Advancing the rights of LGBTI persons in Bolivia: The civil union of David and Guido
In recent years, important legal advances have been made in Bolivia to recognize the rights of populations with diverse sexual orientation and gender identity. Yet, discriminatory legislation and attitudes of homophobia persist. Against this background, the recognition of the free union between David Aruquipa and Guido Montaño in the civic registry (SERECI) marks a new chapter in the fight for equality and non-discrimination of LGBTI persons.
The registry of David and Guido’s union, on 10 December, signals the end of a long bureaucratic and legal battle that they initiated as a couple 11 years ago, first as activists for the rights of the LGBTI community and later when dealing with a myriad of public entities, courts and constitutional chambers. “It was a torturous experience, but we decided not to give up,” said David.
The road to recognition was paved with many obstacles due to discriminatory provisions in legislation, including the Constitution, which only recognize unions between a woman and a man. The Constitutional Court ruled that their civil union had to be registered by the SERECI since international human rights treaties ratified by Bolivia have supremacy over the Constitution. Despite this ruling, it took another two years for their union to be registered due to refusals by public authorities.
Nevertheless, David and Guido had considerable support on their side. Two prominent human rights lawyers with significant experience in the promotion and protection of human rights in Bolivia advised and assisted David and Guido during their struggle. In addition, advocacy undertaken by UN Human Rights with national authorities contributed to the eventual registration of their union. For instance, the Office consistently encouraged authorities to take this landmark step through private and public messages. On 30 July, it submitted a memorandum outlining relevant legal international and regional human rights standards to the SERECI and the Plurinational Constitutional Court. On 6 December, UN Human Rights posted a tweet urging the advancement of LGBTI rights in Bolivia and referring to David and Guido’s case as an “historic opportunity.” Furthermore, an advisory opinion issued in 2017 by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on gender identity and equality and non-discrimination of same-sex couples, to which the Office submitted an amicus curiae brief, served as a key precedent that enabled David and Guido to begin this process.
On Human Rights Day, the SERECI finally ordered the free union to be registered. The decision was welcomed by UN Human Rights* and many HRDs in the country and abroad. As noted by Alán García Campos, Head of UN Human Rights in Bolivia, “The perseverance of David and Guido and their indefatigable battle for their rights is an inspiration to us all. Their achievement should motivate structural changes in order to fully recognize existing legal unions in Bolivia between same-sex couples and eradicate any kind of discrimination against LGBTI persons.”
* See the UN Human Rights tweet at https://twitter.com/Oacnudh_BO/status/1335571718430220288?s=20