Rolando Jiménez Perez: Chilean human rights defender
Rolando Jiménez Perez is a Chilean human rights defender and President of Movilh (Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation), which he co-founded as soon as Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship in Chile ended.
‘I wanted to fight for human rights in order to help lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals and to put an end to any brutality for reasons of sexual orientation and gender identity.’
During the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, Rolando Jiménez Pérez was a member of the Communist Party driven, along with his fellow party workers, by the goal of restoring democracy.
Despite the fact that Rolando was united with the ideals of the Communist Party his sexuality was used by the party as a means to belittle him. This forcefully brought home to Rolando just how strong a role a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity could play in the way they were treated. He made up his mind that once the dictatorship was over he would turn his attention entirely to human rights and in particular towards ensuring that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people did not face any attacks or stigmatisation on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
As soon as the dictatorship ended, he co-founded Movilh (Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation) in 1991. Movilh is a non-profit organisation defending the human rights of LGBT people. Its objectives are, among others, to make visible the reality of LGBT persons and to end violations of their rights.
Rolando Jiménez is now the President of Movilh. On a day to day basis his activities range across multiple roles. He is involved in developing the organisation’s advocacy work, which includes working with parliament, government and municipalities to lobby for legislative change and implementation. He also deals with the majority of the cases of discrimination that are reported to the organisation. This includes giving legal advice and counselling to those affected. Rolando also trains civil servants and private sector employees on the rights to sexual diversity and how to respect them in practice.
‘In Chile the State lags far behind what the majority of Chileans think. The challenge is to bridge this gap.’
The mentality of the Chilean population when it comes to LGBT rights has evolved much faster than the policies of the State. For example, while Chile sets different ages of sexual consent depending on sexual orientation, at the level of the general population there is increasing support for equality of rights. The challenge is to bridge the gap between the rapid nature of social and cultural change and the slower nature of change at the political level. This challenge is complicated by the fact that there is a lack of State resources to confront discrimination. On an international level Chile is perceived as economically stable, but this gives a false impression to the world that there are no pressing problems. Unfortunately this is not the case, and State funding for promoting and supporting sexual diversity rights is non-existent.
‘The effective use of regional and international human rights mechanisms depends on NGOs working together in a coordinated, informed and realistic manner.’
Rolando was recently in Geneva for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Chile. He identifies the main challenge faced by NGOs in these processes as ensuring that States implement in practice the recommendations they receive. Working towards implementation demands that NGOs treat their engagement with the international and regional human rights mechanisms as part of a medium- to long-term strategy. The success of the strategy requires consistent engagement with the mechanisms, and close coordination with other NGOs. It is of little use to push for the UN to recommend a particular course of action if this is never put into practice by the State.
In the case of Chile, the change of government in 2014 will take place after the UPR has taken place in Geneva. Rolando believes that NGOs should be looking ahead and be prepared to re-evaluate the advocacy work they have done to date to take account of the different context in which they will be working after this change of government.
For Rolando one of the key factors for success is to work with and take advantage of the expert NGOs that have developed their work within the international human rights system. Creating strong alliances with these NGOs can assist with monitoring and follow-up within the various mechanisms. Movilh, for example, has worked closely with the International Gay and Lesbian Association.
‘Thanks to the attention drawn by the UN to its discriminatory laws, in 2012 Chile approved a law against discrimination which included sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected category.’
The passing of the 2012 law against discrimination which specifically protected against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity was a significant step forwards for LGBT persons in Chile. Movilh engaged consistently from start to finish on the process of getting this law drafted and adopted. Movilh’s work included sending alternative reports to the UN’s treaty bodies, as a result of which Chile received criticism of its discriminatory laws and its lack of specific protections for LGBT persons. The calls from the UN helped to push and guide Chile towards the development of the 2012 legislation and the repeal of its discriminatory laws.
‘The UN should have an office or a special program to teach human rights defenders to use the tools of the human rights system.’
Rolando believes that the UN could and should do more to support human rights defenders. In particular he suggests that the UN could create an office which has as one of its roles to teach human rights defenders how to use the tools of the UN’s human rights system.
Furthermore he believes that the UN has a debt towards the LGBT community, particularly in Chile. It was only after terrible hate crimes took place in Chile in 2012 that the Office of the High Commissioner spoke out. In all other cases the UN has said nothing and it has certainly not visited the country in order to fully understand the scope of these homophobic attacks and killings.
‘Russia’s project to draft a resolution on traditional values at the Human Rights Council seeks to make human rights less relevant than traditional values. This is unacceptable.’
Since 2009 Russia has led a resolution on traditional values at the Human Rights Council, which represents a huge threat to universal human rights standards and in particular the rights of women and LGBT persons.
Rolando’s message for the governments who support this initiative is that ‘human rights are universal, they ought to be respected at all times and in all places. So-called “traditional values” go in precisely the opposite direction, being authoritarian, hierarchical, anti-democratic and abusive and failing to acknowledge diversity of beliefs, opinions or identities’.
Camille Marquis is an Intern with the International Service for Human Rights.
For more information about Rolando Jiménez Perez and the work of Movilh see http://www.movilh.cl/