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Panama: Proposed Legislation to Prevent Discrimination due to Sexual Orientation

The Panamanian National Assembly started to discuss a new law that would protect people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Dayra García, from the website Corresponsales Clave [es], wrote:
La Comisión de Gobierno, Justicia y Asuntos Constitucionales de la Asamblea Nacional aprobó en el primer debate (con cinco votos a favor y uno en contra) el Anteproyecto de Ley No 50, “que dicta medidas para prevenir los actos de discriminación por razones de orientación sexual e identidad de género” y que fue presentado por la Asociación de Hombres y Mujeres Nuevos de Panamá (AHMNP).
The National Assembly's Commission of Government, Justice and Constitutional Affairs approved during a first debate (five votes to one) the proposal of Law No. 50, “which dictates measures to prevent discriminatory acts based on sexual orientation and gender identity” and that was presented by the Association of New Men and Women of Panama (AHMNP).
The article also quotes Ricardo Beteta, the president of the AHMNP [es]:
La falta de una legislación contra la discriminación hacia la población gay, lésbica, bisexual y trans coloca al país atrás de la tendencia internacional de extender derechos a personas de diferente orientación sexual.
The lack of legislation against discrimination toward gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender individuals positions the country behind an international trend to extend rights to the population with different sexual orientation.
The subject has caused controversy. According to an article published by the news portal Enterate [es], the Panamanian Archbishop, Jose Domingo Ulloa, explained that:
Esta ley es muy delicada y muy problemática porque al final también va a discriminar a otros grupos…No es un proyecto válido en estos momentos y realmente trae más confrontación y discriminación.
This law is very sensitive and problematic because at the end it is also going to discriminate against other groups…It is not a valid proposal in this moment and it really brings more confrontation and discrimination.
The same article explained that the Archbishop:
se inclina por “crear una cultura de no discriminación”, algo que a su juicio ya está contenido en la actual Constitución panameña.
leans toward the “creation of a culture of non-discrimination”, something that from his point of view is already included in the current Panamanian Constitution.
This article also points out that there is the concern that this proposed legislation is the preface for a debate about marriage and adoptions rights for same-sex couples, something that has been denied by the group promoting the law.

Image by Flickr user Marlith used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license

Alvaro Gomez Prado, in his blog Al Ser Distinto: Psicología y Diversidad [es], urged his readers to follow the news about Law 50, which is currently being discussed by the National Assembly:
La intención del proyecto de ley no es lograr el matrimonio homosexual, sino proteger la seguridad y la salud de la comunidad sexualmente diversa. No permitan, mis respetados lectores, que les lave el cerebro quien se opone a reconocer los derechos humanos de los grupos minoritarios. No importa si son Psicólogos, Periodistas, Políticos, Empresarios, Artistas o Padres de familia. Porque lo más seguro es que lo hagan por razones personales que les impiden reconocer que todos los seres humanos somos igualmente humanos y que es un día muy triste el día cuando aceptamos la agresión (institucionalizada o no) hacia nuestros semejantes.
The intention of this law is not to accomplish homosexual marriage, but to protect the security and health of the sexually diverse community.  Do not allow yourselves, my respected readers, to be brain washed by those that are opposed to recognizing the human rights of minority groups. It does not matter if they are psychologists, journalists, politicians, businessmen, artists, or parents. It is probably safe to say that in most cases, they do it for personal reasons that do not allow them to recognize that all human beings are equally human and that it is a very sad day when we accept aggression (institutionalized or not) to our equals.
The subject of discrimination due to sexual orientation has been analyzed from different points of view by Panamanian bloggers. Ariel, from the blog Contrapunto [es], approached the subject in his post titled “Sexual Apartheid (a commentary that tries to be clear, but it is not)”, published in December 2009. He shared:
ser homosexual no te hace menos persona, ni te hace menos digno, no te hace menos merecedor de amor, comprensión, un trabajo, amigos, un trato justo y cualquier otro derecho inalienable que viene en ese paquete que llamamos vida. Pero ser heterosexual y sentir desagrado por el estilo de vida que llevan los homosexuales tampoco te hace un energúmeno recién emergido de las cavernas. Que sí quiero decir que me da asco ver a dos hombres besarse no significa que estoy diciendo que soy más que él o que perdió su valor como ser humano. Igual me da asco ver a una persona escupiendo a diestra y siniestra en la calle y nadie piensa por eso que le estoy discriminando.
To be a homosexual does not make you a lesser person, neither less dignified, it does not make you less deserving of love and understanding, a job, friends, fair treatment or any other right that comes with the package that we call life. But to be heterosexual and to dislike the homosexual life style does not make you a cave man either. If I want to say that I feel disgusted when I see two men kissing each other it does not mean that I am saying that I am better than him or that he lost his human value. The same if I say that I feel disgusted if a person spits left and right before me in the street and nobody will think that I am discriminating against the person because of that.
In Panama, the law currently under discussion is about discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and not about same-sex marriages and adoption rights; however, the debate around this law has opened the window to start the discussion on theses issues. The website Enterate [es] published recently:
Casi ocho de cada diez panameños se opone al matrimonio entre homosexuales.
Almost eight out of ten Panamanians would reject a law for same-sex marriage.
In July of this year, Nelva Arauz Reyes, from the blog Escritores de la Libertad [es], wrote about the approval of the law that allows same-sex marriage and adoption rights in Argentina, becoming the first Latin-American country that legalized it at a national level. She wrote:
No alcanzaron los rezos de los curas y los laicos ortodoxos. Pienso que tal vez no se han dado cuenta que Jesús propugnaba por el amor y la igualdad. Y es que como dijera uno de los senadores argentinos para terminar las largas y acaloradas horas del debate legislativo en su país “¿Por qué tenemos que hacer tanto esfuerzo para impedir que otras personas tengan los mismos derechos que nosotros?”.
There were not enough prayers from priests and orthodox members. I think that maybe they have not realized that Jesus promoted love and equality. And it is like one of the Argentinean senators said to put an end to the long and heated hours of legislative debate in his country “Why do we have to make such a big effort to deny other people the same rights that we have?

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