LGBT rights in Costa Rica
|LGBT rights in Costa Rica|
|Same-sex sexual activity legal?||Legal since 1971|
|Military service||No armed forces|
|Discrimination protections||Sexual orientation protections since 1998|
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in Costa Rica have made significant cultural, social and legal progress since the 1970s. While certain politicians, such as president Óscar Arias, have expressed some support for LGBT-rights, Costa Ricans tend to be socially conservative when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity issues, in large part due to the strong influences of the Roman Catholic Church and cultural traditions about machismo.
Laws against homosexuality
Homosexuality first became classified as a grave sin and crime during the Spanish rule. After gaining independence, it remained a crime until the liberal presidency of Tomás Guardia. While it was decriminalized during this era as part of a larger reform of the legal system, homosexuality was still widely seen as an "infamous sin". In 1971, a universal age of consent was established as was a new law that prohibited "scandalous sodomy" but otherwise maintained the legal status of private homosexual sex acts between consenting adults. Article 382 in the Penal Code that mentions "scandalous sodomy" was repealed in 2002, alongside many other laws.
Recognition of same-sex relationships
In 2006 the Supreme Court rejected a claim that the Constitution requires the government to recognize same-sex marriages. Human rights lawyer Yashin Castrillo Fernandez had sued arguing that certain constitutional provisions relating to equal rights and international law required the legalization of same-sex marriage, but only two of the justices agreed. The majority wrote that at the time the Constitution was approved, "marriage" was understood to be a union between a man and a woman. The court decision did state that the national government had the power to enact civil unions.
In 2008 the LGBT rights association Diversity Movement, persuaded some lawmakers to introduce a civil unions bill. Deputies Ana Elena Chacón (Social Christian Unity Party) and José Merino (Broad Front Party) expressed support for the proposed bill stating that, "gays and lesbians are no less Costa Rican than the rest of us. We're not talking about marriage or adoption, but about basic civil rights.".
On July 2010 the Constitutional Court (Sala IV) ordered the TSE (Supreme Elections Tribunal) to stop the effort of preparing the referendum to take place on 5 December of this year that will allow citizens to decide the future of civil unions for same sex couples in Costa Rica. The Recurso de Amparo (appeal) was presented by lawyer Quirós Salazar, alleging that the referendum violates the rights and freedoms of individuals. The petition for referendum has been organized by the Observatorio de la Familia, a religious conservative group seeking to stop legislation that promotes civil unions for same sex couples.
Adoption and fostering of children
Mario Núñez, a member of the Libertarian Movement Party, introduced a bill in the Legislative Assembly in 2007 to ban LGBT people and same-sex couples from adopting or having custody of children. The bill did not pass.
Since 1998, "sexual option" (Article 48 Costa Rican General Law 7771) is one of the categories in which discrimination is generally prohibited in areas such as employment. Yet, societal prejudice keeps most LGBT people from "coming out".
ARTICLE 48. Costa Rican General Law 7771 – Discrimination
Who ever applies, arranges or practices discriminatory measures because of race, nationality, gender, age, political, religious or sexual option, social position, economic situation, marital status or by any suffering of health or disease, will be sanctioned with penalty of twenty to sixty days fines. The judge will be able to impose, in addition, the disqualifying penalty that corresponds, of fifteen to sixty days.
While homosexuality was technically legal, police harassment and raids of LGBT people and private establishments were formerly commonplace. In 1990, for instance, Minister of Government Antonio Alvarez Desanti announced that he would not allow foreign women to enter Costa Rica to participate in an "Encuentro," an international meeting of lesbians. He instructed Costa Rican consulates not to grant visas to women travelling unaccompanied by men, warning that all such women would be stopped at the airport. He also informed airlines that if they sold tickets to women travelling alone, or appearing likely to attend the meeting, they would be required to provide for the suspected lesbians' immediate return. When pressed to explain how lesbians could be identified at the airport, he reportedly asserted that women who had short hair, wore pants, or travelled alone could be identified as lesbians. Organizers changed the dates and location of the meeting, and it finally took place.
Furthermore the government did not want to grant legal recognition to political organizations seeking to advance LGBT rights. These policies started to change in the 1990s, when the Supreme Court of Justice of Costa Rica ruled that the constitution gave LGBT people the right to peaceful assembly, associate, create their own private establishments, as well as their own LGBT rights associations.
In 1993, it came to light that the Universidad Internacional de las Americas has a policy of expelling LGBT students and firing LGBT faculty and staff. When an AIDS-HIV education association, Instituto Latinoamericano de Educacion y Prevencion en Salud, filed a complaint with the Ministry of Education they were unable to come up with a specific example of the university's policy being enforced, but the Ministry stated that if the policy is enforced it would probably violate Articles 20, 33, and 70 of the constitution.
In the later 1990s the Costa Rica Catholic Church organized protest against LGBT tourism, often arguing that it was a cover for sex tourism. Yet, there are still several tourist groups that cater to LGBT people.
In 1998, a planned LGBT pride festival was cancelled out of concern of the possibility of violence. During the initial planning of the event, the then President of Costa Rica publicly opposed granting permits for the event to occur.
In 1999, the City of San José attempted to close down a gay sauna, but the Supreme Court in 2000 ordered the city to allow the sauna to remain open, stating, "subjective criteria of morality and proper behaviour have no legal basis ... and represent a violation of the fundamental rights granted by our Constitution".
In 2008, the Costa Rican Supreme Court ruled against a gay prison inmate receiving conjugal visits. In October 2011, the Costa Rican Supreme Court reversed the 2008 ruling that now allows equality for gay couples in receiving conjugal visits only for partners outside of prison.
Until recently, most Costa Rican political parties and politicians tended to ignore LGBT rights issues. However, this has slowly begun to change. On 27 March 2008, the president of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias Sanchez, signed an executive order designating 17 May as the National Day Against Homophobia, committing Costa Rica to join others around the world in working to eradicate bias against gays and lesbians. On 21 April 2013, Carmen Muñoz (Partido Acción Ciudadana) became the first openly lesbian member of Costa Rica's legislative assembly, after being interviewed by La Nación newspaper.
Since the late 1990s, it is generally illegal to discriminate against some one because they have HIV/AIDS, and such persons are entitled to medical care regardless of their nationality.
While the government and nongovernmental organizations run sex educational campaigns, comprehensive sex education is almost nonexistent in public high schools because of the opposition of the Catholic Church and other religious groups.
- State-sponsored Homophobia A world survey of laws prohibiting same sex activity between consenting adults
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: LGBT in Costa Rica|
- Goodwater Human Rights Association
- LGBT Human Rights
- LGBT Rights Costa Rica
- CIPAC (local NGO that provides help and resources for GLBT
- Movimiento Diversidad (local gay politics)
- Mujer y Mujer Sitio Lésbico en Costa Rica