Current panorama in Mexico: Challenges and problems for LGBTI population

Current panorama in Mexico: Challenges and problems for LGBTI population

Mexico is one of the region’s countries with the most laws aimed at the inclusion of persons expressing sexual diversity. Nevertheless, it also continues to be one of the countries with the highest number of registered hate crimes. What are the reasons?

LGBTI Protest in MexicoYAAJ members protesting conversion therapies in Mexico. Creator: YAAJ. All rights reserved.

To speak of sexual diversity, we must reflect upon the legitimacy of the dominant forms of performance and representation of sex and gender, as dimensions that permeate the entire public sphere, and that have been historically established as natural, unproblematic essences. We must also ask ourselves if the programs and policies implemented in relation to these dimensions respond to this diversity that has for decades become increasingly more evident (Corral and collaborators, 2016).

Mexico is one of the region’s countries with the most laws aimed at the inclusion of persons expressing sexual diversity. Nevertheless, it also continues to be one of the countries with the highest number of registered hate crimes (1). As discussed in various forums, this is because, first of all, cultural transformations do not necessarily follow the rhythm of progress made in legislation. Furthermore, most of the state-of-the-art policies addressing individuals who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (2) or Intersex (LGBTI) are concentrated in the country’s capital. In most states we find not only strong resistance to harmonizing their local legislation, but frequently efforts to obstruct and roll back the attainment of rights. One such case is the Transgender and Transsexual community’s struggle to achieve recognition of their gender identities in official documents that are required to obtain jobs, medical insurance, etc. Only in Mexico City are these individuals able to enjoy their right to identity without a court order and without sex reassignment surgery. Both of the latter are required in the country’s other states, where hostile mechanisms are generated to prevent them from accessing this right, as a result of prejudices against them.

Efforts to enact legislation in favor of sexual diversity have been focused primarily on same-sex marriage rights and adoption by LGBTI parents. (3) While these issues are important and require monitoring, it is also vital to bring visibility to other pending issues in the public agenda on sexual diversity.

Conservatives gaining strength

The most conservative movement in Mexico has recently surged, seeking to prohibit same-sex marriage and women’s right to make decisions regarding their own bodies, and promoting homosexual conversion therapy. This movement (4) gained strength after the country’s president presented legislative initiatives for recognition of same-sex marriage in all of the country’s states on May 17, 2016. The result was not the one expected, and was instead able to bring together different religious groups to form a coalition called the National Front for the Family (El Frente Nacional por La Familia) and mobilize thousands of people who took to the streets to prevent recognition of LGBTI rights. The initiatives presented by the executive branch were thrown out, political parties began to make statements in favor of these groups as a strategy aimed at upcoming elections, and government institutions have been more cautious in working on topics related to sexual diversity.

It is important to note that despite social, cultural and political conditions that systematically violate and condition the dignity and rights of LGBTI individuals in Mexico, these do not represent unchangeable structures. To the contrary, we are convinced that through sustained, coordinated efforts among key social and political players, we can generate the transformations that will promote a higher quality of life for this population.

Lacking laws to protect the basic rights of LGBTI individuals

In our country, the rights of individuals with sexual orientations and gender identities outside societal norms are backed primarily by the Constitution’s Article 1, and by federal and state laws on prevention of discrimination. In addition Mexico has ratified international documents related to these issues. In 2011 the UN Human Rights Council approved its first historic resolution that recognizes the rights of LGBT individuals, followed by a report that documents human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. As a result of this report, all countries still lacking laws to protect the basic rights of LGBTI individuals were urged to enact such legislation. In 2014 the Council approved a second resolution on combatting violence and discrimination in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity. And in 2016 a third resolution was passed on protection against violence and discrimination, and it ordered the appointment of an Independent Expert in this area. 

Foreign policies, agendas, international entities, foundations and embassies have all played a vital role in working toward and achieving significant changes such as the right to a civil marriage; access to social security for married persons; a legal framework for fighting against discrimination and in favor of respect for human rights; free access to HIV/AIDS treatment; attaining a voter’s registration card with one’s gender identity; guidelines for protecting victims of violence; and others. Various organizations in Mexico belong to international networks such as the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), which seeks to influence governments in generating policies that benefit the LGBTI community.

Violent treatment, harassment and discrimination

As recognized in the report by the UN High Commissioner, (5) LGBT individuals continue to be affected by violent treatment, harassment and discrimination. These acts constitute serious human rights violations, which are intensifying in a context of impunity. The situation is worsening given the absence of a specialized human rights mechanism at the international level that applies a systematic, comprehensive approach to the human rights situation for LGBT and intersex individuals. In the case of countries belonging to the Organization of American States (OAS), this situation may diminish slightly, due to the role of the current Rapporteur on LGBT rights for the IACHR. In the case of Mexico it is clear that we must increase efforts to eradicate discriminatory practices associated with sexual orientation or gender identity committed against LGBT individuals. It is also important to harmonize models for addressing human rights standards in this area. In particular it is vital to promote the recognition of all rights in the legal frameworks in all the country’s states. (6) 

Mexico recently asked to be included in the UN Committee of experts on LGBTI issues. (7) As a result of work conducted internationally and in coordination with various international development agencies, Mexico declares itself, in its foreign policy, as a country seeking to protect this community. This gives us solid arguments to influence domestic policy and demand that the government respect the treaties it has ratified and signed.


(1) According to data from the Citizens’ Commission on Homophobic Hate Crimes (Comisión Ciudadana contra los Crímenes de Odio por Homofobia—CCCOH), Mexico ranked second in homophobic hate crimes among the world’s countries in 2013. Mexico is the country with the highest indexes of hate crimes, according to “Informe de crímenes de odio por homofobia (1995-2008)” conducted by the Letra S organization.

(2) Although transsexuality is one of the multiple expressions of trans identities, it is not the only one. Trans identities refer to different forms of experiencing sex and gender throughout one’s life. It questions the idea that sex and gender are predefined, and it invokes the idea that these identities are flexible sociocultural constructions, in which individuals have the opportunity to transform themselves in relation to their personal experience and within certain sociocultural, economic and political limits. While the notion of trans identities is relatively new, this does not disregard the fact that these identifies have existed throughout history and in different cultures. Rather, it currently seems to be more visible, at least in the western world, as a result of a process of questioning directed toward institutions regulating sexuality.        

(3)ña Nieto propone permitir matrimonios gay en México

(4) Marchan en 19 estados contra matrimonio igualitario


(6) Investigación sobre las Personas LGBT en México, CEAV, 2016.



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