In Colombia’s remote tribes, LGBT+ people face abuse, shame

Colombia’s LGBT+ people who live in black and indigenous communities must cope with violence, humiliation and efforts to “cure” them of their sexual identities, according to research released on Thursday.

Their lives in Colombia’s desert Wayuu tribe or Afro-Colombian communities along the rainforest Pacific Coast are often overlooked by the government, leaving LGBT+ people with little support, from health care to education, said the report by rights groups Caribe Afirmativo and Colombia Diversa.

Colombia has passed laws supporting LGBT+ rights since 2015, allowing same-sex couples to marry and adopt children. Transgender people can change their names on identity cards.

But indigenous and black communities, often remote or isolated, can be conservative, strongly religious and unbending in their traditional views, the study said.

“The lack of information about LGBT indigenous and Afro-descendant people has meant that their existence is unknown,” the report said.

“We managed to identify scenarios of invisibility, discrimination and stigmatization that result in symbolic, verbal and physical violence,” it said.

In particular, it found the use of “conversion therapies” for indigenous LGBT people, based on the belief that they are sick.

In the Wayuu tribe in northern Colombia, sexual diversity is taboo and can be addressed with the administration of an herbal potion believed to stimulate male hormones to “cure” homosexuality, one Wayuu leader was quoted as saying.

Traditional stereotypes about gender are strong. One Afro-Colombian gay man was quoted as saying, “I’m told that I’m devaluing the race.”

Others described being kicked out of their homes, bullied at school and finding it difficult to get jobs outside of prostitution and hairdressing.

The research was based on dozens of interviews with LGBT+ people and activists from black and indigenous communities in four poor provinces across Colombia.

It called for local government authorities to introduce and implement measures in their development plans to support LGBT+ residents, especially by providing better access to HIV/AIDS health care.

Reporting by Anastasia Moloney @anastasiabogota, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit news.trust.org

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