Costa Rica: Thousands March in Capital for Human Rights

Thousands marched in the capital of San José on June 16, 2012, claiming equal rights for same-sex couples, the legalization of In-Vitro Fertilization and the separation of State and Church. The march was called The March of the Invisible due to statements made by the head of the Human Rights Commission of the Legislative Assembly, religious fundamentalist Justo Orozco who stated he hasn't seen any discrimination in Costa Rica.

As a call to action inviting people to the march, the following video was produced by the Colectivo Creativo 98:

The March of the Invisible's event facebook page [es], tells the story of their name and why this is about more than just gay rights:

Nace del discurso-lógica de Orozco “no los veo, no los reconozco, por eso no discrimino” que es solo el reflejo de la elite política de este país, que no nos ven, ni quieren vernos. Ese no vernos, ni querer vernos, no es exclusivo a las personas no heterosexuales, sino a las mujeres, las y los trabajadores, al más de 20% de costarricenses que se encuentran en situación de pobreza, a los pueblos indígenas, de las personas afro caribeñas… es decir no son sólo reivindicaciones concretas de poblaciones específicas, sino reclamos que tienen que ver con la desigualdad social y la política que nos afecta a todas y todos…

It is born from the discourse-logic of Orozco “I don't see them, I don't recognize them, that's why I don't discriminate” which is only the reflection of the political elite of this country who don't see us or want to see us. This not seeing, not wanting to see us is not exclusive for non-heterosexual people, but also women, laborers, indigenous people, Afro-Caribbean people… it is not just the fighting for the rights of specific population groups, but with addressing demands that have to do with social inequality and politics that affect all of us.
people marching down the main street with rainbow flags

Thousands marched for Human Rights in Costa Rica. Image by Jose Daniel Clarke CCByNC

The Tumblr blog  Justo Orozco Quotes brings together a series of his statements regarding the role of women in society, the sinful nature of homosexuality, the bible, his superior moral fiber  and his explanations on why he failed to declare 11 properties for tax purposes. For example, this one from a video interview after he voted against same-sex couples legal rights and against In Vitro fertilization (Costa Rica is still one of the only countries in the world where IVF is illegal):

La población homosexual no se puede quejar del país en que vivimos. No he visto que a nadie se le persiga, aquí tienen posiblidad de estudio, de trabajo, ni siquiera nadie los molesta. Aquí se respetan esos derechos, discriminación en Costa Rica, sinceramente no lo veo

The homosexual population cannot complain about the country we live in. I have not seen anyone be persecuted, here they can study, they can work, no one even bothers them. Here those rights are respected, discrimination in Costa Rica I sincerely don't see it.
Poster against homophobia during the Invisibles March

No to Homophobia poster during the march in Costa Rica. CCByNC Jose Daniel Clarke


He also said that homophobia was a myth, that infertility only happened to rich people since poor people always have lots of children and that he didn't know any poor people. Full transcript of the interview can be found here.

Colectivo Alma Prima brings this musical video showing images and scenes from the march. In the middle, the music breaks up to show how an actress, with the powers granted by her theater group, “marries” gay couples. This event, although not legal, is certainly emotional. Later on, the people in the march can be seen scrubbing the walls of the Legislative Assembly as a symbolic act to cleanse it from corruption.

Even bloggers who usually discuss other topics wrote about the march. Such is the case of FoodJunky, who usually shares recipes and talks about food in her blog. This time she opened up the space to share her thoughts on the march and pictures she took.

While Legislator Justo Orozco uses his religious views to defend his political decisions, Food Junky believes that Christianity should be about keeping things separate and not denying rights, but mostly, that someone who doesn't believe in granting equal rights to minorities has no business presiding a Human Rights Commission that legislates on rights for minorities.

…el sábado fue un día hermoso, lleno de gente a la vez contenta y enojada, con sonrisas grandes compartiendo con todos los demás que apoyan una causa tan importante, pero tomándose muy en serio una situación que tiene que cambiar! Había familias enteras, animales, niños, señores, de todo! Todos gritando que al fin y al cabo, somos humanos ante todo, cada uno de nosotros, y como humanos merecemos ser respetados por igual!

Saturday was a beautiful day, full of people both happy and angry, with great big smiles sharing with all the other people, supporting such an important cause but also taking it seriously that this is a situation that has to change! There were complete families, pets, kids, seniors, everything! All shouting that the bottom line is that we are all human, each one of us, and as humans we deserve to be respected equally!
Man carries a baby on his shoulders during the Invisibles March in Costa Rica

Families at the march, image by Jose Daniel Clarke CCByNC

The University of Costa Rica's Student TV Channel 15 produced a video[es] on the March of the Invisible, showing more images, some chants, and interviews and interventions made by activists, writers, psychologists, organizers and participants. “Invisible” childless parents were also present, those who have faced the government's prohibition for In-Vitro Fertilization, while at the same time having to hear from the same government officials the message that a family without children is no family at all.

But not all people believe that the march was a success, as shown in the comment thread on Graciela Gonzalez's blog where comments under the name of Ocram or Marco Zeledon underlined their belief that the march was part of a “gay agenda” and that granting equal rights to same sex couples would destroy society. Here is a segment of Ocram's comment [es]:

Primero están los derechos humanos de las verdaderas familias con hijos, que nos partimos la vida por sostener y levantar a nuestras familias, somos los que realmente necesitamos la protección del estado. El verdadero matrimonio debe seguir siendo entre el hombre y mujer.

First are the human rights of the real families with children, who break our backs to maintain and raise our families, we are the ones who really need the protection of the state. Real marriage should continue to be between a man and a woman.

It seems that regardless of what detractors may say about the march, it had positive results: on  Wednesday, June 20, the Ministry of Presidency met with human rights groups for a knowledge sharing session including the diversity movement and the Invisibles movement.

The Invisibles movement put forth their requests to remove Justo Orozco from the presidency of the Human Rights Commission, to separate church from state, to allow same-sex couples the same rights that heterosexual couples have, for In Vitro Fertilization to be allowed as the International Human Rights Commission has established and for the government to publicly recognize the existence of minorities who have had their human rights denied and to use the legislative powers to make sure that the bills written to protect these human rights are approved.

Photographs of the march can be seen on Roberto Carlos Sanchez's blog, on the flickr page of Jenny Cascante; and more images by Jose Daniel Clarke (which we've used to illustrate this post and which can be used under a Creative Commons license) are available on his flickr page.

Jesus is Invisible poster during the March of the Invisible in Costa Rica

Jesus is Invisible. Image by Jose Daniel Clarke CCByNC

Thanks to Jenny Cascante, who helped with the research for this post.


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