by By Rochelle Jones
Tuesday, 08 January 2013
A discussion with Elizabeth Vasquez from PROYECTO TRVNSGEN3RO about their innovative work, inspiring achievements and further challenges ahead for transgender rights in Ecuador.
The first professional transgender generation in Ecuador are now in college or just graduating. This is an immense achievement, over ten years in the making. But according to Elizabeth Vasquez from PROYECTO TRVNSGEN3RO, or ‘Project Transgender’, “because access to rights is so recent, it means that there are thousands of people who face the consequences of that earlier deprivation, especially of lack of education, therefore lack of access to better jobs.”
Project Transgender is an organization in Quito that has spearheaded the rights movement for transgender and intersex people in Ecuador. Described as a “political proposal” as well as a non-profit organization, Proyecto Transgenero’s work includes legal, social, cultural and art interventions. Their work aims to “strengthen trans identity in Ecuador … [focusing] on improving the exercise of aesthetic and identity rights for trans and intersex people, freedom of association and the occupation of urban and sociocultural spaces from which we have remained historically excluded”.
Transgender rights and the law
The success of the legal component of Proyecto Transgenero’s work is evidenced in the changes made to Ecuadorian laws over the past decade, many of which are a direct result of interventions by Proyecto Transgenero and translate as victories for every-day rights most people take for granted. For example, hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity are now classified as an aggravated form of criminal offence.
In 2008 the New Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador was approved. Vasquez worked as an advisor with a Member of the Constituent Assembly (CA) and as a result the Constitution guarantees equality before the law without discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Vasquez says “equality claims in different areas in which trans citizens have felt at disadvantage have been filed ever since. For example, an adolescent trans girl filed a claim against a military school for not letting her to go to school in female military attire and the school had to comply. Trans access to education is the biggest improvement in the last four years. The first transgender medical doctor graduated last week. Many transgender youth are in college these days. Others have filed employment claims, also with success.”
Another important norm that was approved in the Constitution is the right to “aesthetic freedom”. Vasquez explains “It has facilitated the respect of trans aesthetic in every Ecuadorian institution – public and private – and in the public space. This has especially benefited transgender sex workers who used to be arrested on the grounds of “improper attire” in the past. Articles 68 and 69 of the Constitution now importantly recognize “family diversity” – which Vasquez says is a “LGBTI issue in general – recognizing alternative forms of family such as families formed by transgender sex workers who act as a single economic and social unit”; and same sex civil unions –that “in practice benefit transgender people on the ground that their unions will usually fall under technical same sex unions under the law.”