"Banning sexual contact within the Troop is not the same thing as defining homosexuality is a deviant behavior and offering a cure," he said, "that is nefarious and discriminatory".

Beteta said that he had first hand knowledge because he had been a victim of so-called reconversion therapy programs forty years ago and survived them to become the director of Panama's leading LGBT rights organization.

Augustín Clément, another leading LGBT rights leader, asked all Panamanians who believed in equality to stop supporting the Boy Scouts Association economically.  He said that each non governmental organization had the right to establish their own rules and regulations but he also urged the government to investigate whether the Association was violating the human dignity of those Boy Scouts who are gay or thought to be gay [Image: Agustín Clement in red and Ricardo Beteta celebrate the Panamanian LGBT pride march that took place on May 25th].

COSTA RICA: Meanwhile in Costa Rica and also in the wake of the announcement by the Boy Scouts of America, Peggi Chávez, Executive Director of the nation's Guides and Scouts Association, told La Nación that their non-discriminatory policy towards gays and lesbians would remain intact. Chávez said that the issue was not under discussion since "each person has the right to determine what is best for their lives."

HONDURAS, EL SALVADOR & NICARAGUA: As EFE reports today, Raúl del Cid, Director of the Honduran Scouts Association said that they would also not determine membership based on a person's sexual orientation while Aníbal Abendaño, Director of the Support Unit for Scouts of El Salvador, also said that everyone age seven to twenty-one were welcome to serve as scouts regardless of gender or sexual orientation.  An unnamed source within the Nicaraguan Scouts Association also said that they would not discriminate against gay and lesbian scouts.

COLOMBIA: In 2003, the Colombian Constitutional Court took up a case filed by Edgar Eduardo Robles Fonnegra who argued that the Colombian Scouts Association had kicked him out for being gay.

The Court ruled in Robles' favor and said that it was unconstitutional for the Association to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

--- UPDATES ---

[July 21st, 2012] Panama's TVN Noticias reports tonight that Victor Winter seems to be looking for a way to take back his words in the face of mounting criticism and increased international media inquiries. There are no direct quotes but the television news web portal says that Winter now claims that La Prensa misinterpreted his words and all he meant to say was that gays involved with the Boy Scouts in Panama were expected to "behave correctly" and follow the values of the organization with respect to their contact with minors.  He denies that this means that gays would be immediately banned from the organization although his latest statements directly contradict the Association's norms and regulations as obtained and shown on La Prensa's website.

[July 22nd, 2012] Victor Winter now says that he will no longer be speaking to media and will refer all inquiries to the president of the Panamanian Boy Scouts organization Carlos Torres.

La Prensa has tried to reach Torres without success. They should demand information about the "reversion" programs the institution seems to be currently running according to Mr. Winters.

Interestingly in 2010 the World Organization of the Scout Movement designated Panama as the new headquarters of the Inter-American Scout Office. Mr. Torres, in addition to being the President of the Panamanian Boy Scouts organization, was also named the legal representative of the World Scout Bureau, Interamerican Region.


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